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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)
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Voldenuit - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

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

    In a $1,400 laptop.


    AT needs to call out manufacturers for fobbing junk on users.
  • 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.
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Perspective counts for much with this product. I think AT did well on the nuanced article and conclusion.
    Speed, thermals, noise, storage, keyboard, weight, battery capacity are all very well done with this notebook, above average for others of it's kind. Why should they call it overpriced piece of junk if there are people out there looking for these criteria in an ultrabook and not the display.
    You and I may not be such people, they they do exist and thus these products warrant a thorough investigation of their good and bad traits. And reading this review, the bad traits are made as clear as the good.
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link


    You can get a refurbished MacBook Air for $929 with a much better 1440 x 900 display with full warrenty. It will be slower, but still probably fast enough with the same size SSD. Hell, you can buy a brand-new MacAir for cheaper. I don't know what Acer is's got a great processor, but the price is still too high.
  • santeana - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Exactly. $1400 and it's about as upgradable as a friggin tablet. FAIL. Besides, aren't ultrabooks supposed to be below $1000 as part of their criteria for being an ultrabook? How are they supposed to achieve that if intel keeps charging so much for their cpu's? lol Reply
  • Jaybus - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    Nothing in this format is very upgradeable, and that includes the new MB Pro. There just isn't any space left inside to put anything. And that is exactly why they have Thunderbolt interfaces. Reply
  • xype - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    …is that you get annoyed about it every time you use a laptop if it sucks. If there’s 2 instead of 3 USB ports, or USB 2.0 instead of USB 3.0 or an optical drive missing or even less RAM or HDD or lower-end CPU that’s all stuff that might bother you now and then at worst, more often than not actually never.

    But a bad display is what you look at all the time. That the manufacturers cut corners on that of all things is a complete mystery to me. It’s one of the things that can literally sell a laptop sitting poppep up on the shelves next to the competition, but nooo, put in a shitty display and then wonder why people hate your laptop.
  • randinspace - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    It feels like a lot of reviews on Anandtech are summed up with "this is almost a great product." I'm not disagreeing with that sentiment, particularly with regards to Ultrabooks, but as a consumer it's frustrating that there are so few companies out there who are either pushing the envelope or doing so successfully.

    I mean, I would love to give Acer credit for having the "foresight" to include Thunderbolt since it could theoretically mitigate a lot of the weaknesses inherent to the notebook platform in general and Ultrabooks in particular, but in reality (it's probably the result of an extremely shortsighted deal they cut with Intel) there simply aren't any TB products out there yet which are compelling to me. More to the point the end result (an expensive notebook with dubious performance hooked up to an even more ridiculously expensive and dubiously effective external GPU + display solution) wouldn't make any more sense than other, slightly more traditional Acer laptops (like a better configured Aspire V3). *sigh

    All that said I think the greatest potential for thunderbolt lies not in the consumer or even "enthusiast" space (mostly because enthusiasts have other recourse), but in highly specific and quite frankly impractical enterprise applications. Then again the days of "damn the costs we just need to get it done like THIS" probably ended 10 years ago...

    BTW, nice review Dustin. Sorry I didn't really have anything on topic to say about it XD
  • IntelUser2000 - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    I don't think the problem with Thunderbolt has to do with Intel. There's still technical hurdles to be something more widespread.

    Costs are still prohibitive, because it requires using chips with not an insignificant die size(30 to 50mm2+ depending on versions).

    10Gbit/s is high for other I/Os, but still very low compared to PCI Express. You need 8 times the bandwidth to be of minimal loss:

    In regards to Ultrabooks being almost there: I think they are getting there, but it would take some more time. Focus on PC manufacturers have been about lowering costs for most of the last decade.

    Acer specific: It's quite obvious that they have 3 classes of the Ultrabook Aspire S series. The S3 is the low end, S5 the mid, and upcoming S7 the high end. It's easy to see the S5 is a big improvement over the S3, and the S7 is another step up from the S5.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Yeah, it *looks* (no promises until we see it!) like the S7 will use a touch-enabled IPS display. I'll keep my fingers crossed on that. As for the S3, as far as I can tell it's the same chassis as the original Aspire S3 Sandy Bridge Ultrabook, only now there's a model with the i7-3517U processor. Note that as far as I can tell, even with the Ivy Bridge CPU and HM77 chipset, there's still no USB 3.0 support. Ouch. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    I question Acer's decision on the Aspire S5. Like the MagicFlip port and the dual SSD setup. My biggest issue is the dual SSD setup.

    A single, high performance SSD would have been cheaper, with no negatives a RAID 0 setup brings.

    RAID 0 negatives
    -Two drives = more space
    -Two controllers = higher cost and more power used
    -Increased boot time for device recognition

    It looks like the S7 has every reason to be popular against competition, not sure about the S5.
  • Pappnaas - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Honestly, if paying 1300 $ for a Laptop I won't put up with a 30$ display.

