Acer Aspire S 13 review: An affordable, fingerprint-resistant MacBook Air alternative
Technically, you can buy an Acer Aspire S13 in the United States for just $580, and the laptop typically comes in black.
Realistically, just forget about both of those things. I'm reviewing the Acer Aspire S13 in white -- which starts at $800, £650 or AU$1,399 -- because it's the one doing something particularly neat.
Many laptops this thin don't have great performance. Many laptops this powerful don't have great battery life. Many laptops this price skimp on the storage and memory you need. And the ones that don't -- our favorite laptops -- typically are made of smooth metal and glass that attracts loads of glare and gobs of oily fingerprints.
The 13-inch Acer Aspire S13 -- the white one -- doesn't suffer from any of those weaknesses.
At 3.0 pounds and 0.57 inche thick, with a dual-core 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of solid-state storage and a crisp 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution IPS touchscreen, it's as thin, fast and spacious as the competition. (I tested the $1,000 Core i7 model with 512GB of storage -- impressive specs for the price.)
In fact, the Aspire S13's battery life is better than most. We got 9 hours, 45 minutes in our standard streaming video drain test, and I found I could typically work 6 to 7 full hours before needing to recharge. That's just a stone's throw away from the battery life we get with a MacBook Air, only this Acer has a far better screen and speakers.
But the white Acer Aspire S13 also does something I've never seen before. It's a thin metal touchscreen laptop that doesn't trap light and grease. The pure white matte aluminum surfaces simply don't pick up fingerprints. (Aside from a fine coating of dust, our S13 looks just as good today as when we took it out of the box weeks ago.) And where most every single laptop manufacturer covers their touchscreens in sheets of mirrorlike glass, the S13 has an antiglare coating.
(The cheaper black versions of the laptop aren't as fingerprint-resistant, since they use brushed aluminum, which can trap oils, for their keyboard deck.)
By the way, the Aspire S13's Dolby-branded speakers are well above average -- excellent, even -- for a laptop this thin. There's not much in the way of bass, and setting it on your lap muffles the downward-facing drivers. But on a solid table there's a lot of volume and some remarkably clear mids.
The only things that keep the Aspire S13 from graduating into the upper echelons of worthy laptops are the same that plague so many thin Windows machines: a stiff, shallow keyboard, and a touchpad that can't be trusted not to jump around while you're typing. They're bearable, but as a writer, I'd probably pick a different PC.
It also doesn't help that the laptop has uneven backlighting under the keyboard, notably thick bezels around the screen (at a time when bezels are starting to shrink), a USB-C port that can't charge the laptop and a sixth-gen Intel Core processor instead of the new seventh-gen chips (though that might not be a big deal). This Acer is a little behind the times.
But if you can live without a few creature comforts, the Acer Aspire S13 is still a solid choice.
The ability to resist fingerprints, and the ability to resist glare, will never go out of style.