In May, Microsoft announced Windows 8.1 with Bing, which is basically a fully-featured version of Windows 8.1, with the agreement from manufacturers that Bing would remain as the default browser on Internet Explorer when shipped. In return, the manufacturers will get Windows 8.1 for free. To the user, there’s essentially no difference–you can go about replacing Bing with Google on your own.
Many manufacturers, including Acer, have capitalised on this and are passing down the cost savings to the end-user. While this retails in Singapore for S$359, you can easily find them online on Singaporean shores from S$329 (US$261). It’s a really new model that hasn’t made its way to Amazon (and isn’t even updated on Acer’s website itself!), but a very similar model can be found on sale at Acer’s website at only US$224.99 or on Amazon’s German store for around €250, which comes with a 32GB SSD instead of a traditional hard drive
I had a feel of the notebook in store and my first impression is that it’s really well-built. Netbooks used to be plasticky little things but this one doesn’t feel so. It uses soft-touch plastic–similar to that on the back of the ASUS Nexus 7–making it easy to grip and a pleasure to rest your palms on.
The laptop is near silent when operating, and that is because it incorporates a fanless design. The only sound you’ll hear would probably be from the hard disk, but even then, it’s likely to be negligible.
I tried using the keyboard and the touchpad and it felt great. The keyboard bottoms out a little quickly, as would be expected from such a thin notebook, but the keys are well-spaced and are not mushy at all. At the very worse, it feels a little cheap, but it is still a great pleasure to type on. From reviews, it seems that the touchpad on a similar model can get a little too finicky when clicking, so you may want to take note of that. However, from my short experience with it (though Windows wasn’t booted up), the touchpad is smooth and the buttons are easy to depress.
On the right lies a Kensington lock port as well as an SD card reader and headphone/microphone combo jack on the left. At the back, you’ll find a Gigabit LAN port, a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port and a full-sized HDMI port. For the mobile warrior, I think you’re pretty much covered.
The screen is a 11.6″ display with 1366×768 resolution, typical of laptops in this price range. There is no touchscreen, but in return you get to enjoy a matte display, which should reduce annoying screen reflections and glare.
The laptop weighs a paltry 2.86 pounds, making it around the same weight than the 13″ MacBook Air but heavier than the 11.6″ version. Still, it felt really light to carry, such that you wonder if the battery was already inserted. The battery is non-removable, by the way.
As would be expected from a device of this price, performance isn’t exactly stellar. It is powered by the Intel Celeron N2840 processor, which has a higher clockspeed than the Intel Atom Z3740 found in many new Windows-based tablets today, but with two less cores. It should be fine with general web browsing on Internet Explorer and Chrome, though you may find that it stutters a little on certain more-intensive websites. The 320GB hard drive is nothing to shout about, so don’t expect blazing fast performance. As mentioned above, the variant found on Amazon’s German store comes with a 32GB SSD instead, which should be slightly speedier.
Still, the 2GB of RAM may prove to be a bottleneck in more intensive applications, though once again, this shouldn’t prove a problem if you mainly do just web browsing and perhaps some word processing work.
If you’ve had a bad experience with netbooks from 2008, do not worry: this little beast, though slow by today’s standards, is still faster in every single way than those netbooks.
The good news is, the RAM appears to be upgradeable, according to the claims of a reputable laptop dealer in Singapore. Though Acer officially supports up to 4GB of RAM, apparently even up to 8GB of RAM works with this device. You will have to disassemble the device to upgrade the RAM though, which I wouldn’t recommend if you’re inexperienced.
Battery life is rated at about five hours, though the general consensus is that it’ll last you about a good 4 to 4.5 hours with typical usage. This is an important point to note because four hours means that it’s hard to stay away from the charger for the entire day. That is probably the main tradeoff you’ll have to make for the price.
Value Proposition and Conclusion
For the price, the ES1-111 provides a great value proposition for the mobile warrior. While 15.6″ laptops are rather common in the price range, they often come with poor battery life and are too heavy to carry around on a daily basis. 11.6″ laptops at this price range and performance are generally more expensive.
However, you shouldn’t expect miracles from it. If you’re a heavy user, it will not replace your main computer, but what I can say is that it will be tolerable for periods of time when you’re away from your main computer. You can plug in an external hard drive thanks to its USB 3.0 port, you won’t be lost without wireless (thanks to the Gigabit LAN port), and it makes for an excellent presentation device for it comes with a full-sized HDMI port which you can plug into most projectors these days.
Overall, at the present moment, the ES-111 really stands out from the rest for its price. Though, the competition is sure to heat up in the coming months. For example, HP has just announced a similarly-specced laptop for US$199.99, which boasts 8 hours of battery life and a year’s subscription of Office 365 Personal. You may want to hold out a little longer to see if this laptop drops in price too. One thing’s for sure: the laptop market has just got more exciting.