Acer Aspire S3-391 Ultrabook - Cheap Ultrabook With Attractive Features

12/28/2012 11:30:49 AM

Looks at a cheap ultrabook with some attractive features

The term 'ultrabook' is a doubled-edged definition, because it's almost as much about what might be missing from a portable computer as it is about what's included. Being one of these devices, the Acer Aspire is a curious combination of conflicting objectives: to be slim and transportable, yet powerful and well featured.

Acer Aspire S3-391 Ultrabook

Acer Aspire S3-391 Ultrabook

Let's cover what's in here first and move on to what Acer left out later.

It makes more powerful Core-i7 models, but the review S3-391 is built around the Ivy Bridge 1.7GHz Core i5-3317U, with 4GB of RAM and Intel's HD Graphics 4000 integrated video chipset.

Even with such a powerful Hyper-Threading dual-core CPU, that's not a game friendly solution, but it's more than acceptable for media playback and 2D work.

The display is a crisp 13.3" TFT panel with a natural resolution of 1366x768. The only complaint I have about it is that Acer gave it a glossy finish, producing annoying reflections in sunlight.

Acer Aspire S3-391 Ultrabook

Acer Aspire S3-391 Ultrabook

In terms of connectivity, the S3-391 comes with just two USB 3.0 ports, along with HDMI out and an SD card slot. This model had a curious combination of a 500GB hard drive and a 20GB SSD module, the latter providing a performance boosting cache.

All this hardware is encased in a lovely elegant aluminium shell that might not be Apple Macbook nice, but it is rather impressive by PC standards. It's thin yet reasonably sturdy, with a strong hinge connecting the two halves, and gloriously finished. With this specification and price, you should be tempted so far, because I was wondering myself how I might justify one.

However, the hardware has a few omissions and twists that take the shine off it somewhat. The first are those missing items that only ultrabooks seem to get away without having. This machine has no optical drive, no LAN port, and you can't access the internals without dismantling the entire case. The only practical upgrade is the hard drive, because the RAM can't be bigger than 4GB and the CPU is soldered in place.

It also has one of those annoying trackpad designs where you bend the corners of the surface to represent mouse clicks, which isn't pleasant to use.

Acer Aspire S3-391 Ultrabook

The critical caveat, though, is battery life. Acer quotes an operating time of seven hours, which sounds good, except it entirely depends on what you're doing with the machine. A HD movie ran for about two hours 30 minutes before the battery was done, and more intense computations can exhaust it even quicker.

That makes the S3-391 an interesting compromise, which, depending how you use it, could be one you can live with or not. You might be able to create a longer battery life by upgrading it to all SSD storage, but that will undermine the desirable price.

I've quoted the RRP price, but you can find it for much less, and at those prices you well might be willing to accept some of its limitations.


·         Price: $1042 RRP

·         Manufacturer: Acer

·         Website:

·         Model no: S3-391-53314G52add


·         Quality: 8

·         Value: 7

·         Overall: 7



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