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Acer Aspire S 13 hands-on review

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ULTRA-SLIM LAPTOPS are all the rage right now with the likes of Apple, Asus and Samsung creating ever more portable machines. So Acer’s Aspire S 13 has some stiff competition to beat.

The latest Aspire notebook starts at $699, roughly £485, yet offers Intel’s Skylake sixth-gen Core processors. That undercuts even the well-priced Asus ZenBook UX305 by over £100.

We had the chance to take a quick look at the Aspire S 13 to see how it stands up in a competitive arena and whether Acer has cut corners to slice the price.

Design
The Aspire S 13 is a lovely notebook in its white and black livery. It’s a mere 0.57in at its thinnest point, and weighs 1.3kg. It’s not the thinnest or lightest ultraportable, but it’s more svelte than, say, a MacBook Air.

The Aspire S 13 features a contrasting hinge

Acer has achieved this by making generous use of aluminium in the chassis, which also has chamfered diamond-cut edges making it look sleek and sharp.

The Aspire S 13 weighs just 1.3kg

Oddly, we found it surprisingly heavy to hold in one hand compared with other ultraportables and felt that perhaps the weight isn’t distributed as evenly as it could be.

Acer has used a sci-fi sounding nano-imprint lithography technique to add a textured finish to the Aspire S 13’s lid to make it less likely to slip out of the hands of butter-fingered users.The Aspire S 13 features a textured lid

But we reckon the company is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist. The textured finish is interesting and a bit different, but we still favour the smooth finish of brushed aluminium.

The Aspire S 13 has a hinge that contrasts with the finish of the lid which looks good and functions well.

Sadly, things went a little downhill when we opened the laptop and prodded the screen’s bezel. It’s plastic and has a disconcerting amount of flex. We don’t expect the average user to continually jab at the bezel, but it highlights where Acer has perhaps cut corners to save weight and cost.

The keyboard is decent if not brilliant

The keyboard is responsive, if a tad rubbery, and there’s not a great deal of travel. Some may prefer this, but we like more feedback from our keys. Still, it allowed for accurate and speedy typing, which is all we really need a keyboard to do. The trackpad is accurate but has flimsy and spongy buttons that lack the responsive click of higher-end ultraportables. 

The Aspire S 13 has two USB 3.1 ports and one HDMI and USB Type-C slot, along with a headphone jack. It’s enough for most people’s needs.

The Aspire S 13 has enough ports for the average user

We’d feel a little disappointed by some of the shortcomings in an otherwise lovely design if Acer was charging top dollar for the Aspire S 13. But the price renders this moot.

Display
The Aspire S 13 has a decent 13in 1920×1080 FHD IPS display. It’s not the sharpest in the market, but offers solid contrast and little in the way of ghosting.

The display offers decent colours

The model we tested had the optional touchscreen, which was responsive and accurate, going a long way to ease the frustrations of some laptop touchscreens.

The Aspire S 13 has a lightweight design

The display’s colours are very pleasing with the brightness whacked up to full. Images look nicely saturated yet avoid appearing unnatural, and the IPS panel offers decent viewing angles.

Operating system and software
The Aspire S 13 comes with Windows 10, which has finally seen Microsoft strike a balance between its tiled touch-friendly UX and traditional desktop interface.

The Aspire S 13 sports a vibrant display

It works well on the Aspire S 13 when navigating with the trackpad or a digit. Acer hasn’t hampered Windows 10 with a load of unnecessary software either, which is a relief.

The firm has added its Acer TrueHarmony tech which, when combined with the Dolby Atmos sound, means the Aspire S 13 has Skype for Business certification promising to deliver clear, lag-free audio.

We didn’t get a chance to put this to the test, but any efforts to reduce lag when chatting to someone on the other side of the internet is much appreciated.

Performance and battery life
We’ll have to wait to get the Aspire S 13 in for a full review before we can really test the battery life and performance. But it seems to be putting the Intel chip to good use from our experience with the machine so far.

The Aspire S 13 launches this month with a choice of Intel’s low-powered but efficient i3U chip and more powerful i5 and i7 CPUs, along with up to 8GB of RAM.

The Aspire S 13 is the latest ultra-slim laptop from Acer

Storage goes up to 512GB, which is not a huge amount but more than enough for people keen to make use of the cloud storage services on offer, including Microsoft’s OneDrive which is now built into Windows 10. We’d like to have seen a microSD slot to make it easy to expand the storage capacity.

Acer claims 13 hours of battery life for the Aspire S 13, but this will drop a little when the display brightness in turned up. Still, if the ultraportable can deliver around 10 hours on a single charge that would be more than acceptable.

First impressions
Acer’s latest ultrabook effort is a mixed bag. The Aspire S 13 looks the part and appears to offer plenty of power for not a lot of money, so we must forgive some of the lacklustre features.

The Aspire S 13 makes decent use of aluminium

However, Acer will have to fight hard to make the Aspire S 13 appeal to the market. Furthermore, the Switch Alpha 12 Windows 10 hybrid means that Acer will also have to compete with itself, given that both devices are similarly specced and priced.

But Acer could find success if it aims the Aspire S 13 at businesses and organisations looking to bulk buy ultraportables. Time will tell how Acer fares with the Aspire S 13, but check back here for the full review when the ultraportable launches. µ

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