    As long as the display stays at 768p there's nothing premium about any Laptop bigger than 11.6".
  • magreen - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    agree 100%.

    anyone for going back to the Atari 2600's 160x192 5:6 resolution for the next premium laptop?
  • seapeople - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    The next step for Asus is to cut out the USB 3.0 and include USB 1.1 instead and subsequently cut the laptop price from $1400 to $1397. Reply
  • Mumrik - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    You mean Acer I hope... Reply
  • frakkel - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Completely agree that the screen is an important factor. But as far as I have understood Anandtech first calibrate the screens before comparing to each other. How many ordinary people does this?

    To have a 200 dollar screen that is not calibrated is in my opinion the same deal braker as havíng a 50 dollar screen which is also not calibrated.

    As long as you have to do the calibration by your self it simple does nok make that much of a difference if the manucture put in a 200 or a 50 dollar screen. The color accuracy of a non calibrated 200 dollar screen is still terrible. And since most people dont do the calibration I understand why Acer put in thís mediocre screen.
  • Impulses - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Color accuracy is the worst of their problems... ASUS' UX31 is cheaper and has a higher res 1080p display that gives you a larger work space. Not only that, its an IPS display with superb viewing angles that dont wash the display out when viewed off center, and like when the guy in the plane seat in front of you decides to recline all the way and your own seat is busted. Reply
  • Impulses - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    The least of their problems rather... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Not to mention the contrast. Your brain will basically interpolate so that even if the color accuracy is off, it's "okay" for most people (look at all the tablets that are >10 dE and have no way to calibrate, and some are 50+ dE). For laptops, I think the relative cheapness of the display is easy to determine by looking at where it falls in the following list. (Note that matte vs. glossy is essentially a separate issue; you can have bad matte screens just as easily as bad glossy screens, though I continue to prefer matte over glossy.)

    Low contrast, low resolution (DPI)
    Low contrast, higher resolution (DPI)
    High contrast, lower DPI
    High contrast, higher DPI
    High contrast, higher DPI, better color gamut
    High contrast, higher DPI, better color gamut, non-TN

    Generally speaking, there really aren't any non-TN displays with good characteristics that are still low-resolution, which is good as the last thing we need is 1366x768 IPS displays shoved into 13.3" and larger laptops.
  • Steveymoo - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    I mean, seriously? They're so damned expensive for what they are!!

    They're under-performing, 99% of them have terrible screens, and the only practical use I can think of for them, is general office productivity, and internet browsing... Sure they do that pretty well, but why would a company pay over the odds for what is essentially a collection of cheap components, in an expensive (albeit slim,) package.
  • mrdude - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    It seems that every time I read an ultrabook review I see the same things being uttered: crappy display, not-so-great battery life, too expensive and way way too hot. The form factor is far too thin given the heat output of the processors at 17W TDP and that's not going to change as Haswell will have the same TDP. The components themselves cost more due to the nature of the design and the margins for ultrabook makers is actually below 7%! No wonder the displays are so damn crappy. Even given that super inflated price tag, Acer is almost certainly penny-pinching to barely break even.

    Why in the world would I want one? Why in the world is Intel pushing these? You can grab a Toshiba Portege with an equally crappy display and have none of the heat issues, better battery life, swappable components, much better performance and all this at the same weight as an ultrabook. The TimelineU M5 seems like a much better format considering the size but even for that thick a laptop (compared to this), Acer had to use a ULV i5 rather than a regular 35W chip and even that laptop suffers from heat and throttling issues (an important point that gets overlooked in every Anandtech review... Can you guys please start checking for throttling during gaming and heavy CPU/GPU work?)

    Something needs to change. Either Intel needs to loosen the requirements or tighten them even further. As I see ultrabooks today, they're stuck in some sort of halfway super-portable laptop that just doesn't make sense given the drawbacks and the just-as-portable-but-not-crappy alternatives.
  • Impulses - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    So you skipped both Zenbook articles? Reply
  • mrdude - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    No I didn't. I read them.

    The keyboard is lackluster and provides little feedback. It's shallow. It's shallow because to keep it thin you've got to cut corners, or in this case shave off the tactile nature of the keyboard. The new one is better but still lacks feedback.

    The battery life too isn't great. Unless you're under constant load you'll generally have better battery life with a newer full and thicker laptop than an ultrabook, whether Asus Zenbook (prime or not), or Sony or Lenovo or Toshiba. It doesn't matter. The ULV only matters as far as heat output goes and plays a far smaller factor in battery drainage in real life usage.

    It's also loud, just like every other ultrabook.

    The display, while awesome, sucks because you don't get good OS and application support. A 1080p IPS display sounds amazing on a 13.3" ultrabook until you actually get to play with it and realize it's the worst decision you've made in your entire life. At 13.3", a 768p resolution is actually quite good and had Acer provided an IPS display with great contrast, black levels and color gamut equal to the zenbook prime then I'd prefer the Acer. Scaling DPI in Windows is absolutely horrible.

