Acer Aspire S5 Ultrabook First Look

Acer are developing a reputation for delivering the goods when it comes to being first, or close to first to market in new categories. After being the first with an Android tablet last year, and the first with an Ultrabook later in 2011, you can’t fault the Taiwanese computer company for giving new products a go. Now in June 2012, Acer are about to release the successor to the S3 Ultrabook, called the Acer Aspire S5.


The Acer Asipre S5 is noteworthy for a few reasons. Firstly, it features Intel’s latest 3rd-Generation Core Processor, which we’ll be sure to benchmark. The one we had our hands on had the latest dual core i7 chip, which while not quad core as its larger siblings in standard notebooks are, is the best processor seen in an Ultrabook so far.

Secondly, the USB ports have been upgraded to USB 3. We always saw the absence of USB 3 as a bit of a disappointment on the original version, but that has been rectified on the Acer Aspire S5 now. And there’s two of them to boot.

Thirdly, the Thunderbolt port is an important inclusion for high speed transfers, and one connection that is extremely rare in retail notebooks up to this point. While many Macs have has the luxury of Thunderbolt for a while, Windows machines have yet to catch up to this connection standard, and once again Acer have come to the fore to offer this port on the Acer Aspire S5. For retailers that don’t yet sell Thunderbolt accessories, the introduction of Thunderbolt may pave the way for a great range offering by Thunderbolt-compatible vendors.

Fourthly, Acer have tried something not yet seen in any other Ultrabook, and certainly not in other notebooks generally – a retractable dock that hides the main connections when not in use. This has the added benefit of slimming down the Acer Aspire S5 to a respectable 15mm when the dock is hidden, making it one of the slimmest Ultrabooks around.

Acer Aspire S5 Ultrabook

The Acer Aspire S5 Ultrabook features 3rd Gen Intel Core Processors, Thunderbolt, USB 3 and a retractable dock. I Looked for a kitchen sink but alas, couldn't find one.












The dock contains the HDMI, USB3 and Thunderbolt ports. When there is a port being used, the retractable function is disabled, saving your cables (and the Ultrabook) from any damage.

The Acer Aspire S5 is a great statement about taking the original idea of the Ultrabook and tweaking it with some innovative features such as the Thunderbolt port and the retractable dock. With the announcement of the touch enabled S7 Ultrabook at Computex, it’s clear Acer have no intention of letting creativity and innovation slip by the wayside in what is a very competitive PC market.

New Samsung Laptops: The Series 5 Ultrabooks

While at the Samsung stand at the CES, we had a good look around the notebook area. Lots of new products were on display, and we’ll be producing some in depth reports on each of them as they come closer to launch and available for a detailed review. But what stood out for us was the new Samsung laptops named the series 5 Ultrabooks.

These are also the first new Samsung laptops that official carry that title Ultrabook. Available in both 13.3” and 14” and with hard drive and solid state options, these Ultrabooks are Samsung’s first foray into the Intel-created “thin and light” category.

New Samsung Laptop the Series 5 ultrabook Profile Side on

Samsung have finally thrown their hat in the ring with an officially recognised Ultrabook range in this new samsung laptop.

With the Series 9 notebooks under the spotlight, it’s always going to be hard for other models to come out from the shadow of that impressive form factor and make its own mark. However, where the Series 9 is definitely more aspiration in market position, these new Samsung laptops make it much more accessible and affordable to own a Samsung Ultrabook.

The 13.3” series 5 sits right where we would expect a good quality, well featured Ultrabook to: 13.3” screen size, 2nd Gen Intel i5 processor, and a slim, silver body with no moving parts, unless you chose the hard drive model with 500GB of storage. It does add a little to the weight but for those who need it, it’s probably better than ensuring you’ve always got your portable hard drive on hand.

The screen was the most and refreshing one (pardon the technical pun) I’ve seen in a while – sporting a matte finish. Ever since we released details of the first Ultrabook, a matte screen request has come up in the comments section a few times and it’s great to finally see one in this category. Matte delivers much less reflection, and the 300 nit brightness means you can take it outside and use it in daylight without the massive light bounces.

New Samsung Laptop the Series 5 ultrabook matt Screen playing video

Matte screens are a rare find these days, but it's great to see one in an Ultrabook, which probably needs it most of all.

This suits Ultrabooks in a huge way, because the lightness and slimness encourages mobility and field use. The 1366 x 768 resolution is standard for this size screen, and doesn’t replicate the Asus UX31 or Macbook 1440 x 900 high definition screen. The matte screen and high brightness does help compensate.

