Acer Aspire S3 Teardown: Good hardware, lackluster construction

The Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook is thin, light and feature rich. But, its build quality and battery life are less than one expects in a premium laptop.

Cracking Open: Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook

Designed to compete with Apple's MacBook Air, the Acer Aspire S3 is part of a growing list of Windows PCs called Ultrabooks. These super-thin laptops, offer more processing power than netbooks, but won't weigh down your bag as you run through the airport. Manufactures like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer, Asus, and Toshiba are all jumping on the Ultrabook bandwagon (thanks in part to a significant push from Intel).

In this week's episode of Cracking Open, I show you what's inside one of these new ultrabooks, the Aspire S3, and discuss what I learned from my teardown.

Our Acer Aspire S3-951-6828 has a 1.60GHz Intel i5-2467M processor, 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, 256GB solid state drive, 13.3" HD Acer CineCrystal LED LCD (1366 x 768), 2-in-1 card reader, 802.11 b/g/n WLAN and BT card, and 1.3MP HD webcam. It measures 8.6" (H) x 12.7" (W) x 0.7" (D) and weighs 2.98 pounds. I purchase our test machine for $1,199.99 (plus tax).

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook

Cracking Open observations

  • Lackluster build quality: The S3' build quality is okay, but it's a step below what I expect in a premium laptop. For example, the outer shell is a mixture of both metal and plastic parts. This may save weight, but it makes the machine feel cheap. There's no membrane behind the keyboard to prevent spilled liquids from running down into the S3. There's a lot of tape, including masking tape, holding wires, connectors, and plastic shielding in place.
  • Poor quality control: One of the rubber speaker cushions on our test unit was crumpled under its screw.
  • User replaceable hard drive: The S3 uses a standard two and a half inch hard drive. Which let's you configure the device with either a solid state or traditional drive. It also means you can upgrade the drive yourself.
  • Small battery: Unfortunately, the space taken up by the hard drive and the machine's three separate circuit boards limit the area available for the battery. And as CNET's Dan Akerman wrote in his review of the S3, "battery life is on the low side of acceptable."

Our Aspire S3-951-6828 test machine has the following hardware:

  • 1.6GHz Intel 2nd Gen Core i5 i5-2467M
  • Intel BD82UM67 Platform Controller Hub (BD82UM67 SLJ4L E138A476)
  • 4GB Elpida 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM (J4208BASE-DJ-F X 8)
  • Qualcomm Atheros AR5B225 WLAN BT card
  • 256GB Micron RealSSD C400 2.5 solid state drive
  • Acer AP11D3F 11.1V, 3280mAh, 36.4Wh Li-ion battery pack
  • 1.3 MP HD webcam
  • V128230AS1 keyboard
  • ELAN touchpad controller (33200D-3000 1139 BG119K4)
  • 13.3 HD Acer CineCrystal LED LCD display (AU Optronics-Z40 B133XTF0)
  • SUNON 5V cooling fan (EG50050V1-C010-S9A)
  • Nuvoton NPCE79x LPC embedded controller (NPCE795PA0DX) - likely for the keyboard
  • Realtek RTS5179 USB Card Reader Controller
  • Winbond W25Q32BV 32M-bit Serial Flash Memory (25Q32BVSIG 1133)
  • Fairchild DB37AF 22CA N7CC
  • Fairchild BBKDK FDMC 8884 30V N-Channel Power Trench MOSFET
  • Realtek ALC271X audio codex
  • Volterra VT1316MAFA AG1132 1842780
  • Texas Instruments TPA51125A DC/DC Controller (51125A TI 15J PNE9)
  • R460 BH T15M