Acer is frequently perceived as a value/budget brand, but that could change thanks to premium entrants like the Aspire S5 Ultrabook. It’s the slimmest 13-inch laptop in the world, which is no mean achievement in these days of ultra-thin entrants like the Toshiba Portege Z930 – incidentally the world’s lightest laptop.
But the S5 doesn’t rest on its lean laurels with this achievement alone. It’s also the first Ultrabook to offer Intel’s lightning-fast Thunderbolt connector (remember that the 13-inch MacBook Air is not, technically, an Ultrabook). This up-and-coming connection has oodles of potential, with enough bandwidth for everything from desktop-speed storage to game-worthy external graphics. Acer’s Ultrabook is also very light in its own right, at a mere 1.18kg.
The Acer Aspire S5 also looks rather good, with a sleek, black, brushed aluminium body and all its large ports hidden in a motorised door that retracts into the laptop to maintain its slinky profile. This ‘feature’, which Acer calls MagicFlip, is perhaps what most distinguishes the S5 from rivals, though we’re in two minds as to its practicality.
However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Aspire S5’s lightly curving lid dominates the laptop’s base at the front and sides, while at the rear it’s slightly recessed to show the hinge. The sides and back are fairly clean, at least with the connectivity flap ‘raised’.
Unfortunately, the design isn’t quite minimalist or tight enough to match the mighty Samsung Series 9 900X3B or the aforementioned Apple ultraportable. However, compared to most other laptops it’s definitely up there.
Build quality on the Acer Aspire S5 Ultrabook is very good. Again it doesn’t quite manage the brick-like solidity of its Series 9 and Air rivals, but it nevertheless feels sturdy all-round, with no creak and flex so minimal it’s negligible. All panels are neatly fitted with no gaps in the seams.
The obvious area of concern would be the MagicFlip retracting connectivity door, and specifically the motor powering it. It’s easy to assume that this is the S5’s weak point and might fail on you after a few hundred open/close actions, but we were told Acer has thoroughly tested the mechanism for thousands of actions.
Thanks to the addition of a Thunderbolt port, the Acer Aspire S5 is pretty much the best-connected Ultrabook on the market. In fact, it even beat’s Apple’s MacBook Air ultraportable thanks to the inclusion of a full-size HDMI port.
The laptop’s left side houses the SDXC card slot, while you’ll find a headphone jack to the right. Wireless consists of the usual Wi-Fi N plus Bluetooht 4.0 combo.
The MagicFlip rear connectivity door is controlled using a prominent, moulded button just above the keyboard. It slides out smoothly with a nice little mechanical whir that our geeky hearts can’t help but love. Once extended, it reveals a full-size HDMI port, twin USB 3 ports and of course the microDisplayPort connector that Thunderbolt uses. MagicFlip won’t close if cables or devices are plugged in.
However, having most of the connectivity located at the back of a laptop is still a bad idea, just like it was on the Acer Aspire S3. It makes USB devices awkward to plug in and exposes them to possible damage when picking the laptop up or putting it down at a slight angle.