Ports are also wide and varied to support most connectivity needs as well, with HDMI, USB 3.0 and 2.0, Card reader, and onboard Ethernet. Wireless connectivity is also impressive, with Bluetooth, N Wireless and WiDi all onboard.

Design wise it’s a smart looking though conservative design. Curved edges take away any edginess and the chiclet keyboard is comfortable to type on. It’s easy to hold in one hand and sits between the Acer S3 and the HP Folio Ultrabook from a weight point of view.

The 14 inch Ultrabook is extremely interesting from a labelling point of view. Take away the Ultrabook tag and what we have here is a light, well designed 14” notebook with all the ports and media drives you need.

Place it in the Ultrabook category and it’s kind of like the guy who is always stooping down to walk under door frames and slouching in his chair to remain inconspicuous  – suddenly the 14” Series 5 model is defined and measured by the relevant things around it, and it looks a little big in comparison to what we’d expect in an Ultrabook.

However Samsung have made sure that the 14” fits within the strict definition of an Ultrabook by using the required components, including processor and solid state, and sneaking under the weight and thickness limits by the smallest margin. For example, the thickness limit for a 14” Ultrabook is 21mm, and Samsung tip in at 20.9mm.

The one component I didn’t expect to see in an Ultrabook, regardless of size, was an optical drive, in this case a DVD Burner/Player. Although I can see where this might come in handy for those that use DVD media all the time, it is probably not what would be required in an Ultrabook.

New Samsung Laptop the Series 5 ultrabook optical drive anyone want to watch a dvd?

What do you call an Ultrabook with a DVD Drive? Not sure, but we'll just call it a Samsung Series 5 for now.

Samsung have made sure it impresses in performance, with very fast measured boot time, blink-and-you-miss-it wake up from sleep or lid opening. Because the Intel guidelines change with screen size, one of these new Samsung laptops has also managed to offer a 1GB dedicated graphics option as well, depending on what model hits what region.

The two main competitors for the Series 5 14” model would be the Asus U46SV, and the Lenovo U400. Comparing against those two non-Ultrabook models, the Samsung is a very slim and light 14” notebook, easily beating both the Asus and Lenovo models in weight (both around 2kg with the Samsung at 1.64kg in SSD version) and thinness (Lenovo is closer to 23mm and Asus around 24mm).

So this is becomes the conundrum – should a slim notebook with awesome specs be shoehorned into a category because it exists, or will it succeed in its own right by having the optimum performance  against its competitors?

My guess is that on a shop floor, against other 14” models, this new Samsung laptop will still be a strong choice because of its comparatively slimmer and lighter dimensions. A 14” notebook with optical drive and dedicated graphics that weighs only 1.64kg? That’s pretty impressive by any measure.

For more details and specifications, please visit for both the 13.3″ version and the 14″ model.

Here’s our run through of the Series 5 Ultrabook range covering both the 13.3” and 14” model, where we look at the features and discuss the definition of an Ultrabook:


Here is where we’d love to hear your thoughts! Would you prefer one of the new Samsung laptops named the Series 5  ultrabooks , and  why? Feel free to ask any questions about the range as well.

Consumer Electronics Show 2012 – Looking into the Tech Crystal Ball

We'll be right in the thick of all the product announcements, keynote events and vendor stands to bring you the best of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.










For the past year, we’ve had a great time sharing, discussing and responding to you, our readers around the big stories of 2011. Tablets, Ultrabooks, Media Players, iDevices and other categories like photography and home appliances have all had their interesting issues and product releases.

So what can we expect from 2012? The best place to start is in Las Vegas, at the Consumer Electronics Show. Intel, AMD, Microsoft, Google and many of the major computing vendors will be there to show off products and concepts that will make their way into the hands and households of users later in the year.

The great news is we’ll be reporting on all the hot stories from the CES fair in words, images and videos. We’ll be there from the kick-off event on the evening of Sunday 8th January, attending Press Day on Monday and then hitting the stands from Tuesday through to Friday.

We will be providing some insights into the announcements from the major manufacturers, reporting on the keynote events and spend some hands-on time with the new devices and hopefully talk to some key people involved in the industry.

It should be an interesting week as we expect to see a stack of exciting new products including convergence ideas in Home Entertainment, Windows 8 product concepts, as well as new Ultrabooks, tablets and smartphones.

There will no doubt a lot of different products that we will have the pleasure of touching and seeing while at the CES show that will illustrate in their own way what direction this industry might take over the next 12 months.

In the spirit of how we run things here at Ritchie’s Room, we’d like to hand the mic over to you the reader, and ask what it is that you’d like to see us cover and explore while at the CES in January?

