Acer´s new Aspire S3 is the first in what its manufacturer claims will be a long running series of Ultrabooks. What is an Ultrabook? It´s a slim and light laptop with more power, and a larger screen, than a netbook.
The Acer Aspire S3´s main attraction is, just like its inescapable rival the Apple Macbook Air, its body. Like a beautiful model with a secret degree under her belt, any killer components are always going to be overshadowed by that look. But what a look it is.
The S3´s chassis is made of a magnesium and aluminium alloy, providing the premium feel of metal construction without adding too much weight. At a shade under 1.4kg, this 13.3in screened device isn´t much heavier than a plastic-bodied 10.1in netbook.
It feels perilously light in-hand too. It doesn´t quite have the solidity of the new Macbook Air, largely because it doesn´t have a unibody design, instead allowing some seams to show. In the trade-off we also get to wave goodbye to the Air´s dangerously sharp edges and scary price tag. Where the entry-level 13in Air costs £1099, Acer´s alternative will be available from 799 Euro – which naturally means we´ll probably end up paying the same figure in pounds.
Acer hasn´t revealed the exact specs the UK models will feature, but all offer an SSD – up to 240GB – with hard drives up to 500GB available as an optional extra. The full roster of current-gen Sandy Bridge processors will be on the list too, i3, i5 and i7, but bear in mind they are the low voltage editions designed with maximising battery life in mind.
Although the inside of the S3 features the anodized finish similar to Apple´s aluminium-bodied laptops, the lid has a shinier brushed finish. It´s all very swish, only disturbed by the dark plastic strip that forms part of the laptop´s hinge. You can´t have everything though, and there´s no denying this is a good-looking laptop.
Connectivity naturally suffers in squishing down the Aspire S3´s frame – it´s 13mm at its slim front part, bulking up to a still-svelte 17mm at the back – but the basics are covered. There are two USB 2.0 ports on the back (no 3.0 ports here, sadly), alongside the full-size HDMI output and power socket.
Its edges house the 3.5mm headphone jack and SD card slot, while front edge is left empty. There is, predictably, no optical drive. Thin doesn’t come for free.