Hands on with Acer’s insanely thin Aspire S5

Acer’s new ultrabook is out now, check out our full review of the Acer Aspire S5.

It’s blacked out, chopped, and pops up and down with the flick of a switch. No, it’s not a lowrider, it’s Acer’s Aspire S5.

That’s about where the analogy ends, since Acer’s second Ultrabook oozes understated class and modern style, while your standard SoCal lowrider is more a study in excess and retro charm. Fortunately, we think they can share the same sense of cool.

At only 15mm thin, the S5 is the thinnest Ultrabook we’ve seen at the show, bested only by Samsung’s 14.9mm Series 9 (which technically isn’t an Ultrabook, narrowly giving Acer the honors). Apple’s MacBook Air, by comparison, measures 17mm thick at its deepest part, giving the S5 an edge if you’re willing to factor out Apple’s famous tapered design.

Hammering a notebook down so thin creates some challenges with ports, which Acer resolved with one of the strangest features we’ve ever seen on a notebook: a “MagicFlip” rear hatch that pops open with the press of a switch and the whirring of a motor. The entire notebook lifts a few millimeters as it happens, giving the lowrider effect we alluded to. The ports inside include one HDMI, two USB 3.0, and a Thunderbolt port. If you’re a bit skeptical of typing on a notebook supported only by a rear pedestal that sounded like a car sunroof when it opened, we were too, but Acer claims the mechanism is rated for 50 pounds of force. Just hope the motor never goes out or you’ll never use a thumb drive again.

Unlike the silver S3, Acer will only offer the S5 in an inky anodized black, which we definitely prefer. Although black has a nice habit of picking up stray fingerprints, the prototype we handled did a pretty good job keeping them at bay.

Like the S3, the S5 uses a 13.3-inch display that looked pretty solid on first appearances. The keyboard sits within an ever so slightly dished-out section, with thin island-style keys. It also gets the typical supersized Ultrabook clickable trackpad, in a smooth matte black.

As the thinnest in its species, you won’t be able to equip the S5 with some of the frills we’ve seen in porkier versions, like non-SSD hard drives, discrete graphics, or optical drives, but for the target audience, we doubt that will be an issue. The Aspire S5 will start shipping in the second quarter of 2012 with a price to be announced, and we’ll be sure to get one in for a full evaluation.