What Is An Ultrabook… and Does It Matter?

Just like Cabbage Patch Kids of old, an unbranded Ultrabook waits for a home. (picture credit: Brooke Crothers, CNET)

Thin, light and powerful notebooks are coming to take over the world, and it appears it isn’t just Intel that will be promoting this form factor next year.

Since the launch of the first Ultrabooks – notebooks powered by low-voltage versions of the second generation of Intel Core processors – we’ve seen many different variations positioned to suit different customer segments.

All vendors take slight different riffs on the same ultimate goal – to provide a lightweight, slim, aesthetically pleasing notebook that can still provide similar computing experiences to the traditional notebooks that most end users own.

In the comments area for our YouTube segment featuring comparisons between three Ultrabooks from three major brands, one viewer, cowmonkey10, commented “Um…isn’t this just a laptop? What’s an ultrabook?”

That is the foundation for a lot of discussion going on in the IT manufacturing sector right now. Intel have set up a fund to provide marketing assistance to vendors who can make models that meet the criteria for Ultrabooks, which they hope will motivate the ramp up and customer acceptance of these new models.

I was chatting online to Steve Paine (aka “Chippy”) who runs the Ultrabook News website, and he pointed me to an article on CNET regarding Intel’s apparent focus on smaller companies to develop and produce Ultrabooks. This could be a good sign of competition in the new year, as the second-tier vendors will most likely release more competitively-priced versions of an Ultrabook and keep the larger brands in check.

Of course, Intel isn’t an island, and another article, this one on Tom’s Hardware, came out recently suggesting that AMD was readying itself to showcase their own versions of the “thin, light and powerful” category – possibly without stipulating dimensions and specifications. There’s some exciting possibilities there, and we hope to see some examples at the upcoming CES in Las Vegas.

So the question of “What is an ultrabook?” that I posed in the title is a reflection on the creation of a name to describe a new category – and whether this will impact and influence buyers of their next portable PC. I imagine this will depend on Ultrabooks living up to their promise of uncompromising performance in these sleek form factors.

What the term “Ultrabook” does achieve is provide some level of expectation in a potential buyer’s mind, and by forcing manufacturers to build to certain standards can ensure consistency in output. Even though each brand promotes their own offering in their unique way, a customer is educated to the general benefits and characteristics  of the category, in the same way the term “netbook” became accepted as a smaller mobile computing platform.

In the meantime, we thought we’d answer cowmonkey10′s question for our YouTube audience and share that with our readers here as well. There are plenty of sites, both official and non-official, that discuss the criteria in detail. Chippy’s page is a great reference for anyone that wants lots of information.

For those that want the lowdown in just one minute, here is our crash course in what is an Ultrabook:


For easy reference, here’s our comparison segment so you can see how different Ultrabooks can be, despite coming from the same general criteria:


Will the marketing activity of the term “Ultrabook” help sway you to purchase these a model that fits the definition, or will you buy simply on the merit of a notebook’s individual look, feel and performance?

Would love to hear your thoughts about how branding and classifying products affects your purchase decisions! See you all below.

Ultrabook Comparison – Acer S3, Toshiba Z830 & Asus UX31

Ever since Intel announced the new slim form factor that would take Windows-based notebooks into a new era of portability, lightness and cutting edge design, we’ve been covering many aspects of the Ultrabook build-up.

Our first Ultrabook article ran back in the beginning of September, discussing the details of what made an Ultrabook, and how it might add to the customer experience and value proposition.

ACER S3 Toshiba 7830 and ASUS UX21 Ultrabooks

Which do you want this Christmas? The slick and affordable ACER S3, the business person's dream machine in the Toshiba Z830, or the eye-catching performance and show-stopping looks of the ASUS UX21?

We’ve then been lucky enough to have some hands-on time with a slew of different models, including the Acer S3, Asus UX31, Toshiba Z830 and the HP DM3 Folio .

The beauty of competition is that even though Intel stipulated some minimum criteria benchmarks to determine what makes an Ultrabook, each manufacturer has come up with their own unique features that help set them apart from the pack – whether it be bang for buck, business-friendly features, or eye-catching design.

While we have looked at each individual model and reflected on their attributes as single-standing Ultrabooks, we thought it would be fun to gather three of the units and have a look at them together, just to see what made each one tick, and to illustrate just how different each Ultrabook could be, even though the same Intel DNA is coursing through each of their slim bodies.

If you’ve read each of the previous Ultrabook articles, then you’d have a fair idea of what each one offers. So instead of another article, we thought we’d produce a short, snappy video in the same style that you’ve now seen from the Transformer Prime segments.

