I’ve now used the Acer Aspire S3 (see previous article / link) for about a month, taking it across
the US and even overseas. Here are my impressions of the device – and my
thoughts about how it might work for the mobile developer.
Acer did a nice job on build quality for a Windows laptop. I
have yet to find something that feels as precisely constructed as the MacBook
Air hardware, but this unit felt sturdy yet light. If you find the MacBook
Air’s aluminum a bit too heavy for you, you might like the feel of the Acer.
I found I could consistently get a little under five hours
from the battery – which I put to the test with wireless off in an overseas
flight (I got about an extra 20 minutes from the battery with wireless off,
according to the battery tray icon. Seems like the new wireless chipsets do a
good job of being more conservative with power consumption.)
While it did not seem as fast as purely SSD-based laptops
and Ultrabooks I’ve used in the past, I found that its performance was still
comfortable when I was doing most basic daily tasks, be it email, document
writing, or basic coding. Most of the coding I did was PHP, HTML and
Notepad++.) (I did very little with compiling or other processor-intensive
operations.) I did find the fan noise distracting when it kicked on.
Here’s my issue with this laptop, though. The keyboard is
just not great. It is acceptable, but not great. I found it still, occasionally
dropped keypresses. I’ve never had this problem on another laptop. Admittedly,
I’ve been a pretty staunch Lenovo user – and they have fantastic keyboards. But
even with the lower profile keyboard on the MacBook Air, which I’ve used quite
a bit, I’ve not run into this problem.
The trackpad: also not great. I found I was able to tweak
the settings to make it work better for me, and once I experimented with the
settings – much like getting the driver’s seat adjusted just right in a new
vehicle, I found it perfectly fine. I’ve used better, but it was fine. If I
needed fine control, however, I would probably have used a Bluetooth mouse. But
I feel that way about most trackpads, admittedly, except, again, the one on the
Of course, connectivity is important, and I found wireless
performance was good and I found it held connections as well as any device I
have. No complaints.
My initial impression of the display is that it seemed
washed out, and I found that was the case over time as well, regardless of my
attempts to adjust the contrast and brightness. Again, it was acceptable, but
certainly not impressive. That said, the LED backlight did provide even
illumination, and I was able to use it in many different light conditions.
But the Achilles heel(s) of this unit are the input devices.
As I mentioned before, I was able to tweak the touchpad to be acceptable, but
it was not optimal. The keyboard, however, remained disappointing. I found that
even after a month of daily use, I was still watching for spelling errors due
to missed keypresses. It’s entirely possible that my typing style did not lend
itself to this keyboard, but I think it’s more likely that Acer needs to make
some improvements in the keyboard hardware.
Would I recommend this to a developer looking for an
Ultrabook? Sure, if price is an issue. I really like the Ultrabook concept, and
appreciated the form factor. I’d recommend Ultrabooks in general with no
reservations. But if you’re considering this unit, I recommend you spend some
time with the keyboard if you can find it in a store and see if the keyboard
will work for you.