Anatomy of Utrabooks (Part 2) - Acer Aspire S3

4/4/2012 5:35:52 PM

Anatomy of Utrabooks (Part 2)


Reality test

Each laptop was evaluated by the quality of features and design. Connection scope was accounted for network connecting ability, hard drive capacity along with features such as physical switch to disable the wireless network or temporarily disable touchpad while typing. 

Besides, we also tested the screen display quality of each laptop with color calibrator, brightness measurement, color contrast and color accuracy, at the same time with a wide range of pictures and videos to check problems such as poor viewing angle or slow response time.  

With the criteria that couldn’t be check objectively, such as build quality, speakers and keyboards, the scores given by 2 members of PC & Tech Authority were took the average value result.

Acer Aspire S3

Description: Acer-Aspire-S3-dienmay

Despite of being the lowest price ultrabooks on the market, Aspire S3 of Acer is a stable one, not so ostentatious but attractive with the low price.

The very first time we were riveted on an Aspire S3 was at IFA 2011 trade exhibition in Berlin. Due to the familiar with the computer competition, and impressed, Ultrabook of Acer didn’t have any impressive point until the price was mentioned.

With the price of $1,055 for the basic model, Aspire S3 was the lowest price ultrabook until that time, and since the moment we saw them, it seemed that Acer was busy splitting and polishing it.

Not as impressive as Zenbook of Asus but Aspire S3 was beautiful indeed. It was pleasantly elegant, with frame tapered down into a charming trip around the dim glow metal cover, and the anti-glare silver covered the rest of it. Whenever you press, screw or even poke Aspire S3, there was immediately a little bit elasticity in the bottom and the screen above but no serious damage. In comparision with ultra-thin Toshiba, Acer 1.37kg was a bit heavier.   

A quick glance on the Aspire S3 configuration revealed that Acer definitely had crammed many things into the exiguous budget. Intel Core i5-2467M processor was not a surprise at all, as well as the 4GB storage but Acer had changed the storage settings. Instead of an only one SSD, it had physical 320GB and 20G SSD. It was a wise compromise, with SSD drive which was only used for hibernating data – it couldn’t be accessed as the data storage – meanwhile, the traditional hard drive offered a plenty of capacity for films, music and games. If an adequate SSD was the one and only thing you strongly desire, you had to pay more for the premium models at $1,450. 

Lack of big SSD didn’t make a big effect on the performance as you expect. With the score of 0.55 in the Real World Benchmarks, Acer followed right after Asus Zenbook UX21. Based on the only differentiation which was the SSD of Asus, it continuously proved that SSD made the little difference towards the general application performance. Of course Acer didn’t response as fast as Zenbook UX31 of Asus – the applications took more time to load and it didn’t wake from the hibernate mode as quick as its competitors – but according to the price difference, these differentiation was not big at all. 

Acer saved a lot about the battery life of Aspire S3. With the 5 hours 56 minutes in the light-duty use, Acer lost out to the longest battery life Ultrabooks. 


While it was easily forgiven for the lack of performance of Aspire S3, the keyboard didn’t let us in the mood of doing like that. The very first complaint was the ridiculously small touchpad. It was not only difficult but the decision of stuffing Page Up and Page Down button near the right and left arrow keys made the page of Word and website keep moving up and down annoyingly as well. Only the one who have the tiniest thumb can use it conveniently.   

Besides, the general comment of the keys was somehow “missing” feeling. Each keystroke all stopped all of the sudden, and the nearby keyboard area was tough and flex-free so that it was really inconvenient for long typing. 

Elan touchpad looked better than all: the mirror surface let our finger feel the smooth, together with the great multi-touch zoom and scroll. However, it was incompatible with the best competitors. It sank with a strange sound like metal pieces hitting each other and we also had trouble making the two-fingered right-clicks all the time.

Viewing angle and sound

With the Dolby Home Theater lying proudly near the power button, you would expect Acer is the success of entertainment, but unfortunately it was not. With sound-enhancing feature of Dolby was disabled, 2 diminutive speakers along its flank was quite quiet and tiny. Dolby film, game and music mood improved all, added somewhat louder volume and clarity, but the overall effect was feeble.

It was the same story with the display screen of Acer. The sleek 13.1” screen wasn’t outstanding in any aspect – it wasn’t bright, there was no significant contrast and narrow viewing angle required us to tilt it back and forth to see it clearly. Even the color reproduction wasn’t its strength at all – our test pictures revealed that Acer had to struggle a lot to reproduce the natural skin color or the brightly white, eye-catching without any bluish hue.

The connectivity including 2 USB ports, 1 big-sized HDMI port in the back was disappointingly insignificant while the SD card reader and headphone output fulfilled its responsibility. There was nowhere for Ethernet socket, neither the USB adapter in the box, you completely rely on the Atheros single-band 802.11n radio and Bluetooth 4 chipset to connect.  

In a nutshell, there were plenty of needed-improving points for Acer Aspire S3, but this low price Ultrabook still attracted the attention of many consumers. Being far from the elegance, in the end Acer made a success in building an attractive, stable ultrabook with lower price than its rivals – and we assumed these were fairly enough for those who chose the second place.

Price: $1,055

Battery life in light-duty use: 5 hours 56 minutes.

Performance: 4 stars

Battery life: 4 stars

Features and design: 3 stars

Value: 5 stars

Average judgment: 4 stars


1. Small and flex-free arrow keys create an inconvenient and fussy combination.

2. Fortunately, mirror touchpad didn’t meet the halfway. Multi-touch zooming and pinching features did a great job and the way how to control the arrow keys weren’t complicated at all.

+ Dolby Home Theater logo implied Acer was the dream for movie-fans, but tiny speakers and mediocre display screen weren’t an Oscar-winning combination.

+While other manufacturers remove the tag of “Ultrabook” by sticking the logo in the back, Acer had its specialized silver logo for “Ultrabook” on the palm rest area. 

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