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Acer Aspire S3 Review




Acer’s very own version of the ultrabook was revealed in the form of the Aspire S3 a couple of weeks ago. This review unit I have was actually won during their raffle at the event and I’ve been using it for over a week now. Check out our full review of the Acer Aspire S3 ultrabook after the jump.

Acer is said to be the first one to release an ultrabook in the Philippines, a category of notebooks that combines great processing power, long battery life and a very thin form factor that’s under half an inch thick.

However, Samsung already has something in that same specs with their Series 9 laptops for many months already so the title is debatable.

The Aspire S3 is definitely sexy with its very thin frame and brushed metal finish. The ultrabook is made of a combination of metallic (aluminum) lid and plastic bottom with a total net weight of only 3lbs. Not bad considering the equivalent 13″ Macbook Air is almost the same weight or just 0.02lbs lighter. The Aspire S3 is also very thin at about 17mm at its thickest point.

All the ports are situated at the back (the 2 USB ports and the HDMI port) which is a little bit hard to reach when you needed them. The SD card reader is placed on the right side and the 3.5mm audio port on the left for easy access.

The 13-inch screen has a resolution of 1366×768 pixels, typical of most other laptops in this size but we’re wishing it could have been a bit higher (like 1400×900).

The display is bright and crisp but I notice the contrast isn’t that high so you’d have the impression the screen is a little washed out when you set it at the highest brightness. This isn’t unusual though since I’ve had other laptops before (from other brands) that had these same characteristics. Movie playback is great though and the display produces clear and crisp images.

One design issue I noticed is that hinge of the lid sits on top of the base so it tends to wobble a lot because it does not have anything solid to rest on.

On the contrary, the MBA’s hinge design sits at the back end of the base so when you flip the lid open, the edge of the lid rests at the bottom end of the base. The problem with that design is that you can only flip open the MBA’s lid up to around 135-degrees while the Aspire S3 can open to as wide as 170-degrees.

The decision to use a hybrid storage is a tricky one – 320GB HDD for main storage and a tiny 20GB SSD for caching. The SSD works in the background and cannot be seen by the system. It’s used for storing data when the laptop goes on sleep or hibernate which allows it to boot and wake from sleep fairly fast. I’d say a typical 2 to 3 seconds from sleep and around 35 seconds to boot up Windows 7.

The hybrid solution is probably the biggest contributor to making this unit more affordable by at least Php10k-15k. The drawback is that it’s typically slower compared to an all-SSD storage.

On the contrary, you get much higher capacity for cheap. I reckon I can slap my 2.5” 1TB Western Digital HDD in here and go dual-boot. Coming from using a Macbook Air with only 64GB of SSD, 320GB of HDD on the Aspire S3 is much better. For one, I can now run iTunes and download podcasts and manage songs from the S3 when I could not do it on my MBA for fear of using up all the disk space.

The track pad is wide, smooth and easy to use. It supports some multi-touch gestures like pinch and zoom or two-finger scrolling. There’s no dedicated left and right buttons and, just like the Air, they’re built-into the trackpad itself.

However, the gestures doesn’t feel very fluid or responsive even after several adjustments in the settings. Sometimes it’s also jerky that you’d accidentally activate unwanted or extra commands.

The full-qwerty keyboard uses chiclet-type keys and is well-spaced. Some keys are smaller than usual, like the Enter key. The arrow keys on the lower right corner are so small they’re almost un-usable. Like the 13-inch MBA, there seems to be an awful waste of space where the keyboard space is not maximized. The biggest disappointment here is the absence of back-lit keyboard.

Performance of the Aspire S3 is actually really good. The Windows Experience Index scores show above average scores for the processor (6.3) and gaming graphics (6.1) while the sub-score for Windows Aero is the lowest at 4.6 (probably because Acer only allotted 128MB RAM on the graphics chip).

Applications don’t load as fast as it would on a Mac Air running an SSD but it does the job right (Adobe CS5 loads in 5 seconds on the MBA while it takes almost twice as long on the Aspire S3). Over-all, it’s still pretty good.

The combination of the Core i5 processor and the 4GB DDR3 RAM practically takes care of all the other computing needs. The Intel HD 3000 GPU offers entry-mid level graphics processing.

