Friday, July 5, 2013

What I Use: Acer Aspire S3-391

A few months ago, I wrote an article about the good, the bad and the ugly of buying a laptop from Walmart. The good is that Walmart regularly has various laptops on clearance. Deep clearance if new models are going to be shipping soon. During one of recent trips to "Wally World", I noticed some laptops being placed on clearance. One of which was the Acer Aspire S3 ultrabook. This particular model comes with a second generation Intel Core i3-2367M processor, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive and 20GB SSD for speed. An inexpensive, lightweight ultrabook marked down to $266. Hard to resist.

The other specs were pretty decent too:
  • 802.11b/g/n Wireless
  • 13.3" HD widescreen CineCrystal LED-backlit display with a 1,366-by-768 resolution (720p) 
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 128MB of dedicated system memory
  • 1.3 megapixel webcam
  • 2-in-1 memory card reader
  • Bluetooth 4.0 HS
  • 2  USB 3.0 ports
  • Combo headphone/microphone-in jack 
  • Full-sized HDMI port
  • 3-cell lithium-polymer battery for up to 5.5 hours battery life

When you first take the Aspire S3 out of the box, you immediately notice that the lid is a brushed aluminum, but unfortunately when you open the lid it becomes obvious that the rest is made of a silver-colored plastic.  It's definitely not a all-metal unibody design like a MacBook Air.

The keys were large and well spaced. The only exception are the arrow keys, which are smaller than those on other laptops. I am not a fan of the trackpad. It feels very cheap and "clicks". I eventually paired it with a Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse to make things a bit more usable on my desk. 




Upgrade options for the Aspire S3 are pretty much limited to the hard drive. It has a 20GB SSD that is only used as a hibernation partition for saving memory to disk to enable quick resumes, while booting and loading applications occurs on the mechanical 320GB, 5,400rpm hard drive. Needless to say, that configuration wasn't too impressive.  If you know my love for solid-state drives, I immediately replaced the installed Seagate Momentus Thin 320GB hard drive with a 128GB Samsung 840 Pro Series SSD. Because this is an ultrabook, only 7mm thick 2.5-inch drives would fit, making a Samsung SSD the obvious choice. Plus with sequential Read/Write speeds of 530 MB/s and 390 MB/s, this would provide a noticeable performance boost.

Out with the old...
...in with the new

One could say that I have become an "Acer fanboy" these days based upon the number of Acer computers that I have purchased over the past few months from my Aspire V3-551-8887 to my C7 Chromebook to even using Veriton N281G nettops for a project at work. I fell in love with the Aspire S7 and even my wife thought the Aspire R7 was cool (which is not normal). Interesting products at reasonable prices is what has led me to take a look at Acer more closely. The Acer Aspire S3 is not a MacBook Air or Lenovo ThinkPad  X1 Carbon, but it is in a price range for the average person looking for an entry-level ultrabook.