Acer Aspire S3 Review

If you want a MacBook Air, but you don’t want OS X or can’t tolerate the $1,300 price tag, the Acer Aspire S3 is a good alternative.
If you want a MacBook Air, but you don’t want OS X or can’t tolerate the $1,300 price tag, the Acer Aspire S3 is a good alternative.
If you want a MacBook Air, but you don’t want OS X or can’t tolerate the $1,300 price tag, the Acer Aspire S3 is a good alternative.

Highs

  • Exceptional Design
  • Incredibly thin and light
  • Great touchpad
  • Affordable

Lows

  • Poor audio quality
  • Short battery life
  • Poor performance per dollar
  • Limited connectivity
Home > Product Reviews > Laptop Reviews > Acer Aspire S3 Review

Portability

At just shy of three pounds, the S3 weighs more on paper than you might expect, but this heft isn’t noticeable when using the device. In fact, the laptop feels exceptionally light, making it easy to carry around in a bag or not.

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This, combined with the 13.3-inch display and thickness of less than 0.7 inches at the laptop’s thickest point, makes for a very portable laptop indeed. Any bag that can fit it should be able to accommodate the weight and bulk. Better still, the low power requirements allow Acer to provide a small, lightweight power adapter that is easy to take on long trips.

You’ll need it. Battery endurance comes courtesy of a measly three-cell unit that is integrated into the body of the laptop and, thus, not user serviceable. Though the processor in this laptop is designed to only sip power, a battery of this size will give up sooner rather than later, as was shown in our testing. Battery Eater Standard clawed through the battery in an hour and 43 minutes, while the less intense Reader’s Test extended life to 4 hours and 43 minutes. This is not great life for a ultraportable, and for some users it will be the laptop’s greatest weakness.

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No matter if it’s plugged in or not, this laptop remains reasonably cool. The main source of heat can be found on the left hand side of the laptop, and it will become toasty at times. Using the laptop at load in your lap will quickly become uncomfortably.

Software

Our review unit arrived with a number of preinstalled icons, including Netflix, eBay, Acer Games and McAfee Internet Security. Some of these, such as the Netflix icon, are nothing more than links to the service in question.

The large number of icons is annoying, but they don’t cause much trouble. Just delete the shortcuts and you won’t remember they were ever there.

Acer-Aspire-S3-angle-lidMcAfee’s Internet Security is the exception, since it will routinely prompt users to purchase the full service for protection. As always, this is a pain, but it’s hard to ding the S3 for this much because virtually all laptops on the market bundle some sort of anti-virus.

Performance

Standard inside the S3 is the Core i5-2467M, which boasts a base clock speed of 1.6GHz and a Turbo Boost maximum of 2.3 GHz. Intel built this processor specifically for small, light systems that can’t fit larger, hotter variants. When you see part like this, you can be certain it’s going to be slower than a normal version of the same brand, but how much do you sacrifice?

SiSoft Sandra’s Processor Arithmetic test resulted in a combined score of 27.2 GOPS, while the 7-Zip benchmark returned a combined score of 5,623. Typical scores for standard Core i5 processors are around 35 to 42 GOPS in Sandra, and 7,000 to 8,200 in 7-Zip.

Certainly, there is a performance price to pay for this low-voltage variant, but this is still a strong product that bests the competition easily. In fact, the performance is about on par with normal Core i5 processors from the first generation.

Graphics are handled by Intel’s HD 3000, and as usual it isn’t up to the task of serious gaming. 3DMark 06 returned a lackluster score of 3,316, and Dawn of War 2: Retribution was not enjoyable at the laptop’s native resolution, even with detail at the low preset. Older 3D titles will be playable on this laptop, but buyers shouldn’t expect it to play more recent games at anything besides the lowest detail.

Conclusion

If you want a MacBook Air, but you don’t want OS X or can’t tolerate the $1,300 price tag, the Acer Aspire S3 is a good alternative.

It’s not perfect. Every flaw that was expected of Ultrabooks, including poor performance-per-dollar, lackluster battery life, and limited connectivity can be found in this laptop.

Other competitors may offer better solutions to these issue . We do hope to review more Ultrabooks soon – but they’re also more costly. The 13.3-inch ASUS Zenbook, for example, is $200 more.

Consumers who are looking for an ultraportable in this range should also consider slightly thicker models, including Acer’s Timeline brand, the Asus U series, and Dell’s Inspiron or XPS 14z. All offer better performance-per-dollar, and have better battery life as well. If you’re hooked on the Ultrabook concept, however, the Acer Aspire S3 is a solid entry that won’t cause excessive harm to your savings account.

Highs:

  • Exceptional Design
  • Incredibly thin and light
  • Great touchpad
  • Affordable

Lows:

  • Poor audio quality
  • Short battery life
  • Poor performance per dollar
  • Limited connectivity

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