    Finally there's the price. For $1000 you're getting headaches from the poor DPI scaling and something that's thinner than a Portege but also has half the power and costs more.
  • mrdude - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    I forgot to mention the heat issues. The new Zens suffer from the same heat problems the old ones do. They throttle like mad while under extended load.

    I'm not saying it isn't an incredible package; it is. It still suffers from poor OS resolution/dpi management, heat, battery life and practicality that a laptop .5lbs heavier can provide with proper and equivalent (minus the CPU) hardware.

    As far as I see it, it's a glorified netbook with double the performance and double the problems at 4x the price. Intel needs to either make them much cheaper or start giving people a reason to spend upwards of $1000+ because, forgive me, I'm not seeing the appeal.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Your comment about us "overlooking throttling" may be a bit too strong. I know I check for issues, though most of the time it's more of looking at throttling when performance seems lower than it should be. How would you like us to check for throttling, other than playing games? Do you want us to run a stress test for a solid day? We test for an hour in most cases, running a CPU + GPU load that should reveal any issues.

    Anyway, there's a difference between throttling down to 1.2GHz on the CPU, and "throttling" down to the base clock speed (e.g. no Turbo Boost active), and it's not clear which case you're talking about. Personally, I'm only concerned when it's the former; if a laptop simply can't hit maximum Turbo Boost under a sustained load, that's working as intended (though we tend to note when performance drops off because of lower average clock speeds).
  • mrdude - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Maybe overlook was a bit strong, but it's not mentioned at all. Throttling on ultrabooks is incredibly common and it's generally to the base clocks (like you noted). While this may not seem so bad to you, think about why you're paying for an i5 rather than an i3? Or what happens if you've only got an i3?

    I saw the comparison between the HD4000 in the ULV and the i7 and the real time GPU clock speeds spell out exactly what I'm referring to.

    There's obvious stuttering going on there and that's on top of an HD4000 that still has gaps to make up as far as response speed when gaming (take a look at the techreport review of Trinity to see what I mean).

    If you're not going to be pushing the chips and don't need the ULV for gaming or what-have-you, then why use an expensive ULV in the first place?

    There are a lot of issues I see with the ultrabook platform. I like that Intel is pushing manufacturers to get up off their butts and challenge themselves but considering the problems with the heat, the wonky performance, the high prices and that there are already notebooks out there that are within spitting distance of ultrabook size (and some are even lighter...), I'm not seeing the point.

    If I'm going to pay a high price for something I'd like to receive a full-fledged product and not something that has obvious drawbacks.

    It's like Asus did with the 1080p IPS display on the Zenbook. It sounds great until you actually use it and realize that there are quite a few problems with it when put into practice (the OS can't scale everything).
  • Impulses - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    It really depends on what you're doing and what programs you're working with... Anything that allows you to easily zoom in/out or shrink/enlarge text isnt gonna be an issue save for the occasional dialog box.. I welcome 1920x1080 @ 13" with open arms, only thing better would be x1200. Win7 scales better than older OS and Win8 will handle it even better. Reply
  • mrdude - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    It's still not handled completely at the OS level meaning your scaling will vary in actual usage depending on the application you're working with. This issue isn't bad on Macs because Apple controls everything with a Stalin-like iron fist (especially the hardware), but on Windows it's going to be exponentially worse.

    Personally speaking, I'd prefer a 1440x900 or 1366x768 IPS display on a 13.3" form factor at native resolutions without worrying about scaling and zooming than I would the extra real estate that I can't use properly. It's also why I find a 768p display excusable at the sub-14" form factor. 14" 1600x900/1440x900 and 1080p at 15.6" provide enough real estate without the obvious scaling drawbacks.

    I find that people latch on to the pixel count and neglect the other important variables in picking out a good display. I'd much rather have a great 1366x768 15.6" matte IPS panel than a 1080p glossy TN panel at 13.3". Pixels aren't everything
  • IntelUser2000 - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    I feel Turbo Mode isn't explained throughly enough in many sites. This was shown in detail with Itanium "Montecito"'s power management named Foxton.

    Before it was disabled in the final product version, Foxton used a sophisticated analog power management unit to watch over the chips thermals, and power consumption.

    Foxton allowed Turbo, and the gains were heavily application dependent. Essentially, you get the maximum gain in SpecInt and Database type of applications, where the CPU isn't fully loaded and using the power hungry FPU. Opposite is true for SpecFP type of appilcations, where you'd see barely any increase in clocks over Base.

    Sandy Bridge/Ivy Bridge's ULV acts very similarly to Foxton. ULV chips basically lower power usage by changing the guaranteed base clocks to Turbo clocks.

    That means Turbo Mode in ULV chips is just as much about responsiveness boost(opening applications, editing photos, web browsing, and any "bursty" scenarios) as it is sustained performance boost.

    Turbo Mode does work in high end scenarios like when you push CPU and GPU in games(otherwise performance would be half of what it is now), but you won't get full benefit.

