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Acer Aspire S13 review — affordable ultrabook
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Review

Acer Aspire S13 review — affordable ultrabook

by October 10, 2016
Positives

+ 1.3kg weight and 14.6mm thickness is really portable
+ Contrasting colors used in the design increases the premium appeal of the ultrabook
+ Chamfered edge around the palm rest area and touchpad looks great
+ Decent overall performance
+ Good battery life
+ Keyboard feels decent to type on, with adequate tactile feedback
+ 1080p IPS display is sharp and vivid
+ Sound quality is decent, with customizable sound signature thanks to Dolby Audio

Negatives

- No protective sleeve provided
- Nearly entirely built of plastic
- Keyboard and lid flexes when pressed hard
- Touchpad is finicky
- Fan noise is high pitched

Pokde Scoreboard
Pokde Rating
Appearance
8.9
Features
6.9
Materials
6.9
Performance
7.9
Portability
8.9
Value
8.9
Bottom Line

The Acer Aspire S13 is a pretty affordable ultrabook that ticks most of the right checkboxes, but the plastic build may turn those accustomed to more premium materials away.

8.1
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Portability is increasingly important, especially as you age. I have heard of Alienware users who decided that they love their backs too much to lug around few kilos of computer around with them. While there may be those who in turn splurge on portable beasts like the MSI GS63VR 6RF Stealth Pro that we just recently reviewed, most will be willing to sacrifice some performance for even more portability, and of course, lesser damage to the wallet. That’s where ultrabooks come in, and while most are quite pricey, today we have the Acer Aspire S13, one of the few that won’t break your back, nor your bank.

 

Unboxing

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The Acer Aspire S13 comes in a standard black cardboard carton.

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Opening up the box reveals the Acer Aspire S13 wrapped in a thin foam material. Doesn’t seem as reusable as fabric sleeves, but it does its job of protecting the Acer Aspire S13 during shipping.

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Here are all the contents that came with our unit. Quite a sparse spread, but it covers the basics. You get some documentation, the power adapter, and that’s it. It would have been nice to see a sleeve in the box like what the ASUS ZenBook Flip had, but third party sleeves are quite cheap anyway.

 

Appearance

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The Acer Aspire S13 we received is the Pearl White variant. White is quite a poor choice for me, and obviously for the one who reviewed the Acer Aspire S13 before me. It gets dirty easily, and with the matte finishing of the lid, removing it may not be that easy. It also features a ridged texture , probably for a better grip, and definitely for better looks. The gold trim along the edge offers a splash of contrast, but the silver trim that is paired with the black finishing on the Obsidian Black variant is definitely more attractive to me.

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Tell me this doesn’t look good?

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Opening up the laptop reveals the 13.3″ display and the chiclet keyboard surrounded by the aluminium palm rest. The bezels surrounding the display are decent, but they could definitely take it a step further like Dell did with their ultrabooks sporting InfintyEdge displays.

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Let’s take a closer look at the keyboard. As usual for 13.3″ models, the numpad is tossed out. The keys are standard sized, with an unsurprisingly layout. The power button in the upper right corner may have a tendency of being accidentally pressed, but I had no issues with it during my review. The palm rests are made of aluminium, and this all the metal you get in the design of the Acer Aspire S13.

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Along the edges, you get a chamfered edge which seamless meshes with the lower half which is made of plastic.

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The underside of the Acer Aspire S13 is plastic, finished in a soft-touch pearl white coat. It is nice to hold, and offers a decent grip when carrying it around. Vents along the rear edge handle the cooling of the Acer Aspire S13. I wonder why didn’t Acer throw in a fanless system, like they did so successfully with the Acer Switch Alpha 12?

 

Specifications

CPU Intel Core i5-6200U @ 2.3 GHz (up to 2.8 GHz Turbo Boost)
RAM 8GB (dual-channel, soldered) 1600 MHz DDR3L
GPU Intel HD Graphics 520
Storage 256GB Kingston M.2 SATA3 SSD
Software Microsoft Windows 10 Home
Acer Care Center
Acer Quick Access
Acer Power Button
Dolby Audio
HD Audio Manager
Connectivity Atheros/Qualcomm QCA6174 820.11ac 2×2 MU-MIMO Wireless Network Adapter
Bluetooth 4.1
2 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C (5 Gbps)
SD card reader
Display 13.3″ FHD IPS (1920 x 1080) anti-glare display
1 x HDMI
Audio 2 x stereo speakers
1 x 3.5mm combo jack
Power 45W AC adapter, 3-cell battery (non-removable)
Dimensions 327 x 228 mm x 14.6 mm
Weight 1.3kg

 

Performance

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The 256GB SSD in the Acer Aspire S13 is acceptably fast, and offers decent space for most of the software you need. Booting up is quick, and apps also load quickly, which is excellent.

