Acer hasn't had the best year, falling behind in global PC sales from its former perch at No. 2, just behind HP. Their announcement today that their first Ultrabook, the Aspire S3 would be available this week, and at a positively cut rate $899 is a strong move to build itself back up. You'll recall Ultrabooks are an Intel backed initiative to produce thin, lightweight laptops based around their CULV Sandy Bridge processors. By "Intel backed" this isn't just a name and a concept, Intel has committed $300M to help companies develop and market their variants. The power-sipping, modern processors are just one part of the concept; SSDs feature prominently in all models, as does a target price of $999, and a target battery life of 5 hours. Rapid sleep and wake times are also notable, though the speed of these seems very manufacturer dependent. 

The 13.3" S3 delivers a 1366x768 resolution on its LED backlit display, in an aluminum/magnesium chassis just a tick over half an inch thick at its thinnest point, and weighing just under 3 lbs. These are all characteristics that we'll encounter repeatedly as other Ultrabook models become available. The thin frame finds room for two USB ports along with a full size HDMI port on its back side, while audio jacks and a card reader grace its sides. The full size chiclet keyboard and large multitouch trackpad are par for the course and the system is being offered in a metallic grey with a fingerprint resistant finish. Connectivity comes in the form of 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless along with Bluetooth 4.0+HS, and a 1.3MP webcam rounds out the exterior specs. 

Inside the S3-951, you'll find the Core i5-2467 whose two cores can operate at 1.6GHz, or up to 2.3GHz on a single core, along with 4GB of RAM on the Intel UM67 chipset. Acer's Ultrabook will feature not just an SSD, 20GB in size, but also a 320GB HDD for expanded mobile storage. It's unclear whether the SSD will serve as a boot drive or exclusively to store sleep state. Note that the UM67 chipset does not support the Z68's Smart Response Technology that Anand discussed previously, but all ultrabooks sport enhanced wake from sleep times thanks to their SSD requirement and some chipset optimizations.

In the case of the S3, we're looking at a 2 second wake from sleep time (which really doesn't seem like that big a deal--resume from hibernation is what typically requires 30+ seconds). Another highlight is the 50 day stand by time. This is where the SSD's non-volatile memory really comes in handy. When left in sleep for longer than 8 hours, or a user definable time, the S3 will enter a Deep Sleep state that allows for this absurd stand by time. It can wake from Deep Sleep in just 6 seconds. Stand by times aren't the only area where the S3 should excel, the 3-cell 3280 mAh integrated battery is said to be good for 6 hours continuous usage. We can't wait to get our hands on one to test these battery life figures (though we'll likely pass on testing that stand by number). 

All of this will be available this week for that tempting $899 MSRP, a welcome value when not that long ago thicker, heavier and less potent machines were competing in the same price range for the "thin and light" crown. This is only the start though, with many OEMs expected to announce their products in the coming days and weeks. 

Source: Acer

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  • FlyBri - Thursday, October 13, 2011 - link

    @JarredWalton -- I actually bought a MacBook Air because I was looking for an ultraportable, and nothing else could beat it in terms of overall features and price, and it had NOTHING to do with the fact that there was an Apple logo on it. Why? Because I've been a die hard PC supporter ever since I had a 486 when I was 13. The Samsung Series 9 was nice, but was more expensive, had a lower res screen, and only offered USB 3.0 over the Air (not a feature I need right now for a laptop). This Acer Aspire S3 is nice for the price, but again, the screen res is too low for me (I know much higher res screens are supposedly coming for these "Ultrabooks" sometime in the near future though). Plus OS X gets better battery life. I'm not a huge fan of OS X, but if I know I'll need the extra battery life, and only need to use things like MS Office and web browsing, I'll use OS X...otherwise I'll just use Windows 7 on the dual boot I set up. Reply
  • retrospooty - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    "I disagree. You can take a 3lb, .68" thin notebook almost anywhere. Even with a neoprene sleeve, it will fit inside the front pocket of a briefcase or suitcase"

    I see your point but for me, there are 2 thoughts on mobile computing. Either I want a smartphone that fits in my pocket, so I need not carry anything at all. or , since I have to carry it in a case, or bag or sleeve, like any laptop, netbook, or tablet (because it wont fit in my pocket), I may as well go bigger since I am hindered with a case of some sort.

    If I were a chick, or secure enough to carry a man-purse I might change my mind though LOL
    Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    I mostly agree, when we bought my wife's Dell E1505, their first Core Duo laptop, I was blown away that that amount of power fit in a sub 5 pound chassis's, now it feels like a lead weight and it's easy to tell when something in the 3 pound range is in my bag than when the E1505 is in there. Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    I think this will end up being a trickle up scenario. Right now the market for $900 smaller, lighter laptops is high so it's an easy one to target. The next logical step is to spread these advances to other sizes, and so I think we'll find larger laptops with larger batteries before too long. The question is how will the pricing shake out. If all you do is make the chassis a little thicker and double the battery, then should the device be priced higher because of the battery premium or cheaper because of the weight and thickness deficit? I don't know where it'll hit, and I think Acer and company don't know either, so they'll target the easy bet and test the waters with alternate chassis's on the same technology when they don't feel quite at risk of being replaced by tablets.

    And anyone that thinks that tablets are the future at the exclusion of laptops: show me one person that writes that has gotten rid of the laptop and only uses a tablet.
    Reply
  • jdonnelly81 - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - link

    I hope that as companies address the ultrabook market, they add the slice battery similar to the sony z series. That way you could have your 6 cell all-day battery life in a 4lb form, or the half-day 3lb form. Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    "Acer's Ultrabook will feature not just an SSD, 20GB in size, but also a 320GB HDD for expanded mobile storage. It's unclear whether the SSD will serve as a boot drive or exclusively to store sleep state. "

    20GB is a bit of overkill to handle 4GB sleep state. Hopefully the SSD will be a standard drive with the OS on it and the option to put other applications on it (like Office, Photoshop).

    I still question the value of the ultrabook concept, and I think Intel is trying to keep people from going over to tablets running ARM, as well as an attempt to head ARM off at the "ultrabook" space. Still, the Ultrabook's specs aren't too enticing for the price range. People are either going to get the tablet, or go cheaper for a fatbook that has more storage, an optical drive for movies, and a faster CPU, and maybe longer battery life.
    Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    Also, a picture of the back would be helpful, since all I see is a headphones jack and a card reader slot! Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    20GB is a bit small for the OS + apps, though. Just looking at my C:\Windows folder, it is currently 24GB in size. If it's page file + hibernation file, plus maybe a few other tidbits, you could easily fill the 20GB. Especially if you have a laptop with 8GB RAM (8GB paging file and 8GB hibernation file would be pretty typical in such a system). Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    Agreed. The configuration to set-up the SSD as the page file and hibernation file location is not for the average PC user so hopefully the installation doesn't come with too much bloatware. Formatting and reinstalling would be a little more involved.

    Jason
    Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    The details mention the back features 2 USB ports and a full-size HDMI port. Reply

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