We chose one Ultrabook from each processor range: an i3 Acer, an i5 Toshiba and an i7 Asus. We’ve presented our thoughts on what each model might represent for different customers, and left it open for further discussion – each model could be successful in its own patch of the market if they attract the right profile of user.

Without further ado, please find below our Ultrabook comparison video:


Here’s where we would love to hear your thoughts on the Ultrabooks – which one would you choose, and why? Or if you’re not interested in making the investment, what’s holding you back? As always, we’ll join you for the discussion and provide further information if you need it.

Talk to you all soon!

Check out for all our videos and subscribe if you want to keep up to date with our regular video releases!

First Look: Pics and Official Specs of Upcoming HP Ultrabooks

HP have kept extremely tight-lipped about their Ultrabook plans, but today the veil has lifted off their first offering, and thanks to HP Australia we have a sample to look at in detail, along with the specs. These 13.3” Ultrabooks are due in late December.

HP's first entry into the Ultrabook market... the DM3, also known as the Folio.

Using a slimmed-down DM3 chassis and following that series’ lines and design sensibilities, the HP Folio, as it is called, adopts a conservative aesthetic approach, maintaining its appeal to the commercial sector and HP loyalists. In fact, opening the lid and seeing the layout and colour scheme, you can see where HP have retained the overall look and feel while slimming down the overall dimensions.

The DM3 is due out just before the end of 2011.

HP will have two models on offer, with the only variation being a choice of a low voltage i3 at 1.4GHz, or an i5 at 1.6GHz turbo boosted up to 2.3GHz. Other than that, all other vital statistics are the same. 4GB of RAM is taken up by one Dimm slot, and the spec sheet says expandable to 8GB RAM, so this may be the first Ultrabook with user upgradable components – a big plus for those looking to boost their performance. Both models come with 128GB solid state drives.

I could be mistaken but that looks like an easily removable panel to insert more RAM goodness!

The HP DM3 Ultrabook is also the first to have a two-tone body, with brushed metal finish on the lid and keyboard area, and a black rubberised base. The feel of the base is quite nice, not slippery plastic but a softer, more textured surface that enables excellent gripping when transporting by hand.

The dimensions of the DM3 are 31.8cm wide, 22cm deep and 1.8cm thick, with a weight of 1.49kg, so HP weren’t setting out to break records in the lightest or thinnest departments. Rather, it feels like a sturdy unit with good connectivity in a comparatively lightweight and thin body. Based on some of the flowing lines that reach from the sides and wrap around the front of the unit, I do get the feeling that HP could have gone with a thinner, wedge-based front if they wanted to, but it would have opposed their design principles.

No wedgies here... The two tone design stands out from other Ultrabooks.

The lid is nicely refined, with the HP logo stamped on in outline, leaving the brushed metal to fill in the letters. A small strip at the top of the lid includes a small tab for thumb-opening to reveal the inside.

It's easier to see in real life, but there are some cool brushed metal effects on the lid and keyboard area.

The black rubber of the base reaches up to the sides of the DM3, where all the inputs and outputs live. On the left hand side, the power, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, USB 2.0 port and memory card slot line up neatly. All of these inputs are full-sized. Two subtle LEDs indicate hard drive use and power.

Full-size notebook connectivity in an Ultrabook.

There is nothing on the back except for the fan outlet and the two hinges which keep the monitor in place, which is notably stiff. A headphone/mic combo jack and USB 3.0 port are all that is on the right hand side.

The monitor is a bright 1366 x 768 LED, with good side viewing angles and as mentioned before, looks pretty much bolted to the base from the two side hinges. A small unobtrusive webcam sits within the glass panel, along with a digital mic. The black framing of the screen is in line with the DM3 series DNA.

The touchpad is a one piece component that will pick up finger movements from corner to corner. The delineated click spaces work well, and right clicking in particular is quite accurate all the way to the middle of the wide “T”.

Integrated touchpad and clickpad on the HP DM3 does a good job of responding to gestures and presses.

The keyboard is nestled within a glossy black space that is sunken into the base to keep it flush with the rest of the brushed steel base. There is good tactile response to key pressing with a fair bit of depth and key separation. A small square on the touchpad can be double pressed and disables the touchpad to avoid palm-created inaccuracies with the cursor.

Familiar Pavilion design encases the keyboard in a glossy black finish.

There is a function button that activates and de-activates the backlit keyboard, the second Ultrabook to offer this added feature. In darkness the keys are bright and defined. Like its competitor, it’s a thoughtful add-on for those who might need it in low light or dark conditions.