Acer Aspire S3 specs:
13.3″ LCD display @ 1366×768 pixels
Intel Core i5 2467M 1.6GHz dual-core
4GB DDR3 RAM
320GB SATA HDD + 20GB SSD
Intel HD Graphics 3000 w/ 128MB RAM
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
1.3MP webcam
2-in-1 card reader
2 x USB 2.0 port
HDMI port
Windows 7 Home Premium

Note that this is just the mid-range configuration. Acer will also offer the Core i3 and Core i7 variants with options for a full SSD storage. The performance on those models will definitely be different than this one, obviously, as well as the retail price.

Acer also included a Dolby Home Theater and the sound is actually better than expected, especially during movie playback. You don’t get a whole lot of bass but the volume has a good range and the sound quality is pretty decent.

Battery life is something we’re eager to discover with the S3. Acer claims up to 6 hours on a single full charge but our experience in the more than one week of usage, it averages only around 4.5 hours. A little power-saving tweak might push it over 5 hours which isn’t that bad though I was hoping for a bit more.

With a suggested retail price of only Php44,900, the Acer Aspire S3 is actually the cheapest of all the ultrabooks currently in town, and that includes the Php66k Macbook Air 13 and the Php67k Samsung Series 9 notebooks. The more than Php20k price difference is mainly attributed to the use of a slower 320GB HDD instead of the 128GB SSD, a reasonable trade-off if you asked me. I reckon the upcoming Asus Zenbook would be in the Php60+k range as well.

What Acer is offering here is a balance between specs and pricing although the latter obviously has a little more weight in this case (read: price positioning). The Aspire S3 is the closest Windows-based machine we can actually compare to the MBA and there was obviously some design inspirations taken by the S3 from the Air which is the reason we can’t stop ourselves from comparing them. The choice between Windows 7 and OS X Lion is a matter of personal taste so we’ll not go there.

The S3 is by no means perfect, and it has its shortcomings, but it offers a great and much cheaper alternative in the ultrabook category. Too bad they don’t have an 11-inch variant — that would have been more portable and lighter.



Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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35 Responses

  1. Aniplogs says:

    cool, masyado pang mahal siguro by mid 2012 mumura na ang mga toh… waiting for asus ux21 sir Abe to be reviewed

  2. MBA look alike :D ang sexy grabe pwedeng alternative to sa MBA na mas mabilis pa

  3. kormit says:

    Acer? Di ba maraming nagsasabi na sirain ang laptop na to?

  4. oli says:

    on the contrary, the asus zenbooks srp will not breach the 60k mark. How’s 55K sound?

  5. oli says:

    i mean.. how else will they be able to sell it if it prices it just as expensive as mac or series 9? I think 55k is the sweet spot.

    • jakerazog says:

      I think Asus zenbook will end up at P55k. In the US, Acer S3 is $899 and Asus Zenbook is $1099. That’s $200 dollar difference. Using a high conversion rate, it is about P10,000. Assuming the global difference would be consistent, acer’s price P44,900 plus P10,000 would make asus zen at P54,900. which is your sweet spot. If Asus prices it at P60,000, they are overpricing the Philippine market.

  6. Bern says:

    wow nice. but battery life is poor and the laptop hinge is not stable. Maybe you can do a raffle for us Sir Yuga? :D

  7. Jay says:

    Speaking of the absence of a back-lit keyboard, what windows based laptops out there have one?

  8. Kankong says:

    clone ng macbook air. mga intsik talaga walang originality, pati ba naman sa laptop. naku acer, mabilis uminit yan at madaling masira yung wifi. good luck sa mga bibili.

  9. Von says:

    clone ng macbook air. mga intsik talaga walang originality, pati ba naman sa laptop. naku acer, mabilis uminit yan at madaling masira yung wifi. good luck sa mga bibili.

    • rat says:

      pare subukan mong buy ng acer halagang 50thou+
      sulit ung pera mo. i got 69xx at 83xx series bought in singa. wala aqng masav mag 4yrs n ung isa 24/7 open ala namang problema until now. ung mac pro ng brother q sabay namin buy nag iinit since new ung mac nia. now im trying to buy again acer loppy f 22nm of intel/trinity rollout. tapus ung 69xx series vvnta qlang ng 15thou pang buy q ng ticket.

  10. joe says:

    @Kormit, I have Acer and Lenovo, and guess what alin ang mas sirain… it’s Lenovo.

