The Acer Aspire S3 is the first of Intel’s Ultrabook range to come into the market. Ultrabook is the umbrella brand for Intel’s latest line of PC innards, characterised by Rapid Start (near-instant on and better battery life), Smart Response (better access to frequently used files), Smart Connect (social media updates while asleep), Anti-Theft (poison pill disability and full reinstatement) and Identity Protection technology.
The 13-inch Acer Ultrabook I trialled did not feature all of these aspects but to begin, at 13mm slim and under 1.4 kg, it’s a nice sized laptop for the travelling project manager who needs the performance of a larger one. A caveat: my usual machine is a 15-inch Apple Macbook Pro so I’ll keep the differences between the Mac and Windows operating systems out of this review.
The test run occurred over a three-day conference where I took notes, used a veritable shed of social media tools, and sneaked in a bit of work—mainly checking webmail, searching online and uploading stories—in the boring sessions.
The S3 was indeed Rapid Start, with the home screen up before I could figure out where to perch my coffee. Wireless connectivity was easy and intuitive, and programs opened quickly, which made for a smooth first day. Closing the lid put the laptop into snooze, from which it awoke almost instantly.
I did, however, have problems when the machine went to sleep, either by accident (the on/off button is near the crook where the lid meets the keypad and once when shutting it, I inadvertently turned it off—luckily I’d saved everything) or when it was out of use for a while, for example during a particularly riveting session.
Its performance after a sleep was poor and sometimes disoriented: it would take a while to realise I wanted to switch tabs or windows and would take a minute or two to open a small text file. I would have to restart, and for some reason restarting after a sleep took far longer than a cold start. Lesson learnt: you can let it snooze, but don’t let it fall asleep on its own.
Battery life was very good, with about seven hours of use on a full charge from cold start to the warning light (including two half-hour breaks in that period).
Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to install more power hungry programs to test its limits but from what I saw at the demo, the Ultrabooks will run action games without performance loss.
The strength of the Acer Aspire S3 is certainly its size/weight to performance ratio and its painless setup, making it a consideration for project managers on the go. It may not be quite ready to replace your regular machine, but it’s certainly a candidate for your preferred travel companion.