The Aspire S 13 is the latest ultra-slim laptop from Acer, but it enters a competitive market where it will need to fend off competition from the likes of Asus and Samsung.
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 closer look at the Aspire S 13 to see how it stands up against the competition and whether Acer has cut corners to achieve the price.
The Aspire S 13 is an attractive notebook in its white and black colour schemes. It is a mere 0.57in at its thickest point, and weighs 1.3kg. It is not the thinnest or lightest ultraportable, but it is more svelte than a MacBook Air.
Acer has achieved this by making generous use of aluminium in the chassis, which has chamfered diamond-cut edges making it look sleek and sharp .
Oddly, we found it surprisingly heavy to hold in one hand compared with other ultraportables and felt that perhaps the weight is not distributed as evenly as it could be.
Acer has used the 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 a user's hands.
But we think the company is trying to solve a problem that does not really exist. The textured finish is interesting and a bit different from other laptops, 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 and which looks good and functions well.
Sadly, things went a little downhill when we opened the laptop and felt the screen's plastic bezel which has a disconcerting amount of flex. We do not expect the average user to continually press at the bezel, but it highlights where Acer has perhaps cut corners to save weight and cost.
The keyboard is responsive, if a tad rubbery, and there is 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.
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 is not flush with inputs but offers more than enough for most workers' needs.
We would feel a little disappointed by some of the shortcomings in an otherwise lovely design if Acer charged a high price for the Aspire S 13. But its affordability renders this argument mostly moot.
The Aspire S 13 has a decent 13in 1920x1080 FHD IPS display. It's not the sharpest on the market, but offers solid contrast and little in the way of ghosting.
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 display’s colours are very pleasing with the brightness turned 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.
It works well on the Aspire S 13 when navigating with the trackpad or a digit. Acer has not hampered Windows 10 with a load of unnecessary software either, which is a relief.
The firm has added its TrueHarmony technology 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 did not 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 will 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 put the Intel chip to good use from our experience 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.
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 would 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.
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.
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 have similar specifications and not an enormous difference in price.
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 device launches.