Acer Aspire S5 review – Unique mechanical door
We first got to see the Acer Aspire S5 Ultrabook at CES 2012 and the 13 inch notebook had a price tag of $1,399. The most attractive thing about this laptop was tiny motorized door located on the bottom which opened up with just a button touch and revealed a block of ports and connection and you’d get Thunderbolt and HDMI ports. Acer called this MagicFlip I/O Port.
I really liked this feature – it was an original idea but a lot of guys would prefer having USB ports on the sides for easy access. One more issue with MagicFlip was that the mechanical part could break down in the future although it worked quite fine in my lab test of 12 days. If there are some problems and it stops working then you will have a laptop having limited connectivity options.
On the new Acer Aspire S5, this motorized door isn’t the biggest selling point. As compared to other 13 inches ultrabooks, this system is really thin and light. The weight of this laptop is just 2.6 pounds and at the thickest point, this system is just 15mm thick.
Suddenly, the 13 inches Apple MacBook Air feels chunkier. Acer Aspire S5 runs on Intel Core i7 processor but there are not discrete graphics.
My review model
- 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U processor
- 4 GB, 1333 MHz DDR3 RAM
- 256GB SSD Hard drive (128 GB x2, RAID 0)
- Intel HM77 chipset
- Intel HD4000 integrated graphics
- Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) OS
- 9.8 x 2.6 inches (WxD) dimensions
- 0.43-0.59 inches height
- 13.3 inches diagonal screen size
- 2.6/3.3 pounds weight / Weight with power adapter
Acer Aspire S5 comes with brushed metal black matte look and this laptop feels and looks quite sophisticated. The lid just has tiny Acer chrome logo and the laptop feels incredibly light at just 2.6 pounds. There is metal body used (magnesium and aluminium) which helps in keeping it secure and substantial.
The look of the Acer Aspire S5 is quite minimalist mainly because there are no ports on the sides. Apart from the touchpad and keyboard, there is just one button for opening the MagicFlip door. This button is located on the keyboard tray and power button is now located on the left side close to SD card slot.
Acer has made good use of the available space for the keyboard and there isn’t much dead space around. The buttons are island styled; widely spaced and flat topped but the keys are relatively shallow. Typing isn’t as comfortable as some of the other laptops but I was glad to see that there isn’t much flex.
I was disappointed to see that there isn’t backlighting for this laptop which is a serious drawback for a laptop which costs $1,400 even if it is thin. Some will also frown at the fact that some of the buttons like the Caps Lock and Tab are relatively smaller and multimedia function buttons are placed haphazardly. For increasing or decreasing the volume, you need to press Fn+Arrow up/down buttons but for muting, you have to press Fn+F8 which is entirely different location on the keyboard.
The touch pad of the Acer Aspire S5 is large but is not as responsive as that on the Apple MacBook. However, the multitouch gestures worked really well including 2 finger scroll, which is the most important one.
MagicFlip is the big design feature on the Acer Aspire S5. Hitting button on the upper right side of keyboard tray will start the motor and push flap open. Entire rear side of the laptop is raised and the ports are revealed. This is good ergonomics if you are want some elevation while typing. Most laptops have their ports on the sides because they are easier to access. This port door doesn’t close if you have plugged something inside. Also, if you close the lid of the laptop without closing the door, then the door will close automatically if there is nothing plugged inside. The extra motors and the moving parts are good novelty but if the mechanism breaks down then you will be left with nothing. If you are going to travel with this laptop a lot, then there are chances that it might get knocked accidently.
A lot of laptop vendors have stopped loading their products with unnecessary bloatware but Acer hasn’t followed the suit yet. Acer Aspire S5 review says that this laptop has Netflix and eBay icons on the desktop which don’t look good for a notebook that costs $1,400. The desktop also has links for McAfee, Skype, Nook, and other branded products from Acer. Some of the icons are named a bit oddly and there is a learning curve involved with these software. I would recommend you to delete them.
The display of the Acer Aspire S5 is 13 inches big and has a resolution of 1,366×768 pixels which isn’t good enough for its price. For $1,400 I would expect 1,600×900 pixels resolution. The display is quite good when viewed from the front but the off axis viewing could have been better. The screen is not covered with edge-to-edge glass but I still liked the look of the brushed metal bezel.
Acer Aspire S5 has built in stereo speakers located on right and left sides on bottom panel. These speakers sound thin but this isn’t unexpected from laptop speakers. These speakers are fine for casual listening but I would recommend buying a good set of external speakers or headphones for audiophiles.
Ports and connections
For a thin laptop, you need to be careful about the ports and connections that you want. All the ports are located in MagicFlip compartment which doesn’t have a lot of space but the manufacturer has included all the necessary ones. You get HDMI and twin USB 3.0 jacks. There is Thunderbolt port which might sound like a gimmick now but this will future proof the system.
There is a trade off in such machines – the connections like VGA and Ethernet are now available through external dongles. This isn’t a deal breaker because these ports aren’t extensively used anyways.
Acer Aspire S5 is a thin yet might laptop having Intel Core i7 processor inside. This is the slimmest laptop available in the market right now and hence I was amazed to see that the manufacturer managed to put in a third generation Intel Core i7 chip inside. It is UV or ultra low voltage model but it will still satisfy the requirements of most power users. Apps launched fast enough thanks to SSD hard drive and fast CPU inside. The system booting and resume from sleep times too are a bit faster than other laptops.
Acer Aspire S5 doesn’t have any discrete graphics card and hence gamers will frown on this laptop. There is just Intel HD4000 integrated GPU inside and this is good only for casual gaming.
Ultrabooks are known to have big battery life since they are made for travellers. The big battery life can also be attributed to SSDs and efficient CPUs which consume battery juice economically. Acer Aspire S5 comes with motorized door and fast CPU and this gives limited room for battery inside. In my tests, this laptop ran for four and half hours when I played video continuously. Compared to this, the Sony Vaio T Ultrabook was a bit more efficient with one hour more of battery juice and MacBook Air lasted for three hours more.
Acer Aspire S5 comes with one year warranty for labour and parts and you can visit the company Website for support documents and driver downloads. There is support provided over phone, e-mail, and chat. One amusing thing here is that the site doesn’t reveal the phone number till you enter the serial number of the laptop.
Acer Aspire S5 price $1,400 which is acceptable considering the thin travel friendly chassis. But I expected better resolution for the display and there should have been backlighting for the keyboard as well.
Acer Aspire S5 has used the motorized door for promoting this laptop but I seriously believe that there is much more to this notebook than just the mechanical door. Lack of backlit keyboard is the biggest disappointment but frequent travellers will love the slim chassis and light weight of this laptop.