    Key is again "responsiveness".
  • IntelUser2000 - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    I can't say much about other things, but I think lot of people will disagree about the display.

    I guess future manufacturers can offer 1366x768 IPS display with good color reproduction in the future, for people like you.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Having motorized doors is a level a stupidity beyond even apple.

    But the real question is, what is up with the PCMark 7 Computation score?? UX21A has the same cpu but scores nearly double. Why?
  • mrdude - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    RAID 0 SSDs in the Acer. Reply
  • kamm2 - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    If it is on your lap or a soft surface, how many times will the door be up against something preventing it from fully moving before it breaks? Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    I'll happily drop the Thunderbolt/HDMI/USB3 ports, even Bluetooth, if you can use the saving to spend on a better screen. A couple of USB ports and a headphone port and I'm happy.

  • SteveLord - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    I do not get why people whine about screens so much (minus cases where the device itself is overpriced for it., like this one.)

    Ultrabooks are not limited to consumers. And your average user wouldn't notice or know the difference between a 768p and 1080p screen anyway.

    But like I said, they should at least be much cheaper.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    The big issue for me is that on an Ultrabook, you're more likely to travel with it. I know from experience that using laptops on a cramped airplane seat when the person in front of you reclines results in an oblique angle that makes the TN displays look horribly washed out. IPS would fix that, and I'd be fine with a 1280x800, 1440x900, etc. display in a 13.3" Ultrabook if it had wide viewing angles. It's the combination of a crappy resolution with crappy TN panels and low contrast, all exacerbated by a glossy screen that acts like a mirror--that's what people are whining about. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    I would change the SSD RAID and just get one 256GB SSD. The screen needs to be better. I don't care about Thunderbolt (either desktop or notebook) unless it can be used for external graphics cards with the notebook. Intel WiFi with 450mbps support would be be good. And last but not least, make it a bit bigger and/or heavier and give me a bigger battery. I can't say that I care about lugging about 1.2kg or 1.5kg, but an extra hour or two of uptime would be noticed. Reply
  • vision33r - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    All these PC makers are only trying to maximize their profits by shortchanging key components.

    The screen is 60% of the value of a laptop, specs are 30%.

    There are people buying old Thinkpads with the 16:10 IPS displays that are made 5-6 years ago. Sure they have old Core Duo but specs aren't everything and plenty fast for today's needs besides gaming.
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    I have an old Dell Inspiron 17" at work from 2007 with a 16:10 screen 1920 x 1200, with a Core 2 Duo (Merom T7200) that is plenty fast enough, especially with an SSD. I'm a programmer, and also am constantly running virtual machines, and I can't really say that a Core 2 Duo has been much of a hindrance.

    I finally ordered a Dell Inspiron 17R Special edition through, with 1080p screen, 8GB RAM, Core i7 IvyBridge, Nvidia GeForce GT 650M 2G, etc.. for $1099. I look forward to it, but will miss my old 16:10 screen - especially those 120 vertical pixels!.
  • jackoatmon - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    You would have to be braindead to buy this thing. Just the RAM is a total deal breaker. 4 gigs of RAM si OK, but not for $1400. Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Stop with that 2 x SSDs, I don't want two bad SSDs in software raid-0. Stop it and use the space for removable SO-DIMM DDR instead. With this price they should have a 1600x900 screen at least, or an IPS panel instead but they can't afford it because they have a second SSD. Reply
  • niva - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    We all wish it had a better display. I'm particularly nuts about displays and will not buy anything less than 1080 right now, but I also prefer the older style 1920x1200 displays which are being phased out of production now big time.

    That being said, with an integrated Intel 4000 HD graphics card in this thing, can it even hope to push older games at 768 resolution? If you plan on gaming with this thing you're probably better with the lower native resolution.

    I for one don't game on laptops, but I know people these days are pretty much not even building/buying desktops, yet insist on playing on their laptops.

    Just giving some thoughts as to why they may have went with this (other than cost savings of course.)
  • C'DaleRider - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    With all the complaints about the display in the article.....what'd you expect from Acer? An Apple quality display? Seriously? From the bottom-of-the-barrel PC maker? LOL! Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Isn't Acer the firm that is telling Microsoft it shouldn't try to get into making tablets and laptops?

    Well Acer, I don't think they could do any worse could they?
  • Dug - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    For the price, yes. Reply
  • ThreeDee912 - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    Eh, a high-end 13" MacBook Air is $100 more, and although you get a slightly slower CPU, you get a significantly better 1440x900 panel, more battery life, backlit keyboard, built-in SD card reader, and faster 1600MHz DDR3 RAM.

    And yeah, looks like the review forgot to mention the keyboard isn't backlit, but other sites seem to mention it.

    Or for $200 less you can get a low-end 13" Air and still get all that, but with less SSD space.

