Acer this week will start selling its new Aspire S3-951 laptop, an ultrabook that will come in at a cost under the crucial $1,000 price point set by Intel when it introduced the concept in May.
Acer officials announced the new ultrabook Oct. 10, which will start at $899 and will offer a host of features, such as instant on and a constant Internet connection. Acer's S3-951 is among the first of a number of ultrabooks expected to hit the market this quarter from such vendors as Lenovo, Asus and Toshiba.
Intel executives have been aggressively promoting the idea of ultrabooks-very thin and light laptops-since introducing the concept at the Computex 2011 show in May. According to Intel, ultrabooks must be 0.8 inches or less thick and will combine classic notebook capabilities with features found in tablets, including long battery life, instant-on capabilities an constant Web connectivity.
Price has been the key issue debated over the past few months, with some reports saying that OEMs were having difficulty hitting the sub-$1,000 mark set by Intel. Ultrabooks are designed to be primary competitors to Apple's popular MacBook Air laptop, the cheapest of which costs $999.
However, at $899, Acer's 13.3-inch device is proof that ultrabooks can come in under $1,000 and still offer the wide range of capabilities outlined by Intel, according to company officials.
"The combination of extreme mobility and affordability found in the Acer Aspire S3-951 Ultrabook will undoubtedly change the way people think about mobile computing," Sumit Agnihotry, vice president of product marketing for Acer America, said in a statement. "Consumers are going to love the value they find in the freedom and capabilities it offers."
The Acer Aspire ultrabook, with a magnesium aluminum alloy frame, is a half-inch thick at its thinnest and weighs three pounds. It includes Acer's Green Instant On technology that can bring the system back to life from Sleep mode in as little as two seconds, with all the elements-including Websites, emails and documents that were previously in use-restored, the company said. It takes six seconds to come out of Deep Sleep mode. Acer's Instant Connect technology reconnects the Aspire to the Internet from Sleep mode in 2.5 seconds.
The battery can deliver up to six hours of computing time.
There reportedly were several ways Acer was able to keep the price of the ultrabook below $1,000, including the use of a hybrid storage design that includes a 20GB solid-state drive (SSD) and 320GB hard drive. SSDs can be expansive, so the hybrid design helps keep storage costs down. The SSD will be used to store the Aspire's operating system and maintain the ultrabook's current state so that it can restore the laptop to its previous state when coming out of Sleep or Deep Sleep mode, according to Acer.
Also, there is no USB 3.0-the laptop has USB 2.0. USB 3.0 is more expensive, though Intel executives at their Intel Developer Forum in September said in the next-generation "Ivy Bridge" chips will include integrated USB 3.0 support, drastically cutting the cost for USB 3.0. Systems powered by Ivy Bridge are due out in 2012.
The Aspire S3-951, which runs Microsoft's Windows 7 Home Premium operating system, is powered by Intel's Core i5 "Sandy Bridge" ultra-low voltage chip.
Analysts have said Intel's ultrabook push makes sense, both to move forward the chip maker's ambitions to become a larger player in the mobility space, and also as a possible boost to a global PC market that has seen demand slow in recent quarters due to the unstable economic picture and the rise in popularity of tablets.
Intel has looked to help OEMs build ultrabooks, including establishing a $300 million fund that will invest in vendors building hardware and software for ultrabooks.