PC

S13 a bland upgrade of its predecessor

The design is just so-so, but its battery life is where the Acer Aspire S13 excels over its rivals.
The design is just so-so, but its battery life is where the Acer Aspire S13 excels over its rivals.PHOTO: ACER

It does not feel like a premium ultrabook but its looks and price are more down to earth

The Acer Aspire S13 ultrabook takes over from where the heralded Aspire S7 left off.

The S7 was a breath of fresh air when it came out in 2011. Unlike its rivals which looked like clones of the Apple MacBook Air, it was unique with its Gorilla Glass lid and sleek white chassis.

Acer hadrefreshed the S7's hardware each year (though not the design), but last year's model felt long in the tooth compared with its competitors. That model turned out to be the last S7.

The Aspire S13, like the S7, is a 13-inch ultrabook. It is also available in white, though with a golden hinge and no Gorilla Glass lid.

My review set has a black, textured lid similar to that on some of Acer's other laptops. The hinge is matte silver, while the edges of the laptop and the touchpad have a diamond-cut finish that feels dated.

The display is matte and does not support touch. Its 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen resolution is adequate for its size, but there are no options for a sharper, higher resolution screen.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $1,898

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6500U (2.5GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Intel HD Graphics 520

    RAM: 8GB

    SCREEN SIZE: 13.3 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.0, HDMI, SD card reader, audio jack

    BATTERY: 45 watt-hour

    RATING

    FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

I am disappointed it does not have an ultra-slim bezel around its display, which other laptops, like the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo Ideapad 710S, have.

The backlit keyboard feels like it has slightly better key travel than the S7, and is comfortable to type on. The touchpad supports native Windows 10 multi-touch gestures.

An underrated feature is a Qualcomm Wi-Fi adapter that supports a relatively new wireless feature called MU-MIMO, which improves wireless performance when using a compatible 802.11ac router.

The laptop's build quality could be better. The S13 feels creaky at times, especially its flimsy plastic lid. In fact, the seam around the lid appears to have split at one part, revealing the LCD panel.

In short, the S13 does not feel like a premium ultrabook.

But then the S13 is probably not intended to compete with the glamour boys of the ultrabook scene, such as the Lenovo Yogas and the HP Spectres.

It is more down to earth with its mundane looks and, more importantly, cheaper price tag.

While its list price of $1,898 does not seem that cheap for its hardware specifications (Intel Core i7, 8GB RAM and 512GB solid-state drive), it is competitive enough. For instance, the Lenovo Ideapad 710S, which has near-identical hardware (16GB RAM instead of 8GB), costs $1,999.

Plus, you can usually find Acer laptops at less than the recommended retail price in stores. For instance, the S13 was going for $1,698 at the recent IT fair.

Battery life is where the S13 excels over its rivals.

In our video-loop battery test, the S13 lasted 7hr 37min compared with the Ideapad 710S, which was under 6hr.

•Verdict: Acer's new ultrabook looks bland with an unimaginative design. But it is competitively priced and has a long battery life.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'S13 a bland upgrade of its predecessor'. Print Edition | Subscribe