The HP Ultrabook will keep you company all through the wee hours.

The Altec Lansing speakers that sit between the hinges are clear at higher volumes, but without much low end response. Perhaps HP could throw in a pair of Beats headphones to seal the deal from a portable entertainment sound point of view, given their brand association.

Detail showing speaker grill and sturdy hinge.

As it was stressed to me that this unit is a pre-production sample and does not fully represent performance benchmarks, the timings I recorded on wake up and boot up are not expected to be the final performance results. The 5 second wake up and 20 second boot up is a little slower than other Ultrabooks I’ve tested but this is sure to improve with the final production units.

The HP Folio is the most ruggedised Ultrabook I’ve come across so far. The rubberised base and sides where the connections are certainly give it a lot of grip and it doesn’t feel like a delicate unit. The stiff motion of the lid which encases the monitor reinforces that impression. In essence there are no surprises, and the build quality is first class.

A (literally) solid addition to the growing Ultrabook family.

Like the Toshiba we looked at a few days ago, the inclusion of the Ethernet jack hints at an enterprise and business customer. Its sturdiness should be a plus as it can be thrown around a little more if it is used on the road and places outside of an office environment. At under 1.5kgs it’s still way under most standard notebooks and just squeezes into the Ultrabook criteria.

After looking at a few Ultrabooks, there definitely appears to be a fork in the road where some brands like Acer and Asus have chosen to be more brash and thrilling in their form factor executions, to attract the purchaser whose notebook is an extension of their personality. Travelling down the other fork are brands like Toshiba and HP who have not deviated massively in style or design, but have taken advantage of new technology to offer a reason to upgrade to slimmer, lighter models that retain the reliability and sturdiness that businesses demand.

The Ultrabook category is the most exciting development for Windows-based portable PCs in many years. Out of their negative publicity and uncertainty, HP have stuck to their brand image and design approach and adapted the Ultrabook to their own blueprint. For a company that seemed to be on the cusp of an unfortunate fate not long ago, it’s a solid entry.

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Toshiba Satellite Z830 Ultrabook: First Look

Hot on the heels of the Ultrabook releases from Acer and Asus, Toshiba have launched their new Satellite Z830 Ultrabook, and we have the pleasure of detailing this sleek piece of machinery for our readers.

Toshiba's entrant into the newly-created Ultrabook category... the Z830.

I’ll start by touching briefly on the specs.  As with all newly released Ultrabooks this machine touts a low voltage version of the second generation Intel Core processor, in this case an i5 2467 with a 1.6GHz frequency that turbo boosts to 2.3Ghz, along with the on-die Intel HD graphics. It comes with 4GB RAM, which is fixed and not upgradeable, as well as a 128GB solid state drive. The battery is also non-replaceable, another defining descriptor for Ultrabooks thus far.

Less fashion, more function... The Toshiba Ultrabook will appeal to executives because of its business-oriented features.

Keeping with the Ultrabook philosophy, the Satellite Z830 is defined by its very slim form factor, and at 15.9mm, cuts a very thin figure with the lid opened or closed. In contrast to the Acer or Asus variants, the Z830 maintains a consistent thickness from the front to the back, eschewing the wedge design preferred by its competitors. It’s a clean-lined and professional looking machine.

Thin and streamlined no matter which end you look at.

Toshiba hasn’t compromised on the outputs despite the tighter real estate. On the left hand side is the full size SD card slot, headphone jack and external microphone input. On the right hand side is a high speed USB 3.0 port, easily identifiable with its blue connector, and a Kensington lock.

A welcome addition... high speed transfers coming your way courtesy of USB 3.0.

The back panel is where the majority of the port action is, with Ethernet, two USB 2.0, HDMI, and VGA ports – all full-sized. Toshiba have clearly thought about usage in the business sector. Where the Asus and Acer models rely on wireless connection or a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, the no-fuss Ethernet connection makes it an easy choice for travellers that use hotel rooms regularly.

Full sized inputs in a thin-sized notebook.

Similarly, the VGA output, although seemingly outdated with the inclusion of the HDMI output, makes sense for anyone that travels from location to location and uses projectors for their presentations or videos. It is still the standard connector for anyone who needs a quick connection to someone else’s monitor or projector.

Venting has been approached quite differently from each Ultrabook vendor we’ve seen so far. On the Acer S3, the back panel air vent dissipates the heat, and on the Asus Zenbooks the vents are at the top of the keyboard just underneath the screen. The Z830’s fan has small slots in the base of the unit, with the main vents on the left hand side of the back panel next to the Ethernet port.

