Review: Acer Aspire S 13 notebook computer
4.3Overall Score

Price (RRP): $1699
Manufacturer: Acer

Starting with a Hewlett Packard OmniBook I purchased back in the early 1990s, my notebook priorities have been long battery life and excellent portability at a reasonable price. I’m thinking that the Acer Aspire S 13 notebook computer might be one of the best today on those criteria.

Features

What you get in an Acer Aspire S13 is a very thin, well-built “traditional” notebook with, well, long battery life, excellent portability and a reasonable price. I should note that the review unit was the top of the line model, which explains a price that might seem to belie my assertion that the price is reasonable. So let’s briefly look at the models.

The entry level model is only $999. It scores an Intel Core i3 processor running at 2.4HZ, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive. The next one probably occupies the sweet spot, with an i5 (2.5GHz), 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD for $1399. That’s a thousand dollars less than the similarly specified HP Spectre 13. Admittedly the Spectre is thinner, lighter, more future-proof and, let’s face it, sexier. But, well, a thousand dollars.

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Then there’s the review model. Its $1699 ticket bumps the processor up to an i7 and the SSD up to 512GB.

At this point I must place a caveat here. In the fast moving world of computer technology, the Acer Aspire 13 seems to have been upgraded in the few weeks I’ve had the review unit in hand. The review model is equipped with the sixth generation Core i7-6500U processor clocked at 2.5GHz, whereas the model now for sale comes with the seventh generation Core i7-7500U running at 2.7GHz. Otherwise nothing has changed. The one you buy will be, if anything, better than this one.

(In case you’re wondering, the formal model designation of the review unit is S5-371-78W2, and it’s dated 20160325).

So, long battery life? Acer says up to a footnoted* thirteen hours. A lightweight, SSD-equipped notebook with a 3-Cell Lithium Polymer, 4670mAh battery ought to be good for a few hours at least (in practice, between two and half and ten hours, depending on what you’re doing – see below).

Portability? A weight of 1.36 kilograms, 14.6mm thick and 327mm by 228mm in the other dimensions is certainly reasonable.

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With that you get a 13.3 inch screen using IPS technology and offering full HD resolution, and a more or less full size keyboard. By that I mean that the key spacing is full sized, but some keys are dual purpose. That’s always the case with notebook computers of course, but with this one the “Home” and “End” keys were secondary functions of the Page Up and Page Down keys. They’re keys I use a lot so it took me a while to get used to hitting that “Fn” to make them do what I wanted. I would have preferred to sacrifice other key functions.

There are two USB 3.0 ports, plus HDMI, plus one USB Type-C, with support for USB 3.1. This last one provides a bit of that important future proofing, while the old-fashioned USB 3.0 ports mean you can use your existing accessories. The USB-C is not for charging – a separate connection is provided for that. There’s also a full size SD card slot.

HDMI, USB and USB Type-C, plus power on the right hand side

HDMI, USB and USB Type-C, plus power on the right hand side

Wireless ac is supported with 2×2 MU-MIMO support for very fast WiFi if the WiFi router is equivalently equipped. There’s Bluetooth also for linking with control devices and audio equipment.

Acer doesn’t specify the built materials. I’d guess aluminium. It’s finished in a matt black with what Acer calls a “nano-imprinted exterior”. This has fine grooves on the surface, front to back. The hinge area is finishing in a subtly contrasting titanium look. The area around the keyboard is dark grey and has a brushed aluminium appearance. This section is a real fingerprint magnet. Stopping it from always looking greasy was a real challenge. There was one “dot” to the right of the Backspace key which was really hard to scrub off … until I realised it was actually a tiny hole for the microphone.