Unless you've spent the summer snoozing at the back of the bear cave, you'll already know that Windows 8 is on the cusp of release. Hardware manufacturers made the most of the opportunity presented by the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (or IFA to you and me) to show us the first batch of products that we'll be using to get our touch on with the next flavor of Microsoft's operating system. We've already rubbed shoulders with Acer's new V5 series notebooks, now it's time to reach out and grab a few moments with the company's M3 Touch and S7 Ultrabooks.
Like the V5 series, the Aspire M3 Touch can handle ten simultaneous touch points on its frameless 15.6-inch, 1366 x 768 pixel resolution display. It features the latest Intel Core i3 or i5 processor, dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT640M GPU with 1 GB of onboard video memory, up to 6 GB of DDR3 system memory and up to 500 GB HDD storage with 20 GB SSD-cache or up to 256 GB SSD storage.
The 22-mm (0.86-inches) slim, 2.3 kg (5 pounds) Windows 8-ready Ultrabook includes Acer's Green Instant-On to reactivate the ultrabook from sleep in just 1.5 seconds, and Instant Connect will get you back online in 2.5 seconds. The battery is promised to give a good 8 hours of continuous usage between charges.
The M3 has been treated to Dolby Home Theater v4 audio to complement its premium speakers, has both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, and HDMI, and benefits from a chiclet-style keyboard with numeric keypad and oversized touchpad.
The black aluminum alloy chassis of the pre-production Aspire M3 at IFA certainly made a pleasant change from the ubiquitous bright gray/silver of other notebooks on display. The inclusion of a numeric keypad has cramped the keyboard a little but not painfully so, and the supersizing of the touchpad is very welcome indeed. The touch-enabled display is bright and responsive although being of the glossy variety, did seem to be something of a greasy fingerprint magnet.
I have to say that using touch to activate and control onscreen activity in this format is a little strange, not just with the Acer machines but with touch-enabled notebooks/ultrabooks in general. Getting at those delicious new Windows 8 blocks does involve repeated stretching and quite alien arm movements but probably no more so than already-available touchscreen AIOs like HP's TouchSmart 610-1030a we reviewed last year.
The Aspire S7 Ultrabooks are available in 11.6- or 13.3-inch Full HD display flavors with 10-point simultaneous touch and features Acer's signature touch interface called the Acer Ring for fast and easy access to online browsing, playing music, or viewing photos, videos and documents. The aluminum unibody chassis is home to the latest Core i5 or i7 processor options with Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics, 4 GB DDR3 RAM and up to 256 GB SSD storage.
The bigger of the new Ultrabooks benefits from a glossy, sculpted Gorilla 2 glass cover to help it weather the trials of everyday mobile life and will run for up to 12 hours on a single charge (while the 11.6-inch model will run for 9 hours between charges).
Both S7 Ultrabooks have Acer Green Instant On technology, sport a light-sensing keyboard which automatically adjust the level of backlighting as ambient lighting conditions change, feature two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and media card slot and benefit from thermal comfort and efficient cooling courtesy of Acer's Twin Air cooling system.
The S7 is quite the little stunner. The model at the Acer booth was just 11.9-mm (0.46-inches) thin, with a very comfortable chiclet keyboard sporting silver/gray keys. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to actually see this model perform as none of the units on display were functional at the time of my visit (and bizarrely, Acer opted to have an engineer try to fix them in public view rather than away in a back room somewhere).