Introducing the Acer Aspire S5

First generation technology is seldom perfect, and the fruit of Intel's ultrabook initiative was no exception. While vendors came out in force with some fairly impressive pieces of hardware, these first shots at the form factor all came away lacking in some way. Be it thermal performance, general performance, build quality, or display quality, no matter where you looked you were forced to make some kind of compromise. Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture wasn't horribly suited to the tasks, either, but it was also clear that at least another generation of processors would be more ideal to the increased thermal constraints of the platform.

We're now into our second generation of ultrabooks. Vendors have had the opportunity to begin working the kinks out of their initial designs (as well as experimenting with some new ones), and Intel's 22nm Ivy Bridge is much better suited to the form factor. Today we have on hand one of the more premium examples of the second generation of ultrabooks, Acer's Aspire S5. At just 15mm thick, Acer claims it's the thinnest ultrabook yet, but it still comes fairly feature rich and includes Intel's Thunderbolt technology. At $1,399 the S5 doesn't come cheaply, though.

The words "premium" and "Acer" admittedly don't often come together, but the Aspire S5 is an aggressive piece of hardware and has the potential to shake up the higher end of the ultrabook market while Intel relies on price cuts to push the lower end.

Acer Aspire S5 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-3517U
(2x1.9GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.0GHz, 22nm, 4MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel HM77
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1333 (Maximum 4GB) soldered to motherboard
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(16 EUs, up to 1.15GHz)
Display 13.3" LED Glossy 16:9 768p
AU Optronics B133XTN01.2
Hard Drive(s) 2x Lite-On 128GB SSD SATA 6Gbps in RAID 0
Optical Drive -
Networking Atheros AR5BMD222 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0+HS
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone/mic combo jack
Battery 3-Cell, 35Wh
Front Side -
Right Side Headphone/mic combo jack
Left Side Power button
SD/MMC card reader
Back Side AC adaptor
Exhaust vent
Motorized drop down door for port cluster
2x USB 3.0
1x Thunderbolt
1x HDMI
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 12.77" x 8.95" x 0.44"-0.59"
324.4mm x 227.3mm x 11.2mm/15mm
Weight 2.65 lbs
1.2kg
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Thunderbolt
Card reader
Motorized drop down door
Warranty 1-year limited international
Pricing $1,399

Looking strictly at the specifications, the $1,399 Acer is asking for the Aspire S5 can seem like a bitter pill to swallow. The Ivy Bridge Intel Core i7-3517U processor runs at a nominal 1.9GHz clock speed and is able to punch up to 2.8GHz on two cores or 3GHz on a single core, so at least from a CPU performance perspective the S5 should be a pretty capable machine. Likewise, while I remain skeptical about the idea of configuring a pair of SSDs in RAID 0 as opposed to just using one larger SSD, Acer nonetheless offers a healthy 256GB of SSD capacity and the system is definitely snappy in regular use. Even connectivity is excellent with wireless support for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, Bluetooth 4.0, dual USB 3.0 ports instead of USB 2.0 (courtesy of the newer HM77 chipset), and most impressively, Intel's Thunderbolt.

The big problem is with the S5's display. The dismal 768p screen kills the whole enterprise. We're very much getting to a point with notebooks where vendors are starting to seriously look at quality, high resolution displays, and a screen like this on a $1,399 ultrabook when ASUS is willing to offer a 1080p IPS display in the Zenbook Prime for just $1,099 is inexcusable. At that point you have to ask yourself how much the savings in weight and inclusion of a Thunderbolt port are worth.

In and Around the Acer Aspire S5
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  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    If only I could have a dollar for every potentially decent notebook that had a crap display. Reply
  • SteveTheWalrus - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    I just don't understand how they can justify the $1,400 dollar price tag with this display. and not just resolution, but color and contrast are probably just as dismal.

    The inclusion of a TB port isn't even a factor for the vast majority of people, and i have a feeling most Ultrabooks out later this year ( like around when windows 8 launches) with have one anyways( and some of those will have better screen, with the added possibility of having touch screens)
    Reply
  • Malih - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    funny how these manufacturers send their laptops to AnandTech, but doesn't seem to read/understand a single word from the conclusions and/or comments

    ...or probably in 2010 somebody thinks this is the display of the future and decided to produce 7 years worth of 768p displays.
    Reply
  • wetwareinterface - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    they can justify it because most people don't honestly care or understand about screen resolution vs. size of the panel. I sell laptops for a living at a fairly large retailer and only one cutomer out of untold thousands has ever asked me for a quality display as a must have. they do it because they can and as a whole the industry is also not offering high res panels. there's the ips 1080p in the ~$1000 sony (which has crap specs otherwise) and the new asus prime...

    why should acer (a manufacturer who's whole laptop business is built around cutting every corner they can to squeeze profit from a piece of crap machine) put a high res panel in a laptop? further why is the reviewer even going on about acer not doing so? they never put good anything in a product except for the few items they produce simply as showcase pieces for trade shows, which end up nearly impossible to get in retail due to limited supply...
    Reply
  • bennyg - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - link

    a) your average person who shops at a retailer (!! people still do that?) wouldn't read tech sites like anandtech
    b) fair enough that Acer costcut but this isn't a bargain basement model, its more $$ than the prime.
    c) why would Acer even bother sending a review unit to a site full of people who bag out every crap 768p TN panel ever reviewed.

    Chewbacca.
    Reply
  • processinfo - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Exacly. I stopped reading at "13.3" LED Glossy 16:9 768p". Sad. Reply
  • magreen - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Stopped reading at 768p.

    Also a big "huh?" over the 4GB memory maximum.
    Reply
  • Voldenuit - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Truth. And that's a 1280x768 *TN screen*.

    In a $1,400 laptop.

    What.
    The.
    Fudge.

    AT needs to call out manufacturers for fobbing junk on users.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    If you stop reading the article, then you miss the part where we call out manufacturers for fobbing junk on users. Reply
  • Voldenuit - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    A conclusion heading of 'Almost There' counts as calling out Acer?

    'Overpriced crap' or 'Not even close' might have been a more appropriate epithet.

    The conclusion page also seems to have difficulty deciding where it lands. On the one hand, you state that it is the most impressed you have been with an Acer product (admittedly not a company held to, or expected of high standards). Yet despite the numerous bad marks against it (lousy display, high price, poor build quality, soldered components), you refrain from calling it the overpriced piece of junk that it is.
    Reply

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