Specs and Performance
As with most second-gen Ultrabooks, the Acer Aspire S5 is available in several different configurations. There’s the ‘basic’ Core i5 model with a 128GB SSD, a Core i5 with a larger 256GB SSD, and the top end which sports a Core i7 CPU with that same 256GB SSD. All models share the S5-391 (NX.RYXEK.00X) identification.
Our review sample is the S5-391 (NX.RYXEK.002) Core i5 with 256GB solid state storage version. The exact CPU in question is Intel’s dual-core ‘Sandy Bridge i5-3317U, which runs at 1.7GHz by default but can clock up to 2.6GHz and features support for up to four virtual cores. It will happily munch through intensive daily workloads.
It’s backed by the classic 4GB of RAM and the aforementioned spacious SSD, making it an all-round zippy system with near instant bootup. Graphics are of course handled by Intel’s integrated HD 4000 solution, which will just about let you play a few recent games if you’re willing to compromise.
TrackMania Nations Forever (average fps, 720p, Medium Detail)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat (average fps, 720p, Medium Detail)
Considering what Acer has already managed to cram into the Aspire S5’s chassis we weren’t expecting awesome battery life, though the Toshiba Z930 is proof positive that it can be done. However, the S5 didn’t shame itself in our battery test, lasting five hours and 15 minutes away from a socket. That’s hardly the best result by Ultrabook standards, but most of the laptops that manage better are thicker and heavier.
(40 percent screen brightness, wireless radios disabled, mixed productivity)
With a bit of hunting around you can find the Acer Aspire S5 with a Core i5 CPU and 128GB SSD for just under £950. That’s not bad value for the thinnest Ultrabook going, especially factoring in niceties like its rare Thunderbolt connectivity.
However, the screen simply isn’t good enough at this price, and the connectivity is awkwardly placed even discounting the potential MagicFlip issues. On the topic of MagicFlip, much as it deserves kudos for innovation and appeals to our inner geek, it’s just a tad gimmicky. Other niggles like the lack of keyboard backlighting also leave us a little disappointed.
Samsung is currently offering £100 cashback on the Sandy Bridge revision of its Samsung Series 9 900X3B, making it the same price as the S5. For that money, you get a lighter, better-built, more attractive laptop with better ergonomics, a backlit keyboard, gigabit Ethernet, and a vastly superior screen. The only downside is the lack of Thunderbolt.
To be honest, we would even pay the extra £50 for a £999 13-inch MacBook Air, and just install a £40 copy of Windows 7 on it ourselves.
Acer has produced its best-looking laptop yet with the Aspire S5, and created one of the world’s thinnest 13in Ultrabooks while it’s at it. Premium touches like the (for now) rare inclusion of a Thunderbolt port also help to set it apart, especially since it and the rest of the S5’s connectivity are hidden in an innovative motorised door called MagicFlip.
Despite its geeky appeal, however, MagicFlip isn’t actually all that convenient, nor is having all the connections around the back. Worst of all, an average, glossy TN screen with a bog-standard 1,366 x 768 resolution really lets the side down. Throw in niggles like its lack of keyboard backlighting, and there are simply better premium ultraportable laptops on the market than the Acer Aspire S5 for its price.
Score in detail
Screen Quality 6
Battery Life 7