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Acer Aspire S3 review

An Ultrabook-style laptop with dedicated gaming hardware

Our Verdict

The Aspire S3 is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. However, not every product needs to be a king to be a success. It's only the battery life that really disappoints here.

Product features

  • Screen Resolution : 1366 x 768
  • Processor Core : Dual-core (2 Core)

View full specification

For

  • Decent 1080p IPS screen
  • Fairly slim and light
  • Metal body

Against

  • Disappointing battery life
  • Somewhat tricky trackpad
  • GPU not that powerful
Scores in depth
Acer Aspire S3 review
Acer Aspire S3 review
Acer Aspire S3 review
Acer Aspire S3 review
Acer Aspire S3 review

The Acer Aspire S3 is an Ultrabook-style laptop with a difference. It's quite light, portable and good-looking, but also incorporates a dedicated graphics processor, making it one of the few laptops in its class that could be called a gaming device.

What's the price of this sort of versatility? The Acer Aspire S3 with the Nvidia GeForce 735M costs £799 (around US$1280, AU$1470), which is no more expensive than some Ultrabooks with effectively no gaming skills at all. Where you pay for it is with the battery life, so this isn't quite the perfect mix of all worlds – but it's not bad at all.

New look

The Acer Aspire S3 has been around in various guises for a few years now, but the 2014 edition is quite a departure from the old models. Where the original Aspire S3 was quite rightly regarded as a bit of a MacBook Air rip-off in its looks, the new version looks a lot closer to the Acer Aspire S7, an Ultrabook with a snazzy glass lid.

In order to keep costs down, the Acer Aspire S3's lid isn't made of glass, but it still looks and feels as if it is. The aluminium frame is lacquered with several layers of glossy paint, providing a look quite unlike the metal underneath.

The rest of the Acer Aspire S3 design is sound, if not quite as pristine and perfect as the very priciest, prettiest Ultrabooks. The prevalence of obvious seams and the slightly uneven distribution of the chunky screen bezel mean it's not as pretty as a MacBook Air. But then few laptops are.

Acer Aspire S3 back
The new S3 is a smart looking beast

Practical notebook

In practical terms, the Acer Aspire S3 is very good. It weighs 1.55kg and is 17.8mm thick at its thickest point. The S3 doesn't match the thinnest or lightest of Ultrabooks, but a couple of deliberate design choices prohibit that from being remotely possible.

First, there's the use of dedicated graphics: the vast majority of slim laptops use graphics processors integrated into the central processor chipset. There's also the storage type inside.

The Acer Aspire S3 uses a hybrid drive, which provides 500GB of traditional hard drive storage and 16GB of solid state memory to grease the system's cogs for the kind of instant-on performance people expect from an Ultrabook. Hard drives are, generally speaking, chunkier than SSDs. But they are also far cheaper if you want a decent amount of storage.

Unless the other laptop in contention for your cash is a 13-inch MacBook Air, which is significantly lighter at 1.35kg, the little sacrifices in dimensions aren't worth worrying about too much. Even the dedicated GPU-free, SSD-equipped Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite is still 1.44kg and 17mm thick. A clear difference? Yes, but not a grand one.

Acer Aspire S3 ports
There's a decent array of ports, but not everything is present

Ports

The connections you get on the body are sound for an Ultrabook. There are two USB 3.0 ports and another USB 2.0 one, plus an HDMI port for connection to a monitor or TV. There's also an SD card slot with a plastic bung to keep it free of grime when not in use. All the connections are on the sides, with the back reserved for a heat outlet.

There's no Ethernet port, though. Instead there's an Acer Converter port, which is a proprietary socket. With a separate (not included) cable, you can turn this into a VGA port, or a RJ45/VGA/USB 2.0 combo. What's missing? The obvious one is a Mini DisplayPort.

Tech Specs

Product TypeUltrabook
Hard Drive Capacity500 GB
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ModelHD 4000
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeNo
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Maximum Battery Run Time5.50 Hour
Finger Print ReaderNo
HDMIYes
WebcamYes
Backlight TechnologyLED
Product FamilyAspire S3-391
Operating System Architecture64-bit
Processor Modeli7-3517U
Operating SystemWindows 7 Professional
Brand NameAcer
Processor Speed1.90 GHz
Processor TypeCore i7
Screen Size33.8 cm (13.3")
Number of Cells3-cell
Screen Resolution1366 x 768
Standard Memory4 GB
Weight (Approximate)1.36 kg
Cache4 MB
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
64-bit ProcessingYes
Chipset ManufacturerIntel
Chipset ModelHM77 Express
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0 + HS
Total Number of USB Ports2
Height17.5 mm
Width323 mm
Depth218.5 mm
Screen ModeHD
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
Product SeriesS3-391
ManufacturerAcer, Inc
Product ModelS3-391-73514G52add
Product NameAspire S3-391-73514G52add Ultrabook
Pointing Device TypeTouchPad
Product LineAspire
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberNX.M1FEK.003
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.acer.co.uk
Marketing Information

Enjoy life on the go in an instant with the Aspire S Series -- Acer's most mobile and responsive notebook ever. This techno-wonder comes in an ultra-aerodynamic, super-slim design, yet delivers everything you expect from a standard-size notebook.

Maximum Memory4 GB
Battery ChemistryLithium Polymer (Li-Polymer)
Package Contents
  • Aspire S3-391-73514G52add Ultrabook
  • Lithium Polymer Battery
  • AC Adapter
Limited Warranty1 Year