The MacBook Air has been the gold standard for ultrabooks almost since its unveiling. At the time it launched, it was the only thin, light and solidly built ultrabook around with decent specifications. Today however, there is a plethora of powerful, gorgeous devices to choose from.
Acer’s Aspire S13 is one such device. It’s slim, light, well-built and more powerful than the Air; it’s also more expensive. It does seem like a great device, but is it worth it?
Build and design: 8/10
First things first. This laptop is thin, very light and looks rather nice. It’s meant to be a business laptop and the muted black finish does help with that image. The entire device seems to be made of metal, though the lid does have a coating of some sort of plastic.
There’s metal under that plastic though, an aspect that we discovered in a rather unfortunate fashion, as you can see below:
The device is built very well, with one exception. Everything feels solid and unbendable, but the hinges, they feel like cheap plastic. The hinge mechanism itself is made of metal, but the caps are silvery plastic and very flimsy plastic at that.
Another complaint we have with the design of the device is concerning the charger. It’s very compact, smaller even than the MacBook Air’s charger, but the contact point is very flimsy. It doesn’t sit snug in the charging port when plugged in and would have felt at home on a cheaper device.
These are minor niggles in an otherwise great device though. Don’t let those oversights throw you off.
Keyboard and Trackpad: 8.5/10
The keyboard and trackpad are a pleasure to use. They’re comfortable and responsive and the trackpad has just the right amount of friction for my taste.
The keyboard is a compact one and lacks a numpad. There are no shared media keys either, but all other functions such as Wi-Fi toggles, brightness and volume controls, etc. can be adjusted in combination with the Fn key.
The keys are also very firm in that there’s no wobble when typing. Even if you press a corner, the entire key depresses, which makes for a pleasant typing experience.
The touchpad responds fluidly to gesture inputs and the left-click and right-click buttons are also smooth and responsive. The lack of a touch-screen was a bit of a downer, but overall, I’m very happy with what Acer has done with the keyboard and mouse.
The hardware choice for the Acer Aspire is very sensible. You get a 15W Intel Core i7 6500U processor clocked at 2.5GHz (dual-core with HT), 8GB LPDDR3 RAM and a 512GB SSD. The screen resolution is a bit low at 1920x1080, but it’s enough for a 13.3-inch screen and we aren’t complaining.
You get two USB 3.0 ports, one on each side, a USB Type-C 3.1 port and HDMI output. You also get an SD card reader and 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO support, which is to be expected in this day and age.
The fact that all of this is packed into a device that’s as slim and light as the MacBook Air is saying a lot.
The laptop does lose out for its lack of accessories and relatively low-resolution screen - considering we are seeing higher resolution displays from competition.
The display on the device is an FHD, 13.3-inch IPS panel. It has a matte finish (Thank you, Acer!) and good brightness levels.
Colours are a bit of an issue, they seem a little muted, and black levels are also not up to the mark. We also found banding to be slight problem. Sharpness was on point however, and so were the refresh rates.
The resolution is a bit odd for a 13.3-inch screen. Without scaling, everything feels a tad too small and to make things feel right, you need to scale to 125 or 150 percent. The problem there is that Windows doesn’t handle scaling very well and sharpness is ruined.
In terms of performance, this laptop is right up there alongside the best in its class. Bearing in mind that this device doesn’t come with a graphics card, its CPU performance is actually better than most devices, a step higher up the performance chain.
For comparison, the Acer Aspire S13 scored 44431 in 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme with an i7 6500U, whereas the likes of the Asus G551VW and Dell Inspiron 15 7559, both with the more powerful Intel i7 6700HQ, scored a measly 38,374 and 30,851 respectively. 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme is a CPU intensive test that doesn’t stress the GPU much.
Even without a dedicated GPU, the Aspire S13 managed 48fps in Grid: Autosport at 720p at the medium preset, which is eminently playable. Obviously, light gaming is possible, but that’s not what the laptop is for.
The video conversion time — using Handbrake — was also quite fast at 11 minutes.
Another area where the device shines is in the storage benchmarks. Acer very generously equipped the S13 with a 512GB SSD, which leads to stellar read and write rates of 525 MB/s and 414 MB/s respectively.
This laptop is overkill for the average user, but as long as you’re not gaming, you’ll never be left wanting for performance. In fact, the PCMark score of 2912 is among the highest we've seen in this category.
There is one problem in this otherwise perfect performance score and that is overheating. Under heavy load, the CPU temperatures cross the 70 degree Celsius mark and the base heats up to 48 degrees Celsius. This is under heavy load though.
Under normal use, the base gets a little warm, but not uncomfortably so.
Battery Life: 5/10
Battery life was a tolerable 3 hours in our benchmarks, which translated to about 4-6 hours of use. This is not bad for daily use, though we wish there was more on offer.
Verdict and Price in India
I enjoyed every moment I spent with the Aspire S13. It’s lightweight and high-performance made it my go-to option whenever I needed something done quickly (it boots up in seconds). If I bought this laptop for myself, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.
The price of Rs 84,000 is also not that bad. You’ll only get Intel i5 powered devices in this price range and few will offer a 512GB SSD.
The Acer Aspire S13 is among the best laptops I’ve ever tested and if you’re in the market for a workhorse Ultrabook, it might just be the one for you.