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With less than a 2-second return from hibernation and a sleek design, the Acer Aspire S3 notebook is an affordable choice in the ultrabook market. Although it may not have all the bells and whistles of some competitors, the S3 should prove a smart option for many organizations.
Like most ultraportables, the S3 weighs in at just 3 pounds and is a half-inch thick. The 1366x768 pixel resolution is clear and reasonably crisp on a 13.3-inch diagonal LCD screen, which makes good use of the form factor and is a shade larger than some ultraportables.
The design’s rounded edges provide a nice contrast to other devices’ hard corners. Plus, the soft rubber keys offer a smooth typing experience. There are also two indicator lights next to the power button: one for power and one for battery charging. It would have been nice if there were one for CAPS LOCK too, or even for audio, but those omissions aren’t deal-breakers.
For connectivity, the S3 provides both Bluetooth 4.0 as well as Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g through an Atheros AR5BWB225 network adapter. Like most ultrabooks, it has no wired connection or wireless WAN available, although one could tether a USB device to jump onto mobile broadband.
The S3 has two USB 2.0 ports and a full-size High-Definition Multimedia Interface port (all in the rear). The power connection is also in the back, next to the HDMI port. On the sides, the S3 has a Secure Digital High-Capacity card slot and a combined headset/microphone port.
The niftiest feature is Acer’s Green Instant On functionality, which claims to be able to wake the notebook from sleep mode in two seconds. During testing, it was actually faster than that (as best as I could measure). This kind of quick boot rivals tablet devices.
Storage is split between a standard 320-gigabyte, 5400-rotations-per-minute SATA drive and a 20GB solid-state drive. The SSD exclusively supports the two-second hibernation feature. By reserving solid-state storage for quickly doing only what users really want and leaving mass storage on a cheaper platter, Acer has succeeded in making both users and accountants a little happier — that’s a rare combination in these cost-cutting days.
The Acer Aspire S3’s design is solid. The one long, continuous hinge should help prevent accidental separations. And its four rubber feet will prevent the device from skidding off a flat surface and onto the floor.
The No. 1 user complaint on ultrabooks tends to be battery life. The Aspire S3’s three-cell lithium battery is rated for six hours, but under normal usage (writing this review and doing research, for example), its operational life ran about four and a half hours.
Unlike some of its competition, the S3 does not sport any USB 3.0 ports. Plus, the USB ports it does house (along with the HDMI port) are in the rear, not on the side, which would be more accessible.