updated 06:10 pm EST, Sun January 8, 2012
Acer Aspire S5 gets our early test
We've had the opportunity to try Acer's Aspire S5, and we've come back pleasantly surprised so far. The magnesium and metal chassis, which is matte, feels good to the touch, is thin and light, and isn't cutting corners like some others. More importantly, the keyboard and trackpad are genuinely nice to use; it doesn't have the full suite of multi-touch gestures, but it's generally responsive, supports two-finger scrolling, and isn't too hard to properly right-click with the invisible buttons.
The MagicFlip key's triggering of port access is unique, because it doesn't just flip open a lid; it expands the back of the notebook itself, from what we could see. This has the slight upshot of putting the notebook itself at a slightly more comfortable angle.
As you'd expect, the system is responive, although we're going to go back to get processor details and see what it's currently running. The LCD isn't stereotypical Acer; it's harder to see under the lighting conditions, but it had wide viewing angles that suggested it was an IPS display and not a cheaper TN screen.
As part of the test, we also got to see both Cloud.Fi and the Always Connect feature that didn't work properly during the stage event. Cloud.Fi is a straightforward media sharing service, and it could push content fairly easily. Always Connect is meant primarily for social and e-mail services, which themselves aren't exciting, but it did wake the system up quickly and promises to be a good way to fetch information faster. We're wondering how many won't just leave their PCs on, though.
On the whole, the biggest disappointment is just that the Aspire S5 won't ship until spring, when the Ivy Bridge-based chip it needs is available. That's necessary for the faster performance, but it also gives the MacBook Air a few months more to build up a user base. Still, if you're not averse to the Windows ecosystem, this may be on the short list of ultrabooks to consider instead of an Air.