Tom's Hardware's 2011 Gift Guide: Part 2, Last-Minute Extras

Ultrabook: Acer Aspire S3-951-6646


It wouldn’t be Christmas without a little Grinch thrown in, so here goes...

No doubt, you’ve got the gist of Intel’s Ultrabook effort by now: like a MacBook Air, only different. Officially, today’s Ultrabooks should be less than 0.8” thick , under 3.1 lbs., and deliver five to eight or more hours of runtime. In part, this is possible through the use of smaller screens, no integrated optical drive, SSDs rather than hard drives, and one of Intel’s late-model 17 W Sandy Bridge-based Core i5 or i7 chips with HD Graphics 3000. So far, so good.

A few years ago, we would have called these “ultralight” designs, but since the MacBook Air pretty much blew competing ultralights out of the water, we needed something fresher, cooler...something more like an ultrabook! The result, of course, was a MacBook Air that ran Windows and was sold by top-tier OEMs like Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba.

Let’s be fair. Acer has four S3 Ultrabook models, and this one seeks to give you the benefits of a $1299 MacBook Air for $400 less. Apple has a 100 MHz advantage on the Core i5 (1.7 GHz dual-core to Acer’s 1.6 GHz). Both have a 13.3” display, but Apple’s native resolution is 1440 x 900 against Acer’s 1366 x 768. Height and weight are nearly identical. Both use 4 GB of DDR3-1333. We won’t debate Thunderbolt and HDMI or battery runtime here. The biggest difference is that whereas Apple uses a 128 GB SSD, Acer opts for a 20 GB SSD backed by a 320 GB, 5400 RPM hard drive. The Grinch’s heart may have been two sizes too small, but so is Acer’s SSD. We’d fill that little thing up by New Year’s for sure.

And the one speck of NANDAcer left in the houseWas a crumb that was even too small for a mouse

Still, if you don’t mind the storage situation and you’re not married to Mac OS, Acer’s S3 has a build quality that’s roast-beast-alicious, and you get to pocket four bills toward paying off that January Visa bill. We would declare that plenty fair...almost.

On Black Friday, this author braved the 6:00 AM cold outside of Office Depot and bought himself a beater of a laptop—a Toshiba Satellite with 2.4 GHz Sandy Bridge Core i3-2330M, 6 GB of DDR3, 15.6” display, 640 GB hard drive, and a DVD-Supermulti optical drive. It weighs 5.3 lbs. and has a cheap plastic feel rather than luscious aluminum. But the final cost was $399. So if we’re going to play the price versus value game, let’s play it to the finish.

Should you pay $500 to give up two pounds, two screen inches, 2 GB of memory, and step into a Core i5 over an i3? Maybe. If you’re a stylish little Who, you may not value all those twos. But if you’re a penny-pinching Grinch oh so grinch-ish-ly humming, you may already know that price cuts are a-coming. Acer president Jim Wong has already stated that he believes Ultrabooks will drop to $500 by 2013. Think of the sound of those savings in your stocking! Now, that’s a noise that we simply must hear.

  • manu 11
    i am loving these articles!
  • joytech22
    The ZBox is the most promising item to me.
    Why? Because I can mount it on the back of the TV in the lounge for the family and stream my media files to it from my home server.

    I can then throw in an external BD drive and boom, fully capable home entertainment system, which is even capable of light gaming.

    Of course.. I'd reserve my gaming for my gaming rig! ;) The Zbox would be for more family oriented games in the lounge.
  • richboyliang
    omg more of those same hot girls!!!

    as usual, the one with the monitor is the best because she resembles mariah carey.

    blonde one is ok, redhead is too old.
  • richboyliang
    the suggestive poses combined with the suspicious "xXx" on the Thecus network storage box....
  • Judguh
    You can't tell me there's more.... reasonably priced items for the holidays here. :| ... unless you're getting a share of that dough for these ladies :P
  • a4mula
    Why recommend the u2410 when the u2412M can be had for half the price and has the same exact specs along with LED backlighting. The only loss is going from 100% sRGB to 98% sRGB and that's only important to a tiny fraction of users. The other advantage of the u2412M is that it doesn't suffer from pink tint that has plagued the u2410.
  • pharoahhalfdead
    This was an article about electronics? I must have missed something. That's what I get for skipping all the words. Haha
  • kartu
    Shameless sexism, eh?
    But I enjoy it too...
  • JonnyDough
    richboyliangomg more of those same hot girls!!!as usual, the one with the monitor is the best because she resembles mariah carey.blonde one is ok, redhead is too old.
    You must be in your teens. Not all readers here are kids you know...
  • JonnyDough
    For future reference, we adults call them "women", not girls. ;)