Review Price £1,079.98
Acer Aspire S3 - Usability, Screen and Speakers
Chiclet keyboards are another inevitable for Ultrabooks. Thankfully, the S3 holds up well here. Layout and shortcut assignment are good, including brightness and volume controls on the slightly cramped cursor keys. Meanwhile, keys are well-spaced and not too slippery. Key travel is shallow but feedback is still nice and crisp, making for a pleasant typing experience.
Our main complaint is that the keyboard here isn’t backlit. This might not have been so bad were it not that nearly every rival – from the MacBook Air 13in and Samsung Series 9 900X3A to Asus’ Zenbooks – offers it.
Offering a single, clickable surface, the S3’s multi-touch touchpad is virtually identical to that found on the Air and 900X3A, except smaller. Navigating is effortless and accurate, and the click is well defined and positive.Things pick up further when we get to the bright 13.3in display. Despite offering a standard 1,366 x 768 resolution (rather than the 1,600 x 900 or 1,440 x 900 on some rivals), it managed deep blacks unmarred by clouding or light bleed, with excellent black differentiation that clearly showed the darkest shades in our greyscale test. Perceived contrast and colour vibrancy are further aided by the screen’s glossy finish, though this also gives rise to annoying reflections.
Viewing angles are on the good side of average, allowing you to watch some entertainment with a friend – though vertical viewing is as temperamental as ever, and you’ll need to take some care at which angle you tilt the screen back to ensure you get the best experience. There was little to no sign of banding or other artefacts, and sharpness was good. Overall then, while it doesn’t live up to the surprisingly superb TN panel on the Samsung Series 9 900X3A, the S3 holds its own in the visual department.
Audio, on the other hand, is undeniably pathetic. If you can even hear the anaemic maximum volume of its speakers past ambient noise, you’ll notice how lacking in clarity and detail trebles are, while bass sounds like an asthmatic mouse coughing.
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