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Of the major planks of Intel's Ultrabook platform -- fast performance, powerful graphics, efficient energy usage, instant-on responsiveness and always-on synchronization -- the Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook fulfills all but one. And to my knowledge, nobody's doing always-on yet.
With the S3's paper-thin physique, comparisons to Apple's MacBook Air are inevitable. The slender beauty is just as thin as the Air at its thickest (0.68 inches); both units taper near the edges and a brushed aluminum exterior protects both units from fingerprints. Similarities continue inside. The S3's flat Chicklet-sized keys and trackpad with integrated buttons have the look and feel of a MacBook, though the S3's trackpad is significantly smaller than Apple's, by about a half-inch in both directions and is limited to two-finger gestures (Apple's supports four).
Opening the lid, Acer's so-called Green Instant On and Instant Connect have the Ultrabook awake and alive in less than 3 seconds, another Mac OS X-like trait. The machine Acer sent the CRN Test Center was equipped with an Intel Core i5 dual-core, 1.6 GHz processor (just like Apple's base unit) running the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium on 4 GB of memory. Geekbench 2.0 turned in a respectable top score of 5,657, but only after we removed or disabled McAfee and Microsoft nagware and set Windows for fastest performance.
Part of Intel's Ultrabook idea was to create machines that not only provide a fast and seamless user experience, but that look good doing it. The handsome S3 fills that bill nicely with its simple, uncluttered design. The left edge has but one port; for a headset. Similarly unencumbered is the right edge, which is home to an SD/MMC reader. The rear is home to a pair of USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port (which can output 1080p resolution) and connector for the right-angle canon plug. We usually prefer a rear edge free of any connectors and the danger of stressing them. Small LEDs for hard drive battery/power status are visible with the 13.3-inch screen is in the open or closed position.