Full sized Ethernet port for travellers, and rear vents for power users.

At 1.1kg, the Z830 is light, in fact deceptively light. You do get a sense that a PC of these dimensions should weigh a bit more. I passed the Z830 to a couple of colleagues to see their reaction and they thought it was missing its battery. It’s hard to describe the lightness without actually experiencing it for yourself.

I found myself holding the Z830 in ways that I wouldn’t other notebooks, simply because it wouldn’t normally be possible. I can hold this Ultrabook open from the left hand corner with no other support. It’s not a huge thing, but just knowing it is both light and stiff when moving it from point to point means less preoccupation with how to pick it up – any edge will do.

I wouldn't dare do this for long with my current notebook, lest I risk injury to me or my machine.

There is a downside to this lack of weight: it sets up expectations for how all notebooks should feel when picked up and used around the house or on the road. Even a typical 10” netbook weighs more. How am I supposed to go back to my wretched heavyweight notebook after this?

Opening the lid presents a rather angular design rather than the more curved and striking designs seen in other Ultrabooks. It really looks like it belongs on the uncluttered desk of a business executive, more so than out in the café crowds. The Z830 is definitely more understated in its look, and that will appeal to many in the enterprise or small business space.

With the Toshiba Ultrabook, it's definitely hip to be square.

A few design features pop out immediately upon opening the unit. The first is the touchpad, with the distinguishable left and right click buttons. On other Ultrabooks, this has been integrated into the touchpad to great effect, but here Toshiba have taken a more practical route with defined areas for the touchpad and left/right click buttons. As with many other Toshiba notebooks, a dedicated button for disabling the touchpad lives just below the space bar.

The space directly below the touchpad buttons have been utilised with miniature status indicators for drive use, power/charging, wireless connection, etc. This benefits the overall design aesthetic of the Z830 with no other distracting LEDs on the surface of the horizontal base.

A more traditional touchpad set up, but is that a bad thing?

Further up the Ultrabook’s body, there is a noticeable valley where the keyboard exists. Due to this dip, the island keys are actually flush with the rest of the surface and adds to the streamlined visual signature – subtle but effective.

A nice design flourish to keep the keyboard in line with the rest of the landscape.

A very visible feature is part of the keyboard itself – all keys are backlit. This means no issues typing in lowlight environments, and the characters light up in a bright white display. This may not be a feature that will be used every day, but as a blogger that works all kinds of hours, I can see the benefit immediately. You may not always want external lighting while you’re working, either out of respect for others or other reasons, and the backlit keyboard just gives that extra flexibility.

This is what your Toshiba Ultrabook looks like at night.

Onto the screen, and the single long centre hinge and the brutally squared-off corners of the monitor make this machine even more corporate-looking. Where the Acer S3 have two side hinges and the Asus Zenbook places the screen slightly behind the keyboard, the monitor here actually rises out of the keyboard base, with deliberate gaps on the left and right sides to enhance the effect. It’s a sparse screen too, with only a subtle screen print of the branding below and the webcam and mic above the LED.

Another cool design feature, but it may have its drawbacks.

Cold booting from complete shutdown is impressive. I booted up three times in a row to make sure, and each time I was onto the desktop within 18 seconds. That’s right, not from hibernation or sleep… from shut down mode. I then tried from sleep mode, and the wake up time was less than 3 seconds.

When probing into the Toshiba utility programs, there is an application called Hi Speed Start. This will quicken the boot-up time but will bypass any required Windows updating in preference to starting up lightning fast.

When you have these kinds of boot-up and wake-up times, you can see where Intel, along with their manufacturing partners, is addressing the tablet experience by offering such quick response times. Those that use tablets are used to instant access, and Ultrabooks gives a pretty close experience, but with a keyboard and all the Windows software that goes with it.

The resolution of the screen is 1366 x 768, the same as the Acer S3 but lower than the Asus UX31. One thing I did notice was the amount of bend that could be applied to the lid/screen, due to the extreme thinness of the frame. I’d say that would be in part due to the single hinge not travelling all the way to the bottom corners. While it doesn’t have an impact on everyday usability, I would still caution against applying too much pressure to opposite ends of the LED screen.

Toshiba have taken the concept of "thin" to the extreme on the lid/display frame.

There are two small vents below the palm rests on the keyboard, which pump out surprisingly clear and loud sound given how small the slots are. The main target audience for this Ultrabook may not be for home entertainment or gaming enthusiasts, but it’s good to see that downtime activities like movies and music playback will still look and sound solid on this machine.

