The Macbook Air has few competitors just yet.And for $999, the Macbook Air is a good offer. The competition is now bundled under the category of ultrabooks, and the Acer Aspire S3 is right at the bottom of this price bracket. At 13mm thick, it’s certainly ultra thin. As an entry-tier ultrabook, a few premium specs are missing. Like USB-3. Check out these Acer S3 pictures:
The brushed aluminum lid is very pretty and rounded corners everywhere make a good impression, but it feels delicate, and this notion is not helped by the plastic keys, wrist-rest and underside. It weighs 1.4kg. Open the lid and everything is a soothing beige color, apart from a few black rubber trimmings. A 1. 3MP cam lurks in the display bezel.
The chiclet keys feature a lightly textured surface, but they sit so low to the keyboard that travel is unnervingly short, and we had to concentrate to ensure key presses were registering. So that’s one brownie point to the Macbook air by default. The Entry, Tab, Caps Lock and Shift Keys are all reduced in size, making typing a steep learning curve. Yet human beings have a huge capacity for adaptation. The roomy touchpad, also slightly textured, offers a mouse bar in place of separate buttons, and occasionally interpreted our ‘left’ clicks as right clicks and vice versa. However, this often happens when we test single-mouse button notebooks. Perhaps we’re just set in our careless ways? A software update could improve the situation nevertheless.
Multitouch gestures work fine.The 13.6″ display brings the usual 1366 x 768 resolution , but is in direct competition to the 1400 x 900 Panel. The Asus UX31 really pushes the boat out with its 1600 x 900 pixel display. The widescreen 1366 resolution is perfectly adequate for surfing or document editing. Windows 7′s Snap (it lets you view two pages side-by-side for anyone still using XP) was cramped on this display. Viewing angles are good, and HD video looks good. Audio is quite satisfactory, with only a slight metallic tone.
In the US the Acer is currently available in just one configuration – an ultra-low voltage 1.6GHz Intel i5-2467M CPU running the show, with 4GB of RAM in the wings and a hybrid drive behind the scenes – a 20GB SSD for the operating system and a 320GB HDD for storing all those photos, files and movies. The Macbook Air pure SSD with the same RAM and 1.7GHz Core i5 processor, together with Apple’s proprietary hardware-OS optimizations help the Macbook Air achieve scores 25 – 45% higher. But benchmarks can paint a distorted picture of a machine’s abilities; multi-tab surfing in between sending email and checking Facebook, all the while chatting in Google Talk and loading YouTube videos, was no problem for the S3.
Acer Aspire S3 does wake from Sleep mode in two seconds, although we’d like to see manufacturers shorten boot-times in general – the S3 cold boots in 45 seconds, which might be average for a notebook of this size, but it’s still tedious. More seriously, we experienced hang a couple of times while installing programs. So keep it in Sleep mode while you’re away. In the video-looping test the three cell battery gave 4 hrs 11 minutes, which is OK, but a full hour less than the Macbook Air.
Bundled software includes Times Reader, Skype 5.3, Nook, and an eBay shortcut. Then there’s a raft of Acer’s own apps. Clear.fi allows WiFi media sharing. Ultimately, the Acer Aspire S3 costs a full $400 less than the 13-inch Macbook Air, and even $200 less than Asus’s ultrabook offering, the UX31. But it doesn’t stand out enough to justify a purchase before seeing what the other players have to offer.
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