Acer has announced that its Aspire S3 Ultrabook refresh is now available in Europe, Middle East and Africa, so we thought it was high time we got hands on with one at CES 2014.
Acer has taken the design from the trend-setting Aspire S7 and brought it to the mainstream Ultrabook segment. The S3's key selling point is the fact it's a lightweight Ultrabook, but one that has some extra graphics grunt in the form of Nvidia's GeForce GT 735M.
That's quite unusual, since most Ultrabooks just take advantage of Intel's built-in HD 5000 graphics and really does broaden the appeal of the S3. The 13.3-inch screen is an IPS Full HD panel, rather than the larger resolution QHD option that you can choose to have on the S7. Still, although you can tell the panel isn't a very high resolution, it still looks excellent though. As you can see here, reflections are not very welcome.
Expect the S3 to come in various configurations - the one we saw had Intel's latest-generation Core i7 under the hood, although you can specify it with various Haswell Intel Core units - the starting Aspire S3 price is 999 Euros ($1,360 USD, £828 GBP, $1,525 AUD).
Various storage options are also available. The S3 ships with a 128GB SSD, though there is a larger non-SSD 1TB hard drive option.
The dual-torque hinge is back, so using the super-thin touchscreen is no problem in terms of screen wobble - you won't find yourself wishing for something more substantial.
Again, like the S7, you can bend the screen back flat. We're still undecided as to whether this is useful, but it's an interesting little benefit.
The S3's lid doesn't feature Gorilla Glass like the S7, but the look is the same and unless you're going to give it some rough treatment we don't think you'll notice too much. The lid itself is made from aluminum, as is the keyboard surround, what the Acer press release details "the operation area," a description I rather like.
The back features Acer's TwinAir cooling - essentially dual apertures to improve airflow.
As you'd expect from any half-decent Ultrabook these days, the keyboard backlighting also reacts to the amount of ambient light.
Software-wise, the S3 comes pre-installed with Windows 8 and features a bunch of Acer apps that you can see here, as well as McAfee security pre-installed.
The laptop is pretty minimal in terms of its thickness at a perfectly reasonable 17.8 mm. It weighs 1.67 Kg, so it's hardly the lightest, but it's certainly more than manageable to carry around in a bag.
We really like the S3 and it's actually a really powerful notebook. Don't be fooled by the slight watering down of the S7's high design, this is no budget or mainstream device and you're paying for that performance, too. It's an Ultrabook for those who need to get things done yet don't need or want to pay the exorbitant prices of some high-end featherlight models.