Equipped with an Intel 1.7GHz Core i7-2637M CPU and 4GB of RAM, the Aspire S3 turns out to be no speed demon, least of all for graphics as it relies on Intel's integrated HD 3000, rather than a discrete CPU – it notched up a fairly typical score of 3449 on 3DMark '06.
Good all-rounder for undemanding users
Still, it is clearly a good general-use computer and even though the built-in stereo speakers are inevitably tinny but they are nonetheless satisfyingly loud and clear for such a small unit, no doubt helped by the inclusion of Dolby Home Theatre enhancements.
Saving the best feature for last, the Acer Aspire S3 is super-fast when waking from sleep mode – the company calls this Acer Green Instant On. Waking from proper sleep mode takes somewhere between 5 and 10 seconds, while waking from a light-sleep mode takes just a couple of seconds. Better still, after waking, the computer reconnected to Wi-Fi almost instantly. And whaddya know, this has the moniker, Acer Instant Connect. For the user, this combination is certain to extend the battery life, since I would normally prevent a notebook from going into hibernation because it’s normally such a hassle to wrench it back to life afterwards.
A clean, super-slim, minimalist design: I wonder where Acer got the idea from?
It’s just as well because the uncompromising Register Hardware battery test – involving running the intensive PC Mark Vantage benchmark on a loop until the battery is too depleted to keep the computer alive – saw the fully charged S3 conk out after 1hr 36mins. That’s not bad in itself but it’s hard to reconcile with Acer’s suggestion that you’d only have to recharge once a month (“up to 50 days”, in fact). The power management is good but surely it can’t be that good?
The best summary I can think of for the Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook is that it’s a splendid product with some annoying details. On one hand, it’s a good all-rounder in an amazingly slim, lightweight package. On the other hand, the keyboard will take some getting used to, the trackpad is awkward and the fan noise could drive your office colleagues nuts, however, Acer tells me that the review S3 was from a pre-production batch and what's on sale now should be cured of these ills. Yet for carrying around and flipping open here and there whenever needed, the Acer Aspire S3 is just the job. Oh, and if you want to shave £200 off the price, there's always Acer's Intel 1.6GHz Core i5-2467M model to consider. ®
More Notebook Reviews
Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook
"But before I go further, be aware that the obergruppenführers at Reg Hardware have declared that direct comparisons between the Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook at Apple’s MacBook Air are not welcome. 'Just review the product in front of you', they said, 'otherwise the readers will write you off as an Apple fanboi.'"
Actually, comparisons to Apple products don't upset me when you look at things like resolution or HD speed, etc. It is when Apple products (or indeed ANY manufacturer) are set up as a preeminent standard by a reviewer that gets my nerves raw. Present the reader with the specs, the good and the bad and let folks make up their own mind about what they want on their desk. That is the core of objective reporting in my mind and most reviews on the Reg achieve that nicely.
Working it out myself
"So the fact that the S3 is several hundred pounds cheaper than a MacBook Air while offering double the storage is something you’ll have to work out for yourself."
Because a 5400rpm mechanical is just as fast as a SSD.
"My 13.3 laptop from 5 years ago is still lighter and more powerful than most..." In no way what so ever is your 5 year old laptop more powerful than an I7 based ultrabook. As for your old laptop being lighter than an ultrabook, that's just a stupid thing to say.
A £900 laptop shouldn't have parts that aren't quite right, it shouldn't have a keyboard that takes getting used to or a touchpad that is next to useless or a fan that gives you tinnitus. I also don't think it should have a screen where the resolution is a compromise.
We can maybe forgive using a spinning disk (I notice the review doesn't mention the SSD cache or how well it works) but the rest of this stuff needs to be fixed before people are prepared to shell out this amount of money for an Acer laptop.
It disappoints me how slowly the mobile area is progressing. My 13.3 laptop from 5 years ago is still lighter and more powerful than most, with a better res and battery life than this "ultra" book.
What's the superlative after "ultra", I'll wait for one of those.