We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Laptops Reviews
15,670 Reviews

Acer Aspire S3-951 review

£1099 inc VAT (Core i5 verson)

Manufacturer: Acer

Our Rating: We rate this 3 out of 5

In our Acer Aspire S3 ultrabook review we find being second to market isn't always a good thing and the Acer S3-951 suffers from a lack of features and refinement.

The Acer Aspire S3-951 is the first of a new wave of Apple MacBook Air clones that have been announced by Windows PC manufacturers. 

The new product category has been dubbed ultrabook by Intel, keen to keep its processor order-books filled as consumers abandon the netbook which previously propped up sales of its underpowered Intel Atom processor.

Intel is not only creating a slush fund to help incentivise this push into Apple’s ultraportable territory, it’s even handed out a blueprint notebook design for the likes of Acer, Asus and Toshiba to follow. 

Acer was quick to market with its Acer Aspire S3-951, a copy of the 13in version of the Apple MacBook Air. But in order to compete with the original, Acer needs to innovate with useful technology not found in Apple’s lightweight notebook; or match the quality and sell for a much lower price. Let’s see where it’s succeeded.


First impression of the Acer Aspire S3-951 with its lid closed is positive. But what appears to be an all-metal construction is soon revealed on handling to be a plastic laptop with a thin skin of brushed metal just covering the lid. The rest of the S3-951 is assembled from plastic that’s been painted a silver-grey colour to mimic the Air’s high-grade all-metal construction.

Like the Air, the closed Acer Aspire S3-951 tapers from the rear to the front, only is fatter at both edges. At its maximum at the rear, the S3-951 is 18mm against the Air’s 17mm.

In weight, Acer has patently been paring down the grams in order to beat Apple’s example, settling for 3g lighter at 1338g on the sample we reviewed.

The keyboard is like Apple’s now-familiar Scrabble tile type, but without the same precision feel. There’s a little more sponginess on these grey keys. Also troubling was the way the double-height Return was actually a single-height key. We often found ourselves hitting the ‘\’ key above, which has been shaped to look like part of the Return key.

The trackpad follows Apple’s idea of buttonless operation. Unlike the MacBook Air, multi-touch support is rather hit or miss here. Mostly the latter – you can try two-finger vertical scrolling, and pinch-to-zoom sometimes works in some apps. There’s even a four-finger swipe ro hide an open Windows program. But sideways scrolling, three-finger gestures and four-finger-and-a-thumb gestures are all absent. 

All ports are behind the back, under the screen hinge: power inlet, HDMI, two USB 2.0, plus a cooling vent. There’s an SD card slot on the right, and headphone jack on the left.

The Acer Aspire S3-951 screen has the same headline size of 13.3in, but is smaller in area due to its wider 16:9 aspect ratio, where the MacBook Air has a 16:10 screen that’s arguably better suited to a PC. 

More important is the screen quality, which is sadly lacking on the Acer Aspire S3-951. It’s too shiny for comfortable viewing, has a relatively low resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, and has serious visibility issues when viewed off-axis.

One area where Windows PCs have traditionally stumbled may have been resolved – standby mode. Instant-on worked well in our tests. In fact, this is the first Windows laptop we’ve encountered that could be consistently put to sleep by closing the lid, and which would wake again and be ready for business when opened.

The Acer Aspire S3-951 includes a pair of very small speakers that vent through the bottom and the keyboard. Don’t be misled by the Professionally Tuned script on the bodywork – these speakers sound dreadfully tinny despite the efforts of Dolby and its ineffectual Home Theater v4 software.


The sample of Acer Aspire S3-951-2634G24iss we tested with Intel Core i7 running at 1.7GHz, along with its 240GB SSD from ADATA and 4GB of memeory, let the Acer Aspire S3-951 run very fast. 

It recorded 134 points in WorldBench 6, where the 13in MacBook Air scored 122 points. The Acer Aspire S3-951 generally did run noisier as well, it’s fan quite audibly ‘on’ much of the time.

As is typical for an ultraportable, the Acer Aspire S3-951 relies on integrated graphics. These aren’t really cut out for heavy gameplay, but we saw the Acer Aspire S3-951 play FEAR at Maximum detail at an average of 12fps. After dropping detail to High, it averaged 38fps, proving that Intel’s last generation of Core chips can get you by, if you keep the quality down.

We wonder if Acer has underclocked the Intel graphics processor here, however, as Apple’s ultraportable managed a smoother 17 and 52fps in the same two tests.

Battery life from the non-replaceable built-in battery was very good, at a little over 6 hours (370 mins) in the MobileMark 2007 Productivity challenge.


Acer UK doesn’t have the resources to provide relevant review samples of its products. Instead the company loaned us an Acer S3-951-2634G24iss model that is not sold in the UK. 

The nearest UK version we could find to match this 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-powered laptop was one with a 1.6GHz Core i5 processor. With the same 240GB SSD storage capacity and 4GB memory, this slower model sells for £1099.

NEXT PAGE: Original PC World Australia review >>

Acer Aspire S3-951 Expert Verdict »

Acer Aspire S3-951-2464G32i Ultrabook reviews verified by Reevoo

Acer Aspire S3-951-2464G32i UltrabookScores 8.0 out of 10 based on 44 reviews
Windows Home Premium 64-bit
86 x 69mm ELAN trackpad
2 x USB 2.0
headphone jack
stereo speakers
non-removable battery
323 x 218 x 14-18mm
  • Build Quality: We give this item 7 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 7 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 6 of 10 for value for money
  • Performance: We give this item 8 of 10 for performance
  • Overall: We give this item 6 of 10 overall

Against Windows ultraportables of recent times, the Acer S3 would stand out as a smartly finished and extremely speedy example of a lightweight laptop. Against the Apple notebook it’s based on, it is faster in application performance thanks to our sample’s Core i7 processor. But it falls far behind in build quality, notably the plastic chassis and cheap screen, has shorter battery life and lacks decent multi-touch control. In short, it fails to deliver on price or in innovation, leaving the 13in MacBook Air as the wiser choice for anyone seeking an ultraportable notebook.

  • Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T review

    Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T

    It's only 1.1kg and 16mm thick, but it has a conventional feature-set and it feels very comfortable to use.

  • Acer Aspire P3 hands-on review

    Acer Aspire P3 hands-on

    We spent some time with the Acer Aspire P3 at its special launch event in New York. Here’s our hands-on review on the hybrid Ultrabook Acer Aspire P3.

  • Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook review

    Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook

    The Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook is a thin and light laptop that turned in impressive performances in our lab's benchmarking tests.

  • Acer Aspire One D255 review

    Acer Aspire One D255

    The Acer Aspire One D255 is a 10-inch netbook from Acer's Aspire One range. It comes with Android 1.6 dual-booting with Windows 7 Starter Edition.

  • Acer Aspire S5 review

    Acer Aspire S5

    The Acer Aspire S5 is a thin and light laptop that is incredibly powerful for its size. It boasts SSD storage and dual-band Wi-Fi. It's also the first Windows laptop to include a truly high-speed interface... UPDATED 19 SEPT 2012

IDG UK Sites

LG G4 Note UK release date and specification rumours: Samsung Galaxy Note 5 killer could be the LG 3......

IDG UK Sites

In defence of BlackBerrys

IDG UK Sites

Why we should reserve judgement on Apple ditching Helvetica in OS X/iOS for the Apple Watch's San...

IDG UK Sites

Retina 3.3GHz iMac 27in preview: Apple cuts £400 off Retina iMac with new model