Regular readers know that I just popped for a Lenovo IdeaPad U310 ultrabook, and I'll admit to having some buyer's remorse. The design is gorgeous, and it's a decent performer, but the touch screen adds no value (for me, anyway), and battery life is abysmal (around 3 hours).
Consequently, I may end up returning it, so I continue to look for other thin, light, and affordable systems. Like this one: Acer, by way of eBay, has the refurbished Aspire S3-951-6646 13.3-inch ultrabook for $529.99 shipped. It originally sold for $899.99.
The Aspire is an Intel Core i5 system with 4GB of RAM, a 13.3-inch LED-backlit display running at 1,366x768 pixels, and a 320GB hybrid drive with a 20GB SSD (which should, and does, allow for faster booting, waking, etc.)
It's thin, too, measuring just 0.7 inch at its thickest point and 0.5 at its thinnest, and weighing in at a travel-friendly 3 pounds.
Now, here's where feathers will get ruffled: the system runs Windows 7, which I consider a benefit. I've tried every permutation of Windows 8 (desktop, touch-screen laptop, and tablet), and I just plain don't like it. In fact, I actively dislike it. If you feel the same, here's an increasingly rare chance to score a system with Windows 7.
CNET reviewed the Aspire when it debuted around 18 months ago, and found it an excellent MacBook Air alternative -- albeit with a few compromises. Among them: no USB 3.0 and mediocre battery life.
You should also check out the user reviews over at Newegg, which averaged out to four stars and generally found the Acer to be a great system.
At $529.99 out the door, this is closer in price to what you'd pay for a typical non-ultrabook, a chunky, heavy model with an optical drive. Assuming you don't mind the 90-day warranty, this might be an ideal choice. If you already own one, hit the comments and give us your review.
Bonus deal: Or, for not a lot more dough, get an even more loaded system that also runs Windows 7: Tech.Woot has the refurbished Asus ZenBook UX31E-DH72 13.3-inch ultrabook for $699.99, plus $5 for shipping. Specs include a Core i7 processor, 256GB SSD (!), 1,600x900-pixel display, USB 3.0, and Windows 7. This sucker originally sold for $1,449!
Acer Aspire S3
Bonus deal No. 2: Could you use a hearty chunk of cloud storage? Of course you could! This week only, CNET has partnered with Pogoplug to offer 20GB of free cloud storage for life. It's a great solution for backing up photos from your phone, accessing your documents and media on the run, sharing the same with friends and family -- you know, the usual cloud perks. Update: Just wanted to clarify that this offer is for new Pogoplug users only.
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