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Acer Aspire Ultrabook S3 hands-on (update: video!)

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If you haven't heard, Acer's gone and (officially) jumped on the Ultrabook bandwagon, announcing the 13mm-thin Aspire S3. We're here live at IFA in Berlin and just got some much-anticipated hands-on time. At the press conference that just wrapped, we were treated to a raft of promises -- seven-hour battery life, 1.5 seconds to resume from sleep, two to connect to a wireless network and "no compromise" performance courtesy of ultra low voltage Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. So did our first impression come anywhere near matching the hype? Read on to find out.

Gallery: Acer Aspire Ultrabook S3 hands-on | 11 Photos



The Aspire S3 is, as you'd expect, wafer-thin and easy to grip in a single hand (or two fingers, even). Design-wise, it has something of a split personality. On the outside, at least, its magnesium-alloy, unibody chassis makes it look refined, an impression that solidified in our minds once we held the thing. The brushed look is attractive, even though that's more of a pattern than actual etching. It feels rigid, and though we would still take care before throwing this in our carryon, it at least feels like its worth the €799 starting price (no word yet on US pricing, though it's coming). Lift the lid, though, and you'll see that yes, Acer did make some sacrifices to offer this combination of thinness, performance and battery life claims at a palatable price point. The keyboard looks and feels like plastic, which is a trade-off we'd happily make if it turns out this performs well. It's just incongruous with the more inviting metal exterior.

In our brief hands-on, we noticed the keys have very little travel. With such a low pitch, they're not the cushiest, most tactile keys you'll ever use, but we can see ourselves -- and a lot of folks -- warming to it. The touchpad's pretty large, as you can see in our hands-on shots, and though it's not flush with the system, it at least blends in. In our hands-on, we felt some friction, but that's something that could be remedied with a driver update before Acer starts shipping final-production models to the masses. The button, too, felt a tad stiff, but we'll reserve full judgment until we get to live with the S3 for a few days. As for that 13.3-inch (1366 x 768) display, it's highly reflective, as you can see in our gallery, but in this price range that's par for the course.

But even more than the industrial design, the big deal is the host of promises Acer is making with this 13mm-thin machine. We can't test its seven-hour battery life or fifty-day standby time right now. Ditto for the two-seconds-to-connect-to-the-internet claim. But we did get a chance to see how quickly it actually takes the machine to resume from sleep. Acer says it should take 1.5 seconds, but when we pressed the power button we noted a longer pause. Indeed, the same thing happened when an Acer executive trotted out the S3 for the first time during its IFA press conference. It resumed from sleep on the second try, but even then the wake time didn't feel as instant as promised.


So that's our first take on the S3. Until we spend some good QT with it -- or any of the other newly minted Ultrabooks -- it'll be tough to say how sweet a value this is. And if it can perform like a champ -- lasting close to seven hours, as promised, and delivering a healthy punch on its ultra low voltage Sandy Bridge processors -- all of those niggles above shouldn't be a problem.

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