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Intel’s Core i5 6200U is mated to 8GB of RAM running at 1600 MHz, which is soldered onto the board itself. You will not get to upgrade the RAM on the Acer Aspire S13. Performance is decent, but we would have preferred upgradable RAM. But perhaps sacrifices are to be made when it’s so thin.

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Integrated graphics performance from Intel has increased a lot, but still have a long way to go to match dedicated solutions from NVIDIA or AMD. Still, light gaming on this is definitely possible, as we have proven with the Acer Switch Alpha 12. During Heaven benchmark, the Acer Aspire S13’s CPU hit around 71°C, which caused the cooling fan to go full blast in bursts. The sound was quite high pitched, but you will most probably miss it in any normal environment with some background noise.

The battery life of the Acer Aspire S13 is its main selling point, and it does deliver. 5 hours plus of surfing, editing blogs and streaming a whole movie. Brightness was at 50%, with the keyboard at its highest brightness. I believe this is quite a good showing, and if you turn off WiFi you might get even longer battery life.

 

User Experience

As expected of an ultrabook, it is really light, weighing in at 1.3kg only. It is also very thin at 14.6mm, making for a really portable computer. Since it has a decently long battery life, you can pretty much leave the charger behind when carrying it around for a day’s work. Build quality is decent with no creaking or unwanted noises anywhere, but the keyboard and lid does suffers from some flexing when pressed hard.

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The keyboard is backlit, with decent tactile feedback. Travel is a bit short, but it is still comfortable to type on.I usually type on a mechanical keyboard, but switching over to the Acer Aspire S13 was quite seamless. The standard layout and key sizes are great and do not need much getting used to.

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The touchpad is inlaid into the palm rests, with chamfered edges surrounding it. There are no markings where the left and right click buttons are, and you just kinda guess where they are and press the lower left and right corners. Clicks are tactile, with decent audible feedback. Tracking can get annoying especially when trying to click on really small objects.

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I/O on the Acer Aspire S13 is limited. On the left, we have a USB 3.0 port, the 3.5mm audio jack and the card reader. The card reader has a dummy slotted in it. I am not sure if this is to prevent dust entry or just to offer a more seamless look, but either way it is yet another bit that is bound to get lost soon.

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Over on the left we have the charging connector, HDMI port, the second USB 3.0 port and the USB Type-C port. You must note that this Type-C port here complies to the USB 3.1 Gen1 standard, which means a max transfer speed of 5 Gbps, not the 10 Gbps true USB 3.1 is capable of. It doesn’t support the Thunderbolt 3 standard either, which means no external GPUs or extra displays over the Type-C port.

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Display wise, the 13.3″ 1080p IPS panel is solid. As I am used to 1080p on 15.6″ and 23″ displays, the display here is extra sharp. A glossy panel would have been better to show off the sharpness, but that would sacrifice outdoor usability. Colors are vivid, with deep black levels, making this a good display for media consumption. However when compared to higher-end ultrabooks, you may find the 1080p resolution to be a little dated.

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Acer Quick Access offers blue light filtering, as well as a display-optimizing “Color Intelligence” mode which doesn’t work on battery mode.

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Sound is pumped out of two speakers placed under the Acer Aspire S13 on each side. The speakers are loud , with decent quality to it. Don’t expect bass to make a strong presence here, but it does suffice to enjoy some music or movies with friends. The best preset to use in Dolby Audio is Music, which makes the Acer Aspire S13’s sound profile more solid.

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If you prefer to personalize the sound signature, the Dolby Audio app also allows you to do just that with an equalizer and 3 toggles to tune the sound just to your liking.

 

Conclusion

The Acer Aspire S13 does its job pretty well, and for a quite affordable price. Despite it being built nearly entirely from plastic, it still manages to look attractive. The white one here may not look like much, but the black one is really good looking. Do check out the Acer Aspire S13 if you are in the market for an ultrabook costing around RM3399. It has almost everything you want from an ultrabook, and if you don’t mind the plastic build, it is a great buy for the money. For that, I believe the Acer Aspire S13 is worthy of our Silver Pokdeward.

Pokde-Silver

About The Author
Vyncent Chan
Technology enthusiast, casual gamer, pharmacy graduate. Strongly opposes proprietary standards and always on the look out for incredible bang-for-buck.

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