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Acer, Dell, & Lenovo 2012 Ultrabook Battle: Which is Worth the Money?

Published
By , dealnews Senior Feature Writer

Ultrabooks were the undisputed star at last week's Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, with most computer manufacturers offering their own take on the super light and thin laptop trend. So now, with the floodgates blown wide, it's time to see which (if any) of these newly-minted ultraportable laptops are worth your hard-earned cash. We stacked three of last week's major headliners against each other to see if 2012's ultrabook lineup is worth the hype.

Acer Aspire S5
Dell XPS 13
Lenovo IdeaPad U310
Price*
Not Available
$999
$699
Processor
Intel Ivy Bridge 1.7GHz**
1.6GHz Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge dual-core
Intel Core Series
Display
13.3" 1366 x 768
13.3" 1366 x 768 w/ Gorilla Glass
13.3" 1366 x 768
RAM
Not available
4GB DDR3
4GB DDR3
Storage
SSD
128GB SSD
500GB HDD
w/ SSD option
Weight
2.9 lbs.
2.9 lbs.
3.7 lbs.
Other features
Dolby Home Theater V4 speakers, HDMI, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, 802.11n
Bluetooth 3.0, 1.3MP webcam, 1 USB 3.0 port, 1 USB port, 802.11n
Intel Wireless Display (WiDi), SD card reader, HDMI, 2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB port, 802.11n
Rated Battery
Not available
up to 8 hours and 53 minutes
up to 8 hours
*Manufacturer price is listed where available.
**Not confirmed.


Battle of the Thin
At 0.5" thick, the Acer Aspire S5 lives up to its "thinnest ultrabook in the world" moniker. Design-wise, this laptop sits in a class by itself with its black, magnesium-alloy and brushed metal chassis — a far cry from the pedestrian design of its predecessor, the Aspire S3.

So far, little information about the S5 is provided, but what few details we found left us wanting more. For instance, we know the S5 will launch in Q2 and feature a built-in Thunderbolt port, which means there's a big chance that it'll be running Intel's next-gen Ivy Bridge processor. That's already enough to set the S5 apart from the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo IdeaPad U310, both of which will run Intel's current Sandy Bridge Core series CPUs. But did Acer learn from its mistakes with the S3 (which suffered from a poor build quality and mediocre performance) or is the S5 just a better-looking S3?

The Mainstream Ultrabook
Not one to sit on its laurels, Dell launched its first ultrabook — the XPS 13 — at CES. The company managed to squeeze the specs of a 13" laptop into the body of a 12" machine, which will make other 13" machines (like the MacBook Air) look like space hogs in comparison. The XPS 13 will also feature a Gorilla Glass screen giving this ultrabook an extra layer of protection. Otherwise, the XPS 13 falls in line with most other ultrabooks on the market today.

The Budget Ultrabook
One would think Dell would've claimed the "budget ultrabook" title, but it's actually Lenovo that's bringing ultrabooks to the masses with its $699 Lenovo IdeaPad U310. Unfortunately, this portly machine tips the ultrabook scales at a whopping 3.7 lbs, and it comes with a standard hard drive instead of an SSD (although you can select this as an upgrade). Nevertheless, it packs two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, and built-in WiDi, which lets you connect your laptop to a flat-screen HDTV wirelessly, though an adapter is required for your HDTV.

And the Winner Is...
On paper, and with the limited specs that are available to us, the S5 appears to be the most promising ultrabook to come out of CES. Unfortunately, there's also a big chance this notebook will be one of the pricier models we'll see. For that reason we're supportive of the $699 budget-friendly Lenovo U310, which delivers everything you'd want in an ultrabook, if you don't mind the extra ounces of weight.


Set up an email alert for one these models now so you know immediately when the first deals start rolling in. Or check out the other ultrabooks that are available now in our laptops deals section.

Top page photo credits: The Verge and Popular Mechanics



An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisRamirez. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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1 comment
deltaman
Apple invented & owns this market segment, with more than 80% market share. Seems oddly myopic that you chose to ignore that fact, when you purport to offer buying advice to prospective ultralight notebook shoppers... The MacBook Air 11" offers the same 166x768 resolution & horsepower as the Dell XPS13 -- in a more compact package! Beyond that, Lenovo's current X1 ultralight can proudly stand toe-to-toe against the existing MacBook Air models; compared to the X1, the U310 specs make it look like the Yugo of ultralights! If you're going to be so fiercely focused on price, why not just suggest that everybody buy an Etch-a-Sketch? (Was Ramirez in Rip van Winkle mode, & awakened on the floor of CES, still in his PJ's?)   
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