A few months ago Acer was the first manufacturer to announce a 13,3 inch ultrabook. We are talking about the Aspire S3, which is a pioneer of this segment of the market but it doesn’t lack negative aspects.
At CES 2012 we saw a prototype of the next Acer ultrabook, the Aspire S5 and now you can read about it in the review below.
Right from the star we’re going to tell you that the Acer Aspire S5 ultrabook wants to be a top 13,3 device and it plans to do so with it’s design, performances and price. This means that it will have to compete with rivals such as Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A, Samsung Series 9 Ultra or Apple Macbook Air.
Wondering if the Acer S5 is good enough to compete with the above mentioned laptops ? Well read this review to find out.
Asus Aspire S5 Technical Specifications
Screen: 13.3″, 1366 x 768 px, shiny, TN panel
Processor: Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5-3317U @1.7 GHz
Video card: Intel 4000 HD
Memory: 4 GB DDR3
Hard Drive: 128 GB SSD
Connectivity: Wireless N, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports: 2xUSB 3.0, HDMI, Thunderbolt, card-reader, HD webcam
Battery: 3 Cell 36 Whr
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bits
Dimensions: 325 x 226 x 15 mm
Weight: 1.2 KG
Aspire S5 Design and Construction
Acer wants the Aspire S5 ultrabook to be the thinnest 13,3 inch on the market.
The S5 has a thickness of only 15 mm, being more compact then the competition, however this is something most users do not care about.
On the other hand, Acer Aspire S5 has a weight of just 1,2 KG, being much lighter than it’s main rivals, and the difference can really be felt.
The round edges makes it easy to carry and we like the fact that it doesn’t have those sharp edges like other top ultrabooks.
Also, compared to other very light ultrabooks, such as Toshiba Portege Z830, Aspire S5 makes you think it’s more robust. Aluminum and magnesium were used to build the case and the construction quality is very good, however not perfect.
The cover of the screen gets a bit flexed when you press it easy, and this might have bad effects on the display at some time.
The Acer Aspire S5 is better than it’s predecessor, Acer S3, design wise, however from our point of view it is equal to top ultrabooks from Samsung, Asus or Lenovo.
It is well built but it does not impress us much and when you look at it for the first time you’re not going to think it’s something spectacular.
At first glance you will notice that the S5 does not come with many ports because on the sides we can only find a LED indicator for battery and audio jack in the right, as well as a card reader and on / off button on the left. Most ports are hidden under a retractable cover called MagicFlop.
On the back we only have the battery connector and a small vent. However when we open MagicFlop we can see more ports: USB 3.0, HDMI and Thunderbolt ( S5 is the only 13,3 inch laptop to come with such a port right now ).
Acer Aspire S5 does not include so many ports as it’s rivals and it does not come with VGA output or Ethernet port, which is still pretty important.
On the other hand, the fact that all ports are in the back seems OK at first, but in reality things are not like this because you will have to turn the laptop each time you want to connect something and you will need a bigger space in the back in order to host devices, space that most of the times it not available.
Overall, the Acer Aspire S5 is a good looking ultrabook and the construction is good, even if it’s overall design is pretty common. To be able to make it thinner Acer hid the ports under a gliding cover but not many people will like that.
Keyboard and Docking Station
The keyboard of the Acer S5 is pretty decent however not excellent. The keys are well spaced but they are a bit too tiny and you have to spend a while to get adjusted to them.
The keyboard layout is a bit weird because the Enter key seems glued to the key above it, and directional keys are very tiny. Also, the keyboard is not illuminated and this is a minus because most top ultrabooks have illuminated keyboards.
The trackpad is also very decent, even if it’s not very good looking. It is precise and nice to touch. It offers palm-rejection and multi-touch support.
Acer Aspire S5 Display
The display is one of the most important elements of a laptop and the Acer Aspire S5 is just a bit disappointing.
Don’t get us wrong, the 13,3 inch screen with a 1366 x 768 pixels resolution is not very weak, it does it’s job when you look at it straight and used in a dark environment. However, the bad quality TN panel and shiny design will act up on you revealing limited viewing angles, weak colors and contrast.
Acer equipped a t0p ultrabook with a screen similar to those integrated on mainstream laptops and this is not acceptable for a top ultrabook that enters the market in 2012.
Aspire S5 Hardware and Performances
Hardware wise Acer did a pretty good job with the Aspire S5.
The laptop comes with an Intel Core I3 processor, 128 SSD, an Intel HD 4000 graphic solution.
The hardware platform is advanced enough to cope with the daily tasks. However, you can use it without problems to view high definition video content, complex applications like photo and video editing apps, and you can also play some recent games but without using the maximum graphics settings.
Furthermore, the S5 boots in under 30 seconds and it recovers from Sleep mode in just 2 or 3 seconds.
The SSD implemented by Acer is fast, better than those integrated in it’s rivals.
Acer Aspire S5 comes with Windows 7 Home Premium and Acer offers free Windows 8 update to all ultrabooks purchased until January 2013 and this makes it different than it’s competitors.
If you use it to run your usual daily tasks you will notice that the Acer Aspire A5 doesn’t get too warm. Even if you run more complex apps, like Full HD movies, only the back of the laptop will get a bit warmer while the rest of the laptop is cold.
On the other hand, the cooling system is pretty loud. It becomes active if you watch movies and the fan noise can become, at times, pretty annoying.
Acer Aspire S5 comes with a 3 Cells 36 Whr battery which should prove up to 6 hours of autonomy. However, if you use the screen at 60% luminosity with the Balanced profile and Wi-Fi you will get around 4 hours of autonomy.
It is pretty hard for us to reach a conclusion about the Acer Aspire S5 ultrabook. It is a well built and thin ultrabook. It has good performance and it will cope with your daily routines.
However, if we compare it with it’s rivals, we will notice many aspects that Acer could have improved and we’re talking about the screen, keyboard and battery autonomy.
The Aspire S5 can be a good solution for those who want a portable ultrabook. However, the S5 is not at all better than the competition.