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Acer Aspire S5
What's hot: Gorgeous design, very slim and light, has a Thunderbolt port.
What's not: Mediocre TN display with narrow viewing angles, fan is a bit noisy.
Reviewed September 16, 2012 by Lisa Gade, Editor
in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)
Acer often takes the affordable road with their notebooks and Ultrabooks. The Aspire S3 was a tad budget among first gen Ultrabooks with more liberal use of plastics and a spinning hard drive rather than the then ubiquitous SSD drive. The Acer Aspire S5 changes all that. This is a premium Ultrabook; and Ultrabooks already tend to be premium relative to mainstream laptops. The 13.3" third generation Intel machine is dressed in a gunmetal black casing that looks and feels premium. And it's one of the first Windows laptops to have a Thunderbolt port. And yes, it works just fine with our Apple 27" Thunderbolt display.
This is one of the thinnest Ultrabooks on the market: it tapers from 0.44 to 0.59 inches and it weighs just 2.65 pounds. That's almost as light as the most underweight Ultrabook on the market, the Toshiba Portege Z835/Z935. But unlike the Portege, the Acer has no flex and feels seriously solid.
What else makes this a premium machine? Ultrabooks generally start at $999 for a Core i5 and 128 gig SSD. The Core i7 plus 256 gig SSD drive generally costs $1,300 to $1,500 for most brands. The Aspire S5 is available only with the high end 1.9GHz Intel Core i7 ULV, 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM and a fast 256 gig SSD. It's not cheap at $1,399. The machine benchmarks very well and it's at the top of our PCMark Vantage collection for Ultrabooks with a 13,190 score.
Other features include a glossy 13.3", 1366 x 768 display of just average quality, an HD webcam, comfy but not backlit keyboard, and Acer's MagicFlip, a motorized rear port door that drops down and rises up at the touch of a button. Gimmick? Yes. Kinda cool unless it breaks? Yes.
Honestly, we like everything about the Aspire S5 except the display: viewing angles are extremely narrow, and we expect better from a machine this expensive. Even when viewed straight on, contrast isn't terribly high and colors are just average. In every other way, this Ultrabook pleases us with fast performance, a gorgeous design and the bonus Thunderbolt port.
The Acer Aspire S5 runs fairly cool and surface temperatures never exceed body temperature. The fan is fairly audible if the machine is working moderately hard, and we suspect the fan noise is amplified by turbulence created by the drop down rear door (fan noise changes when the door is dropped down and is actually reduced a bit).