I've made no secret of my love of ultrabooks, which borrow (read: steal) from MacBook Airs in offering ultra-thin, ultra-light designs. My Samsung Series 9, for example, is my single favorite laptop ever.
Alas, it's tough to find one of these svelte systems for under $600. But you can today, if you're willing to make a couple compromises. While supplies last, Groupon has the refurbished Acer Aspire S3-391-6046 13.3-inch ultrabook for $329.99 shipped. This model had a list price of around $650 when it debuted last November.
Let me note right up front that Acer is playing a bit fast and loose with the "ultrabook" designation, at least by Intel's standards, which call for at least a Core i5 processor. The Aspire S3 comes with a Core i3, which I consider fast enough for everyday computing tasks, but on the slow side for things like video editing and graphics-intensive games.
The system also features a 320GB hard drive, 20GB SSD (there solely to boost boot, app-launch, and resume-from-sleep speeds), and 13.3-inch LED screen running at 1,366x768 pixels. On the expansion front, Acer supplies two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, and a memory-card reader.
Equally important, at least in my eyes, are the dimensions: 8.5 by 12.6 by 0.7 inch. In other words, this is one skinny system, and a relative lightweight at three pounds even.
CNET hasn't reviewed this model, but PC Mag awarded it 3.5 stars (back when it was $648) and called it "a much better laptop than the netbooks you used to expect in this price range, and as such it comes recommended." You can find about 20 user reviews (averaging about four stars) over at Walmart, where it sells new for $395 (plus tax).
Because this is a refurb, though, you'll have to settle for a 90-day warranty. Is that worth a savings of nearly $100? I think so, but ultimately you'll have to make that call yourself.
By the way, the promo page says Groupon has a "limited" quantity available, but as of this writing only 10 units had been sold. So I'd say you've got a good chance of scoring one of these babies. Think you'll try?
Acer Aspire S3
Bonus deal: Sorry about that portable hard drive that sold out so quickly the other day. But here's an even better deal: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Newegg has the Toshiba Canvio Basics 1.5TB portable USB 3.0 hard drive for $69.99 shipped. That's after applying coupon code EMCXLWT24 at checkout. (You also must be a signed-in newsletter subscriber.) That's the same model as the previous drive, only with twice the capacity for less than twice the price.
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