The two small slots on either side of the Ultrabook deliver some pretty decent audio. Note the fan outlet on the top left as discussed.

As a first impression, it’s a great example of an Ultrabook trying not to compromise on functions that traditional business-minded customers would expect, such as VGA and Ethernet connectivity. On the other hand the sharp corners, single hinge design and impressively  light weight (best in industry, in fact)  shows a commitment to the Ultrabook quest for thinner, lighter products backed up by performance.

The Z830 may not have the flair of some of its counterparts, but its cool-corporate design and full suite of input/outputs will still place it on the shopping list for those looking to upgrade their notebook to the newest generation of portable computing devices.

What are your thoughts on this latest Ultrabook release? As with my other articles on this emerging category , feel free to ask me any questions about the Toshiba Ultrabook and I’ll be more than happy to respond.

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabooks Hit Stores, We Produce an Unboxing Video


ACER Aspire S3 Ultrabook side on

ACER Aspire S3 Ultrabook only 13mm thick very impressive.

After all the hype, the teasing, and the anticipation, the first Ultrabooks have arrived in store, and it’s Acer that have scored the launch coup once again with their Aspire S3 Ultrabook debuting before any other supplier.

Acer are starting to make this a habit, being the first to introduce Honeycomb 10 inch tablets into retail, and then the first 7 inch tablets with the Honeycomb operating system.

The first model to land is the entry model, which has a retail price of $1,199 and comes with an Intel Core i3 processor, a 320GB hard drive and a 20GB SSD for OS and caching, which helps it achieve the fast wake up that Ultrabooks have so spectacularly demonstrated. Three more models are expected shortly – an i5 with hard drive/SSD combo like the i3, and two SSD-only models in i5 and i7 configurations.

Intel will be very happy to see these finally make the light of day, as this form factor and performance benchmark is expected to make a large contribution to their mix of products over the coming months, and with good reason. These Ultrabooks place more emphasis on design and user-focused appeal than on pure specification-driven models, and present themselves in sleek, thin packages that are very pleasing on the eye.

More brands are expected to release their own offers soon, but in the meantime feast your eyes on this unboxing video that we’ve produced for Bing Lee.


Will you be heading in to see an Ultrabook in the flesh for yourself? Feel free to leave your personal impressions below.

Asus UX31 Ultrabook: First Look

Intel’s new line up of low voltage Core Processors have given rise to a new generation of notebooks, which will start to see the light of day from this October onwards. I’ve had an opportunity to have some hands-on time with an upcoming model from Asus, who have been displaying a fair bit of innovation in the tablet area and look set to continue that trend with this new range.

New breed... the UX31 Ultrabook.

“Thin and light” is the war cry for Ultrabooks, and the Asus UX31, one of the new breed of mobile PCs about to be unleashed to an unsuspecting public, can add “metallic” to that anthem. This is a very industrial-looking piece of tech, from its brushed metal lid to its ultra-thin wedged front and rather sharp corners.

No fingerprints... The UX31 doesn't attract marks and dust like some glossy finishes.

The Asus UX31 was handed to me in a smart looking leather envelope, which seemed incomprehensible to be carrying a notebook of any sort. The envelope itself has a magnet embedded in both the body and fold-over, keeping the package well protected until the dramatic opening, revealing an extremely thin metal Ultrabook.

The Asus Ultrabook travels in style.

The leather slip case was light with the Ultrabook inside, and the UX31 feels as if it should be a little heavier given the physical materials it is wrapped in. The unit is only 1.1kg, extremely light for a notebook of this size, and you really notice its lack of weight when it’s open and operating in the palm of one hand.

Classy...Low tech leather and high tech metal metal make a great combination

The front edge is so thin – 3mm – that Asus have smartly added a small protruding lip at the centre of the lid for easy opening. The unit then increases in thickness to its rear, reaching only 17mm at its peak – still very thin.

Thin profile... the UX31 in side profile showing USB and SD card slot.

From standby, the UX31 bounces into life in a blink, and the bright 13.3” screen displays a 1600 x 900 resolution, higher than some larger screen counterparts. The expected array of status LED is missing, with only tiny white LEDs embedded in the caps lock, Wi-Fi function key and in the power key, which has been integrated into the keyboard layout.

Sparseness is the theme for this Ultrabook, with a small but useful amount of connections. On the left hand side there is the SD/MMC card slot, headphone jack and USB 2.0 port. On the right hand side are all the new-tech connections: Micro HDMI, Mini Displayport and USB 3.0 plus the small power socket.

Digital and high speed connections are welcome on the UX31.

