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Review: Acer Aspire S5 aims high but falls short [Video]

August 11, 2012|By Salvador Rodriguez

You only have to look at the name of Aspire S5 to know Acer set out to build a great computer, but aspiration alone doesn't cut it.

The Aspire S5 is a really cool computer, but unfortunately, Acer misses the mark on the most basic parts of this computer.

But let's start with the good, and that would be the computer's design. There aren't many laptops out there with a nicer design than what Acer created with the Aspire S5. Its outside is made with magnesium and aluminum, and as a result, you get one of the sleekest computers you can buy.

This computer is also very thin and small, which adds to its style points. At its thickest point, the S5 is 0.59 inch, which is less than the MacBook Air, and at its thinnest it's 0.44 inch. In total, the computer  weighs only 2.65 pounds, so it is super compact.

Probably one the S5's best features is how quickly it launches. Flip the laptop open, and it's good to go in a matter of seconds.

The S5 is also up on the latest technology, running on a 1.9Ghz Ivy Bridge Intel Core i7 processor with Intel's HD4000 graphics cards. The S5 comes with a 256-gigabyte solid state drive, and it has 4 GB of memory.

It's also got two USB 3.0 ports, a Thunderbolt port, an HDMI input and a mini SD card slot. Acer also tosses in a VGA extender you can attach through the HDMI input, so you essentially have everything you need.

However, this is a computer built with the future in mind, so if you need an optical drive, the S5 may not be for you as Acer has chosen to skip out on one in favor of building the thinnest Ultrabook. For me, this is no issue, but this is definitely still a problem for many people. 

And along the lines of having the future in mind, Acer has also prepped the S5 to jump to Windows 8 as soon as it launches, giving its customers a discounted version on the upcoming Microsoft operating system for $14.99, which is about a $25 savings.

So far so good, but this is where the issues start.

To access the ports mentioned above, you have to open the S5's Magic Flip, which is a little drawer that comes up and down at the push of a button to reveal the computer's ports. The Magic Flip is really impressive the first time you try it out, but after that, it's really just a gimmick and a potential hazard.

The Magic Flip comes covered with a sticker that warns you not to close the drawer if there are any cables connected. If you do, you're likely going to lose a cable, and you'll probably have to take your computer into a shop.

Besides the danger, the Magic Flip is also poorly constructed, unlike the rest of the computer. It will never shut completely, always revealing about a millimeter of the slots it's supposed to be protecting, and when you do open it, its ventilation vents don't line up with their slots the way they should. The S5 also decides to open the Magic Flip on its own from time to time whenever it needs the additional ventilation.

On top of that, the Aspire S5 also shows you a graphic on your desktop each time you open the Magic Flip. The graphic is useless, but it's time consuming since it requires you to close it each time.

The problems with the Magic Flip may be nitpicking, but there are also issues with the S5's screen, trackpad and keyboard that just don't match up with its $1,399.99 price tag.

For starters, the trackpad was among the poorest I've ever used. It does understand various multitouch gestures, but defining a left click and a right click is practically a guessing game with this computer -- and that may be why Acer felt the need to toss in a Bluetooth mouse with the S5.

As for the keyboard, it's comfortable for anything that you will need to type, but for some reason, Acer doesn't have the S5's keyboard backlit, which is a given nowadays with most laptops. This isn't crucial alone, but again, at the S5's price point it's mind boggling why Acer would leave something like that out.

And finally the S5's 13.3-inch screen. For me, this was without a doubt the most disappointing part of the S5. It has a 1,366-by-768-pixel display, but compared withthe quality of the rest of this computer, the screen doesn't match. The screen has poor viewing angles, and it's got very large pixels. So although the screen will display things in HD, it won't be as nice as the quality you'll find on other computers.

One last problem with the S5 is its battery life. Acer lists it at 6.5 hours, but that's not what I experienced and not what many others have either.

All in all, this S5 is a nice computer, and it's issues are things any of us could live with. But it's when you throw in its $1,399.99 price tag that the S5's problems become unbearable.

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