    Only thing you don't get is a built-in HDMI port as Apple's pushing the Mini-DisplayPort/Thunderbolt combo.
  • nickod - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Would be good if the laptop tests explicitly said if HDMI and display port displays could be used together. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    They can. Reply
  • Penti - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    I guess the Thunderbolt supports DisplayPort which at least mean it can output higher resolutions then the HDMI's single-link sub 3GHz 1920x1200. It's a big plus if it actually can drive your 27 or 30-inch monitor, if you have one of those and also won't stop you from getting one. I think it's sad to see just HDMI or VGA on laptops today, Displayport is essential. At least for any serious use. Everybody do not like to be sitting there stuck with 1920x1080 TN-screens. Reply
  • seapeople - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Why did PC makers "decide" that 4-5 hours of battery life is good enough? They keep pumping tech into laptops, making them thinner and thinner and lighter and lighter... and simultaneously dropping the battery size, taking away one of the potential benefits of such a system. It's not like old boxy 15" laptops got 4-5 hours of battery life because they decided that's the perfect amount of battery life to target, they got 4-5 hours of battery life because that's all they could get using full size components and not have the laptop be as thick as a phone book.

    Now, we have thin, low power components, and the opportunity to make something like a 20mm thick laptop with 12+ hour battery life, which is still pretty thin, but instead we get a tapered 15mm SUPER THIN laptop that doesn't improve on battery life.

    I mean, isn't the entire concept of an ultraportable that you can take it places easily, which would thus make battery life of paramount importance? But no, it's as if PC makers are taking random stabs in the dark to get market share, saying "Look at us, we made a laptop thinner than Apple!" rather than actually putting out laptops that are well built and, most importantly, make sense for the market they're targeting.
  • mrdude - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    Because Ultrabooks aren't about practicality or performance or even weight but about looks. They're made and marketed as an "Ooooh, look at me!" type of gadget instead of something that makes sense. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    The thing is, Ultrabooks make sense for a certain market; they're just not for everyone (or, dare I say it, even most people). If you travel a lot and/or are constantly wandering around your work place and you need to take your computer with you, a 3 pound Ultrabook (formerly ultraportable) is very convenient. Assuming you have it set to go into sleep mode when you close the lid, you typically only need around 6 hours of continuous battery life to last all day at the office, not to mention making it through any continental flights.

    Now if you're on international flights or you want to be able to have your laptop on and doing work for 8-10 hours straight, obviously you need more battery capacity. There are laptops that target that market as well, typically by offering sheet batteries or extended batteries. But while it's possible to build a 3-4 pound laptop that can last 12+ hours on a single charge, such laptops aren't for everyone -- just like the typical Ultrabook. FWIW, I know personally I rarely have need of more than six hours of continuous use battery life.
  • mrdude - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    But how would an Ultrabook make as much sense as a 3.2lb laptop in that that scenario? There isn't even a weight restriction on Ultrabooks and as such you get Ultrabooks at over 4lbs... The portability factor only weighs in (badum-tshh) if you actually have a weight limit along with the slim design.

    It's also not targeted for a specific market. On the contrary. Intel believes Ultrabooks to be the Second Coming and they're pushing them as such. I disagree with you on the appeal of Ultrabooks for that "certain market." Not that there isn't a certain market, there is, it's just that that market is more interested in how a laptop looks rather than the hardware, design and practicality aspect of it. It's the reason there was a backlash from Ultrabook manufacturers when Intel attempted to push their new plastic designs. It has almost everything to do with the look and exterior of the thing and its purpose as a laptop is completely lost.

    Do not want.
  • Penti - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    Consumer ultraportables are certainly something new that only came in the last 5-6 years, consumer and not professional more expensive options where the cpu could cost more then the lower end laptops. Just look at the first MacBook Air for 1600 dollars, I'd rather have ultrabook "cpus" then the traditional ULV model. Don't listen the the haters and trolls here. It's certainly a good thing for the consumers that there actually is semi decent laptops in the 800-1200 range that isn't just a heap of plastic or some business model that won't really be sold to average people. It's also a good thing to get down the number of skus and create products where you have to be more responsible, so you don't continue to deliver flawed products. For consumer wanting something more then a 500 dollar laptop and something for less than a 2500 dollar ultraportables of the old age it obviously need to be something there.

    While I'm disappointed at the Acer, and haven't seen them make a significant shift in tactics yet I don't blame Ultrabooks or Intel for it. It might not be for everyone but there are some good options out there, this one might not be one when it comes to storage, RAM, and screen but it does have Thunderbolt and thus DisplayPort which is another feature lacking on most Ultrabooks, and it makes it possible to use the Thunderbolt to dock into something like the Belkin Thunderbolt Express dock in September when all the Thunderbolt devices have been certified and released. It might be a little more expensive then a dock for a dockable business laptop on the other hand, but it is at least an option. If Acer wish to shift up their game I would suggest to them that they release proper business products too though not just consumer ones, that way they do actually get to sell more then their basic desktops to businesses and notebooks are today the number one client platform. They have nothing to compete with against Lenovo ThinkPads, HP, Dell, Fujitsu business lineup and so on. They have their TravelMate but it doesn't quite cut it.