As more components become compressed into smaller and thinner form factors, issues like heating need innovative solutions. Asus have placed its ventilation at the back of the keyboard, just below the screen. The use of the low voltage Core i7 quad core processor and SSD storage also assists in keeping heat down.

Vents at the back of the keyboard help minimise heat.

Video playback was smooth and non-jittery, and it seemed to be able to handle high bit rate content very well. The sound element was interesting – what it lacked in depth, the UX31 made up in stereo separation. Effects and musical instruments were very discernible and seemed to be coming from more than two directions.

Brushed aluminuim and island keys with a full size touchpad. The speakers are positioned between the keyboard and the screen.

For those that have never heard the term “unibody” before, the UX31 is a good example of unibody design and construction. The Asus Ultrabook uses single sheets of material, in this case aluminium, to form a minimalist, almost hollowed-out appearance to ensure a rigid casework. Rigidity and stiffness are more important than ever, with evermore streamlined and sleek designs produced due to the nature of Intel’s Ultrabook criteria. With the advent of Ultrabooks, unibody designs will become much more prevalent in the coming months.

The undercarriage of the UX31... a great unibody execution.

After spending a few hours with the UX31, it’s funny how quickly you get used to the form factor – my trusty notebook that I’m writing this article on looks and feels positively chunky after handling the Ultrabook.

Consider for a moment the advances that had to occur to get us to a point where a product like the Asus Ultrabook could be produced – high speed transfer via USB, reliable solid state drives, low voltage processors, lightweight casework materials, and overhauled cooling designs. Traditional PC makers can be that little less traditional and a bit more edgy with these new products that are as much about lifestyle and self-image as they are about performance and design.

This is one technology bump I can see catching on.

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook – First Look

The age of the Ultrabooks is upon us, and we have the first example of this new category of mobile PC from Acer. At today’s launch, we had a hands-on look at this very thin and impressively light model nicknamed the Aspire S3, and known as the AS3951 through Acer’s formal naming convention.


The model that we had an opportunity to get intimate with had an Intel Core i7 low voltage processor, clocked at 1.7GHz with a Turbo boost of 2.8GHz. This particular machine had 4GB of RAM with a 240GB solid state drive.


The “thin and light” aspect of the Acer Ultrabook definitely lived up to expectations – only 1.3cm thick, and 1.4kg in weight. When not in use, the lid has an attractive aluminium surface that didn’t appear to pick up fingerprints – one thing glossy finishes can be guilty of.


There are no vents on the bottom of this Ultrabook; instead heat is dissipated through a vent at the back of the unit just below the power button. This keeps the underside from overheating – a handy feature considering this would be a very mobile device and will probably spend some time on the user’s lap.


Inputs and outputs are kept to a minimum. There is a SD/MMC card reader on the right hand side, and headphone socket on the left hand side. At the back are all the other connections: power, HDMI and two USB ports. As with all Ultrabooks, the Acer S3 has eschewed an optical drive in favour of its slimmer dimensions.


Ultrabooks are Intel’s answer to the burgeoning tablet market, and here are two areas they intend to compete head-to-head: battery life and power-up time. We started up the S3 and the SSD delivered an impressive 20 second boot-up time. When coming out of sleep it was almost negligible – if you were distracted by something out the window and looked away, by the time you looked back at the screen it would have been ready for you.

Battery life was quoted by Acer as being around 7 hours, but the eyebrow-raising figure was the standby time claimed – up to 50 days.

The island-style keyboard and integrated touchpad/clickpad kept in with the minimalist theme that the S3 was conveying. LED lights were absent with the exception of two subtle blue indicator LEDs next to the power button.


This was my first personal experience with an Ultrabook, and I walked away quite impressed. It’s more than a glorified netbook, and can hold its own against traditional notebooks. It’s not a direct tablet alternative in that the tablet OS and app ecosystem has its own advantages and indeed Acer’s own Iconia speaks to that market segment.

Some of the S3’s tablet-like characteristics could be attractive to that group of users that are more demanding of their devices, and indeed the Ultrabook may be their workhorse PC of choice, as it offers long battery life, instant on and high performance all wrapped in a cool, statement-making chassis.

Ultrabooks will definitely be compared to the MacBook Air, and for those that need or like to use Windows, that comparison will be a fair one. PC manufacturers such as Acer (and Toshiba & Asus, hopefully to be seen locally soon) will have a new category of portable PCs that both perform and look the part.


The Acer S3 is due to be released mid-October, with pricing and configurations to be confirmed shortly.

Will you be upgrading your current notebook to an Ultrabook? Feel free to comment below..