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..

Ultrabooks: Thin Is In

You may not know it yet, but notebooks will be going through a revolution in the next 12 months. A new class of mobile PC will emerge: thin, light, style-focused and high-performing.

A women measuring her waistline

We've been concerned about our waistline for years and now it seems we also want thinner notebooks.

Fuelled by advancements and competitive innovation from both AMD and Intel, notebooks have ramped up in performance and specifications, but with the exception of a few, haven’t really shed their traditional notebook dimensions or basic characteristics such as boot up time and battery life. At the same time, tablets have become a mainstream product that can replace a notebook for some tasks.

The Ultrabook range, coined by Intel, addresses some of these issues affecting the notebook market. Although netbooks were the more mobile and lighter version of its notebook sibling, they are limited to a smaller screen and fitted to more basic PC tasks. Ultrabooks are designed to deliver the full PC experience, with the core propositions of “thin” and “light” manifesting themselves in stylish, eye-catching designs.

Ultrabooks will be the portable PC you want to use, and be seen using. The casual look-at-me email or Facebook check at a café will never have been more popular once these machines start making their way into the market.

There’s no doubt that notebooks are the best value they’ve ever been, and from a “bang for buck” perspective there’s never been a better time to upgrade if you feel the need to. But with longer battery times, an “always on” state similar to tablets, and a burning desire to reveal your sleek Ultrabook at every opportunity, you may find the attraction too hard to resist.

Intel are predicting that Ultrabooks will make up 40% of the consumer notebook market by the end of next year, with each successive Intel chip development driving even greater performance. The first range, due out in October, will make use of a low-voltage variant of the Sandy Bridge processor.

Acer will be the first PC manufacturer to reveal their Ultrabook lineup in Australia later this week, and we’ll be there to take a close look at their offering.

The revolution starts now.