    For those that want stuff like discrete gpu it's starting to come some options there for consumers and they are not ultrabooks or the traditional Clevo notebooks, as some of the OEMs seem to start care a bit more about their image and market. Some professional users might still go for some nVidia Quadro solution though but a lot of the professional software starts to get support even for integrated Intel-graphics.

    It also really depends on what kind of device it is, now the iPad 3 gen has a larger battery then the 11-inch MBAir.

    For Intel it makes sense to sell something lower power to the sub 1500 and sub 2000 dollar market, nothing wrong with that. The Ultrabook cpus are pretty full feature and a lot faster then the old CULV lineup. They do often lack stuff like vPro and trusted excution though but for manufacturers there are options of using 17W cpus with those features too. VT-x, VT-d, turbo boost, hyperthreading etc is all there on all ultrabook models. There are some design considerations to make that you have to do if you go from a 17W TDP CPU to a 35W TDP cpu that costs the same amount of money. And only offer higher clock speeds. Something like i7-3667U should be plenty fast even as a small workstation and business machine. So I'm not quite sure why you would turn to 35W TDP cpus here per default, there are some good and balanced i5 IVB options though. If you like to have an extra large battery there is always business notebooks with that option too. But it will cost you twice the amount of money of an average ultrabook. If you want something really cheap the manufacturers are free to build stuff using Core i3, or older gen 32 nm cpus. But on a 900-1000 dollar laptop it doesn't really make any difference to the end user if the cpu costs 230 or 350 dollar. Neither does Intel force you to call them Ultrabooks or just use/offer the 17W cpus. The specs force everyone to offer a minimum of 5 hours battery life too, and a lot of the really low end laptops doesn't even offer that.
  • mrdude - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    I don't think you're understanding my issues with the current ultrabook flock. After rereading my own posts, it's quite clear that I wasn't being succinct.

    - they're too expensive for what you're getting.
    Ultrabooks are 4x as expensive as a netbook but generally offer crappier displays, worse keyboards, worse battery life and only 2-3x the performance.

    - they're too heavy. If you're selling something as an ultraportable then it should be ultraportable. Current ultrabooks weigh from ~2lbs to near 5lbs. There is no rule governing weight at all, therefore they aren't ultraportable...

    - What they lack in power they make up for in sexiness. They're thin, generally magnesium/aluminum casing but as a result the processors inside, ULV by definition, even at 17W struggle and you're getting significant throttling due to TDP constraints. On top of this they can get quite hot. Fans in nearly all ultrabooks run at much higher speed and produce more decibels than your average laptop that's not as thin but the same weight and yet they carry 35W chips and even discrete GPUs.

    You can't possibly tell me that an ultrabook is as good in build quality as a Lenovo Thinkpad X/T. For the same price you can grab an X230 with an IPS panel, much better battery life, a full 35W chip and none of the headaches. Lenovo isn't the only one making these either. The only thing you'd give up is the Ultrabook name and a fraction of an inch in thickness.

    The thin design is currently being held back by hardware factors and ultrabook quality is suffering as a result. Intel's ULV chips aren't quite ready enough to be stuffed into such thin designs (throttling, heat), the price is too high considering the'res already some nearly-as-slim-and-weighs-even-less notebooks. You're paying for an Intel ultrabook trademark and a product that's still in beta.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    Okay, I'll bite:

    1) "- they're too expensive for what you're getting. Ultrabooks are 4x as expensive as a netbook but generally offer crappier displays, worse keyboards, worse battery life and only 2-3x the performance."

    Patently false on the comparison to netbooks. Ultrabooks are indeed 3-4x as expensive, but thanks to SSD storage and significantly faster CPUs, they're often far superior. I won't say Ultrabook keyboards are awesome, but for me netbook keyboards are horrible (though I'm 6'3" so that's part of the issue). The displays aren't any worse than netbooks either, and Ultrabooks like the UX31A are significantly better than any netbook display. Battery life is dependent on model, with the better Ultrabooks topping 9 hours, which isn't too far off most netbooks. Are they worth the increase in price? For some people, yes, but at $1000 or so they're not in the same market.

    2) - they're too heavy. If you're selling something as an ultraportable then it should be ultraportable. Current ultrabooks weigh from ~2lbs to near 5lbs. There is no rule governing weight at all, therefore they aren't ultraportable..."

    The weight is generally a factor of size. 13" Ultrabooks are close to 3 pounds, 11.6" are lighter than that, and 14-15" models are where you see 4 and even 5 pounds. It would have been good to get a spec on weight (just like thickness) from Intel, but I don't think there are any Ultrabooks that are "too heavy" -- too heavy for some users, sure, but they just need to get a different model.