  11. zaj says:

    walang kwenta acer… i promised myself never to buy any acer product…. last na ang ferrari one na nabili ko… s#%t warranty…

  12. sherwood says:

    This is what you called “I Love my job” ahaha.. kasi you can have something without paying.. imagine napanalunan lang sa raffle … ahaha.. swerte mo sir yuga ,, anyway how about the volume? sobrang hina ng volume ng mga Acer eh..

  13. Ben Chasteen says:

    YugaTech RSS feed request to Before It’s News      
     
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    My name is Ben Chasteen and I’m the Science/Technology editor at Before It’s News http://www.beforeitsnews.com. Our site is a People Powered news platform with over 4,000,000 visits a month and growing fast. We like to think of our selves as the “You Tube” of news. 

    We would be honored if we could republish your blog RSS feed in our Science/Technology category. Our readers need to read what your YugaTech  blog has to say.

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  14. chrome says:

    Been using Acer Aspire(Intel Atom 1.6Ghz) for 2 years. Nagiinit siya pero wala pa siya problem saken at 24/7 nakabukas laptop na ‘to while downloading. Nasa paggagamit nyo rin yan mas madali masira Lenovo, 1 week pa lang BSOD na agad ‘lang kwenta

  15. Cocolumboy says:

    Ung unang acer lptop ko was 3935 eto talaga sumakit ulo ko, but good thing pinalitan ng acer, (6 x ko b nmn ibalik sa service center nila) tapos i got two laptops bilang kapalit, isang netbook at isang 4820tg, i think one year n sila pero wala p nmn ako nagiging problema sa dalwa, parang tyempuhan ang pagbili, swertihan ba, hehehe

  16. It was nice, I like it..

  17. dan_md says:

    what bugs me about this laptop is the MBA-like design. It’s bad enough that you’re paying a high price but dobyou really want to endure the comments that your laptop is an MBA knockoff? Come on Acer, you have done great original designs in the past…

  18. techjunkeez says:

    I saw the ASUS ZENBOOK UX21E-DH71 i7/4GB 11.6. And all I can say is WOW.

  19. NemOry says:

    Parang talo ang Macbook Air ah..

  20. jdGONEMAD says:

    master yuga, pwedeng pwede mo ng pa-pasko sa akin yan. hehhehehe

  21. RYO FRANCIS says:

    me and my franz will surely love this book, just how we love each other…

    ryo-francis

  22. Jake Francis says:

    my lovers name is also Francis Dude! nice!

    jake – francis

  23. leeto says:

    Nasa gumagamit lang yan, kaya madaling nasisira ang laptop. Kahit anong brand kung burara naman ang gumagamit, di rin tatagal. I have an Acer Aspire for 3 years na, di man lang nasira pa.

  24. Name: says:

    selling brand new SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE! 1 stock left
    37000.00, call for faster transaction 09178586856

  25. NO MATS says:

    waiting for the review for zenbook… :)

  26. Erwin says:

    First heard of this laptop here:
    http://www.technofuse.com/2011/10/core-i5-acer-aspire-s3-ultrabook.html

    Anyway, I like your review. You tackle every highlights of that laptop and considering how cheap it is compare to Macbook. This might be a good alternative. :)

  27. Shello says:

    Acer Aspire S3 with intel core i7 will be release later this week. I don’t know kung kelan sya magiging available dito sa Pinas.

    http://www.technofuse.com/2011/11/acer-aspire-s3-ultrabook-with-intel.html

  28. carlsant says:

    i have heard awful things about acer. my brother works at intel and says it’s the most flimsy cheap hardware around. my sister once had the usb drive rip out of the computer even though she didnt pull hard. never would buy there stuff.

  29. aZER says:

    wow that is nice!! better than in asus zenbook I say…dont buy asus those things explode when they heaten up!!

  30. Al says:

    I bought an s3 in hong kong last November 2011, now its broken already. White Screen and cant detect wifi connection after it hybernates or sleep.

    I just delivered my s3 in ACER OTIS today for repair! so my advice is……DONT EVEN CONSIDER BUYING THIS or YOU WILL REGRET IT LIKE I DID!

    Plus they don’t have an international warranty so i will pay the cost of the repair in full. (what they have is an ITW which is only applicable for NON RESIDENTS in the country of repair)

  31. Eni says:

    mukha sulit to ah, di naman sirain acer, 3 years na ung akin wala pa sira, kahit isa

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