Acer’s S 13 makes the case for the inexpensive ultrabook worth having

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cer has made a lot of ultrabooks, but the only one worth mentioning is the current S 13. Priced aggressively even for the “high-end” model, as configured, it sports a slim profile, backlit keys and a Core i7 processor. Acer is taking the perks of owning a pricier machine and making them more accessible, creating an ultrabook that’s a good value without a ton of compromises.

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At a Glance

  • Intel Core i7-6500U, dual-core 2.50GHz (turbo 3.1GHz)
  • 13.3″ full HD (1080p) IPS matte touchscreen
  • Intel HD Graphics 520 with shared memory
  • 8GB LPDDR3 RAM
  • 512GB SSD
  • Dimensions: 12.87 ” (w), 8.98″ (d), 0.57″ (h)
  • 3-cell battery with 13 hours of usage
  • Weighs three pounds

Is Using A Cheap Ultrabook Worth The Sacrifice?

Looking at the Acer S 13 from an aesthetics point-of-view, the lack of eye candy can be attributed to price and less so lack of ingenuity from Acer. It feels better to hold than to look at it, to be quite honest. This holds true from just about every angle.

You often trade specs for design quality, or vice versa in the case of the new MacBooks. Fortunately, Acer hasn’t built a car without doors: the S 13 does a solid by remaining slim and sporting specs that are hard to dismiss as entry-level.

The brain of this ultrabook is the Core i7-6500U, still a reliable and usable processor despite being a year old — but I’ll point out this is the same generation of Intel processors in the current Touchbar MacBook Pros. For everyday usage this means productivity apps like Office or editing apps like Photoshop, Lightroom and the like run without a hitch.

In one case, I did find that batch editing took its toll and made the rest of the Windows environment feel less fluid, but that’s to be expected You aren’t going to be able to run an entertainment company from a dual-core processor from last year, but you can (mostly) do everything else.

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Regarding aesthetics, if you do some research (or look closely in-person) you find out the lid, keyboard and palm rest are made from aluminum, with a lithography imprint that creates its textured feel and appearance.

Even the underside is made of a magnesium-aluminum alloy. Still, Acer deciding not to go with an all-plastic build for the “cheap feel” is one of the highlights of this ultrabook. It certainly does look better in black though, an option available with the same internals.

Let’s talk inputs and outputs: the keyboard and touchpad are the weakest points about the S 13, but they aren’t deal breakers. The keys have enough travel for you to get comfortable with understanding your keystrokes. The touchpad, while accurate, is on the small side and oddly offset to the left. Not sure why, but I’ll find out.

Port selection includes the essentials: an SD card slot, two USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C, proprietary charging port, audio jack and HDMI-out. You’ve got enough ports to shoot photos on the run without dongles, an advantage that you’ll have over your friends with their Touchbar MacBook Pros.

As for the speakers: get headphones; you won’t be impressing anyone with the stereo audio package. Meanwhile the battery will net you a solid five hours of heavy usage with numbers close to seven if you avoid using Bluetooth, high brightness and more than one app at the same time.

Bottom Line

So what’s in store if you buy an Acer S 13? Well, you will get a fair trade for your thousand dollars — a good mix of ample processing power, port selection and physical integrity.

The Acer S 13 really is in the Goldilocks zone in Windows ultrabook territory. It performs well and can be someone’s daily driver. While it’s not an interesting pick like the Surface Book, Blade Stealth or Dell XPS 13, they all require a higher budget. Your call.

Price as Reviewed: $999 at Acer