The latest news and reviews from Las Vegas: CES 2012 Special Report
Acer has just unveiled its latest ultrabook, the Aspire S5, which it claims is the thinnest yet, at just 15mm. It also has a unique feature; a clever motorised, hidden I/O panel on the back. We managed to get some brief hands-on time with it so here are our initial thoughts.
As we’ve come to expect of ultrabooks the Aspire S5 is a stylish thing, with anodised black, brushed aluminium panels covering nearly all its chassis. It doesn’t have quite the seamless unibody finish of MacBooks but it’s certainly very neat and tidy, and feels sturdy too.
It may be the slimmest ultrabook around but this fact isn’t immediately obvious as its 15mm figure is only a millimetre or so lower than many competitors. nonetheless, it’s clearly a very svelte machine.
A brief video showing the hidden I/O panel in action.
Looking round the edges, there are just a headphone jack on the right edge and an SD slot on the left, but this is where this laptop really shows its colours. Tap the button sitting just to the right of the keyboard and the back section drops down to reveal many more connections. You don’t get Ethernet, but you do get two USB 3.0 ports, a 20Gbps thunderbolt port (which with the help of adapters can easily be turned into just about any other digital connection you care to name) and HDMI, as well as the charging socket, which is reminiscent of Apple’s MagSafe, magnetic power connection.
The so called MagicFlip I/O panel is rather neat, though the obvious potential problem is how long the motor that opens and closes the panel will last. Only time will tell.
The display is a fairly typical glossy 13in TN LCD panel with a resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels. However, it did seem to be good quality for its type, with vivid colours, good contrast and good viewing angles. As ever, we’ll need a more thorough test to really judge this, though.
A quick tap on the chiclet style keyboard revealed no causes for concern in terms of key action and layout but, perhaps crucially, it isn’t backlit, which remains one of the MacBook Air range’s biggest trump cards.
The touchpad, which is similarly MacBook aping, is also very good with a smooth, accurate response, easy click action and multitouch gesture support.
Processor, SSD, gaming and battery life performance were all indeterminable with such a short hands-on but expect them all to be in line with current ultrabooks, i.e. good enough speed for general productivity (including basic image and video editing) and some very light 3D gaming and battery life of around 6-8 hours, with standby times of weeks.
We wouldn’t say the S5 has completely wowed us but it certainly looks like being a solid contender among the many new ultrabooks we expect to see arriving in the early part of 2012, just so long as you don’t need a backlit keyboard or built in Ethernet.