    Most of the rest I agree with, but again on build quality you have to be careful. This Acer may not be the best built Ultrabook, though it's not bad. The ASUS Ultrabooks are actually very well built in my opinion. Keyboards on the other hand still need more travel on most models, but that's a factor of the thickness. So which is better, the X230 or a UX21A/UX31A? I'm not so sure that I wouldn't prefer the ASUS in nearly all aspects. You get an SSD, 1080p IPS, and aluminum chassis for roughly the same price.
  • mrdude - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    With a 17W TDP chip struggling to keep it's TDP down, louder noise, a trackpad that pales in comparison to the Thinkpad awesome-stick, an unbelievable keyboard layout and you give all of this up for a fraction of an inch in thickness.

    Lenovo doesn't put 1080p IPS displays in their 13.3"/12.5" form factor laptops because, as I mentioned in these discussions already, it's actually a hindrance rather than a gain. As a business lapto, it would be inexcusable for a user to have to zoom in and out in certain applications and an OS that doesn't support great DPI scaling. Only some text is bigger and only some programs behave well with DPI scaling. Some isn't enough for them. It has to work. It's much smarter to run at native resolutions until you get a stable platform for proper scaling on the OS level that can stretch to all (or nearly all) applications involved. At the moment, DPI scaling in Windows7 is a bit of a toss up as to whether or not you'll be zooming in, putting your face 6" from the display. It isn't just cheap manufacturers holding back high-res displays on Windows notebooks but the Windows OS and arena itself.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    1080p on 13.3" can be livable, depending on the user. I'd still prefer 1440x900 (or if 16:9 has to be used, 1600x900), but there's a lot of personal preference in that. The same goes for the TrackPoint stick; I generally hate using it on ThinkPads (and other laptops), especially now that we have gestures on touchpads.

    Like I said before, there are many areas where I would prefer the UX31A/UX32A over an X230. The keyboard is the one area that's not so clear cut, but having played around with an X230 at CES this year, I can also say that the current ThinkPad keyboards are a step down from where they used to be in my opinion. I'm not even sure who makes the best laptop keyboards anymore, as everyone is going for chiclet with reduced travel it seems.

    One final interesting point: did you know quite a few laptops now ship with higher DPI settings enabled by default with Windows 7? I'm typing on a 15.6" 1080p laptop right now, and if I look at the DPI settings it says "Medium - 125% (default)". I believe there are some subtle differences between 100% default and using the 125% setting vs. having the 125% setting as default, but there are still issues with some applications not scaling properly.
  • Penti - Friday, July 13, 2012 - link

    While I would generally prefer the X230 (I don't have one though, sitting on a significant cheaper laptop) over other smaller laptops and ultrabooks it's still fairly more expensive with decent configuration and the "premium" IPS panel here in Sweden at least than the cheaper ultrabooks which would also obviously sell through different retail channels and for different markets (consumers/users). Also throw out Atom of the Netbook lineup add in USB3 plus larger battery as a requirement and you end up with more expensive AMD and Intel machines from where it's not a totally big step going to Ultrabooks. You end up with a difference of something like 150 USD or a couple of hundred bucks difference between something called an Ultrabook and something not called an ultrabook. So it's not a big deal and a 17W TDP cpu should be useful for some and Lenovo could obviously use the ones supporting Vpro on the x230 if they like. Though obviously too thick to be called an ultrabook. Any way I can get about two 13.3" ultrabooks for the price of one X230 here in Sweden it's about the same in US. You can even configure it even more expensive so. Reply
  • Penti - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    The point is today the ultrabook spectrum ranges from between 600 to 1500 dollars. It cover a whole range of different concerns, different needs, pros and cons and a wide price bracket.

    It's not just 1199 USD 0.8 inch thick vs other 1199 USD professional notebooks.
  • quitesufficient - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    Hows everyone doing? Reply
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    Progress is a gimmicky port cluster, a godawful screen, RAID0, fairly poor battery capacity, 4GB of soldered on RAM in an era of dirt cheap DDR3, high price and 1 year warranty?

    Doesn't seem like any progress to me. I'll be using my old Dell Precision M4400 with 1920x1200 screen that came with a 3 year onsite next business day warranty...
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    Progress for Acer. Build quality compared to older Aspire laptops is certainly improved, and the keyboard is substantially better. Acer is heading in the right direction, but they definitely have areas of concern we still want addressed -- particularly in a high-end device like the S5. It will be interesting to see the S7 when that comes out, though. Reply
  • Mumrik - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    What is so "premium" about max. 4gb RAM and a 768P TN display? Reply
  • Focher - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    Exactly why would I get this over a MacBook Air? Yeah, that's what I thought. Next. Reply
  • ciabatta - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    You compare the Aspire S5 somewhat favorably to the Zenbook Prime in a few points, including the conclusion. I just looked back at your review of the UX21A and found you guys gushing about it being the perfect ultrabook. I would not have expected you to conclude with "well, this may be the best ultrabook to buy, maybe," and instead something along the lines of "don't buy this, the Zenbook Prime is superior." Am I missing something? Reply
  • Penti - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    Why would they recommend a product over another based on that argument? All things has it's upsides and downsides. They seldom say don't buy this and instead try to let you form an opinion of your own. Obviously a panel is important, but as far as I know they haven't reviewed the Prime UX31A or UX32VD yet at Anandtech, 1920x1080 IPS fits better at 13.3-inch then it does 11.6-inch. Because Windows DPI-scaling isn't that much useful. You would probably want both DPI-scaling and some zooming in the browser if you don't like everything to be really small. Neither will anything ever be perfect. The Acer S5 hardware and chassi looks fairly decent if you can live with the display and 4GB ram. Although pricey and not really worth it for the Thunderbolt. Reply
  • Rockmandash12 - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - link

