For $599 at MSY Technology, the 13.3in Acer Aspire S3-951 becomes the most affordable Ultrabook yet. Given its combination of affordability, portability and long battery life it's also possibly one of the best laptops for students so far. Although it uses a low-voltage 2nd Gen Intel Core i3 and a combination of 320GB mechanical hard disk drive and 20GB solid state drive (rather than an SSD-only storage system like most expensive Ultrabooks), it's capable of running productivity applications comfortably. Staff from Notebook Hunter and APC magazine have tested this model extensively and have found that it can easily handle most common computing tasks and provides excellent battery life to boot, in the 4-5 hour range. At only 1.4kg the all-metal Aspire S3 definitely feels light and solid, and even stylish. It also has a good set of ports, including two USB 2.0 and a HDMI port.
In short, while it's not as powerful as some Ultrabook alternatives the Acer S3 is now great value for under $600 if you're looking for a really affordable but super-portable laptop with reasonable performance and excellent battery life.
PROCESSOR (the laptop's engine)
The Aspire S3 has a low-voltage 2nd Gen Intel Core i3-2367M (1.4GHz), a decent low-end processor that can run productivity applications comfortably. It will struggle if you try and run lots of intensive apps at once (such as HD video editors and Photoshop and so on) but for ordinary use it does the job.
GRAPHICS (What you see on screen)
The Aspire S3 has an integrated graphics solution called Intel HD Graphics 3000, which is another way of saying the main processor handles everything you see on the screen. This solution is on par with a low-end dedicated graphics card and can even run modern games at the lowest settings (but don't try to run Crysis 2 on it).
RAM (the memory which the processor uses for computation)
The Aspire S3 has 4GB of RAM, which is enough for reasonable system performance with Windows 7 Premium and for running several programs at once smoothly.
STORAGE (space to store files)
The Aspire S3 has a 320GB mechnical hard disk drive, which, in terms of capacity is on the small side for a laptop but on the high side for an Ultrabook. While the mechanical drive won't give the overall performance boost of an all solid state system as found on more expensive Ultrabooks, it comes with the benefit of more storage. Most Ultrabooks with SSD drives top out at 128GBs, which is not very much. Cleverly, the S3 uses a 20GB solid state drive used for caching, which allows it to boot up quickly and also helps some programs respond more swiftly, thus retaining some of the much promoted advantages of Ultrabooks.
The Aspire S3 has a 13.3in (1,366 x 768 resolution) gloss screen. The viewing angles and colour vibrancy are about average.
The Aspire S3 has exceptional portability, because it weighs 1.4kg and is 17.5mm thick. You can slip it into a bag and barely notice it.
The S3's battery life is on par with that of most other Ultrabooks, our testing showing it varies between 4 and 5 hours depending on usage.
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