    1,400 laptop, and a 5 year old laptop has a sharper display. That's sad, and horrible. What is acer thinking with all these crap displays? This is the reason why acer will always be known as a cheap computer company. Reply
  • flgrx - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    A few AMD trinity notebooks./sleekbook reviews pls. I feel Intel notebooks are doing fine and see no real advantages from ultrabooks per se. AMD sleekbooks are slightly cheaper and we also see Intel Ultabooks have compromised on quality in some areas like screen.

    Why not review a top, a mid, a low end AMD trinity notebook/ultrathin/sleekbook and let us readers see how they fare against the Intel ones, in the added context of price?
  • hakime - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    It's always amusing to see the people at Anandtech not reporting correctly the facts when it comes to PC-Mac comparisons. I guess this is due to the biased nature towards PCs of this site.

    So you claim this

    "It's important to keep in mind that what Acer has done here is essentially produce an ultrabook that is both lighter and thinner than a 13-inch MacBook Air."

    The problem with this claim is that it's flat wrong in one part of it and not well balanced in the second part. From your own table, the Acer Aspire S5 is 11.2mm to 15mm thick. Ok, but if I look at the numbers for the MacBook Air, I see that it's 3 to 17 mm thick. So anyone reasonable enough would conclude that the thickest part of the Aspire is slightly thinner than the thickest part of the MacBook air but on the other hand, the thinnest part of the MacBook Air is significantly thinner than the the thinnest part of the Aspire. Which means that just claiming the Aspire is thinner than the MacBook air is just not honest.

    Now when it comes to the weight, indeed the Aspire weights 1.2 kg and the MacBook Air weights 1.35 kg. That means that the Aspire is 150 g lighter than the Air. 150 g is not much given that the Air is immensely better built with better material than the cheap plastic based Aspire. 150 g more is a very small price to pay for a way better build quality. Don't you think so? Don't you think that comparing two computers should be done fairly instead of just throwing out some baseless statements?

    Also about this one

    "dual USB 3.0 ports instead of USB 2.0 (courtesy of the newer HM77 chipset), and most impressively, Intel's Thunderbolt."

    Well, Thunderbolt is not only an Intel thing since it was co-developed with Apple. Thunderbolt uses the mini display port connection technology developed by Apple. Facts Anandtech, facts....
  • Panlion - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    I don't understand why so many people are complaining about ultrabooks. Since ASUS UX31E came out, we've been deploying them in our company instead of Lenovo T420. They are cheaper, lighter, better screen, better battery life and a joy for everyone that we've deploy to. Now with the UX31A, we've gotten even better response from our users with the improved IPS screen and keyboard. Honestly, for most users 4GB of memory is more than enough and the 6-8 hr of battery life of Zenbook is way better than what we got from the Thinkpads. I for one, loved ASUS ultrabook and I can say that all my users who have use these laptop loves it. Reply
  • Zodryn - Saturday, July 14, 2012 - link

    So somehow .58" is thinner than the new Series 9? The 13" Series 9 is only .51"...What is Acer on about?

    And btw, when is the 11" Zenbook Prime coming out?? Also unrelated: I have a 13" Prime, but can only choose 13W in the configurable TDP options. Anyone know why that is? Anand had pics of 13W and 16W options for the ux21a, but I can't get 16W on my ux31a...
  • Deverix - Sunday, August 12, 2012 - link

    Understandably, most of us in here look at things from a technical perspective that is much more critical than a typical consumer's perspective.

    The reality is, consumers don't notice much difference in laptop & tablet screens beyond a "720p" resolution. You've probably seen the YouTube video where people coming out of an Apple store cannot see the difference between the iPad2 and the iPad3 with the super-high-res "Retina Display". Most content is not super high resolution, so much if it looks exactly the same on 768 and the higher resolution screens.

    All that said, it's fair to bag on a manufacturer for not delivering acceptable specs within a certain price point. At $1,400 - which is a very expensive laptop - we should demand not only high resolution but a touch screen plus the great durability and feel of Corning Gorillas Glass.

    I do like that pop-out section for USB, HDMI, etc. That's nice design touch. But I think at the price point I might look more at Dell for a high-end unit.
  • jasonogn - Saturday, August 18, 2012 - link

    Please do not waste your money. I bought this Acer Aspire S5 and the battery only lasts 1 hour 50mins. Customer service is unresponsive. Save your money on another unit. Reply

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