We’ve come across many hybrid laptop-tablets in the recent past like the Dell XPS 12, Sony Vaio Duo and Asus Taichi. These slick and highly versatile devices command an exorbitant price, which can get past the six-digit mark depending on the feature set and design. With its latest offering, the Aspire P3, Acer wants to get closer to the masses. Priced under Rs 55,000, it’s one of the very few Ultrabooks that offer the functionality of a tablet. Sounds interesting? Here’s our take on it.

A good-looker but doesn't come across as an Ultrabook

A good-looker but doesn’t come across as an Ultrabook

Design and features

Speaking of hybrid laptop-tablets, the first thing that comes to the mind is that how the Acer Aspire P3 transforms into a tablet. You may have expected a detachable design like that of the Asus Transformer Book or some sort of a transformation mechanism like that of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga or Sony Vaio Duo. We must say that Acer has a made a very smart move with the Aspire P3 to cut down the cost drastically—it’s essentially a tablet housed in a Bluetooth keyboard case. Thus, it’s an Ultrabook with the case and a Windows 8 tablet by itself, sans the case. Now, you may wonder how a tablet housed in a keyboard case can be called an Ultrabook. Well, it is because it meets all the requirements set by Intel to be marketed as one, as simple.

A tablet that turns into an Ultrabook with a Bluetooth keyboard case

A tablet that turns into an Ultrabook with a Bluetooth keyboard case

The Acer Aspire P3 comprises two components; the tablet and the keyboard case. The P3 comes in two variants. The Aspire P3-171-6408 (the review unit) is powered by the Intel Core i3-3229Y processor and features 4GB of RAM and 60GB of solid state storage. The second variant, which is the P3-171-6820 runs the Intel Core i5-3339Y processor, comes loaded with the same amount of RAM, but offers double the storage space with a 120GB SSD.

Both the Core i3-3229Y and i5-3339Y belong to the “Y” series of ultra-low voltage processors launched by Intel in the first quarter of 2013. A key feature of this relatively new series is extremely low thermal design power (TDP), which is achieved by reducing the clock speed. The Core i3-3229Y is clocked at 1.4GHz and the Core i5-3339Y is clocked at 1.5GHz. The advantage of the latter is its ability to Turbo Boost to 2GHz. Both the processors are dual-core with four logical threads and have a TDP of 13 watts. Despite the meagre amount of cooling required, the Aspire P3 uses active cooling. The top of the device has vents towards the extreme ends through which the fins of the heat sink are visible. The faint whir of the fan is audible if you put your ear to the vents on the top right.

The Aspire P3 doesn't feature a card reader

The Aspire P3 doesn’t feature a card reader

Weighing in at 790 grams, the P3 is a tad heavy for a 11.6-inch Windows 8 tablet. It’s also quite chunky with a thickness of 18.7mm and appears all the more due to the boxy design. The guts of the tablet are packed in a grey aluminium shell with a fine grainy finish. This lends a premium feel and also helps dissipate heat effectively. The rear of the device sports the Acer logo in chrome and a 5 megapixel camera (without LED flash) is placed at one end of the white strip towards the top. An HD webcam to aid video chat is present on the top centre of the screen bezel. All the necessary buttons and ports are placed on the sides and are accessible even while the tablet is in the keyboard case. A 3.5mm headset jack, power button and volume rocker are placed on the right side and the left side has a micro HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port and a jack for the power adapter. Considering one might want to expand the memory or read memory cards, Acer should have included at least a microSD card reader if not the one that supports multiple card formats. Additional USB 3.0 ports should have also been included as you don’t have any ports left to connect external storage devices, input devices or other peripherals if the only provided port is being used. For most of the time we were using the USB port for the mouse because the keyboard dock is devoid of a touchpad. We had no choice but to disconnect the mouse to free up the USB port to connect a card reader or an external hard drive. Another option is to use a USB hub, but you need to carry it along if you think you’ll need additional ports.

5MP rear camera without flash

5MP rear camera without flash

As for connectivity you have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth out of which the latter won’t be available if you’re using the keyboard dock. If an Ethernet port is absolutely necessary, you’ll need a USB Ethernet adapter because even the Ethernet port is missing.

The keyboard case adds 600 grams to the tablet's weight

The keyboard case adds 600 grams to the tablet’s weight

The plastic casing that holds the tablet and the keyboard are of the same grey colour as the tablet to go with the colour theme. The casing and the keyboard are glued to a thick faux leather sheet which has a grainy black exterior. A horizontal ridge on the leatherette cover that runs across the centre is where it folds. You open the keyboard case and you’re greeted by a vibrant 11.6-inch display that automatically wakes up from sleep mode—there’s a hidden magnetic switch at the bottom of the tablet that does the magic. You then angle the tablet so that the base of the casing fits into the horizontal slit above the keyboard, and lo! you have an Ultrabook—yes, we repeat; it is an Ultrabook! Being a Bluetooth device, the keyboard is powered by an internal battery that charges via a micro USB port. The power button on the keyboard turns it off and also activates the pairing mode depending on the long press duration.

Build quality and ergonomics

The tablet feels solid because of the metal chassis and good finish. On the other hand the keyboard doesn’t feel the same. It’s very slim and easily flexes quite a bit. The keyboard is of the chiclet type and the keys are flat with very shallow travel. But even then, the tactile response is very good and inspires very good confidence. It wasn’t possible for Acer to include a touchpad due to the space limitation.

The keys are large and have good tactile feel

The keys are large and have good tactile feel

The keyboard has only five rows of keys as opposed to six rows in most laptop keyboards, the topmost row mainly comprising function keys. Here, the function keys are mapped as secondary functions on the topmost row of number keys. So, Fn + 1 is F1 and Alt + Fn + 4 is Alt + F4. This may be a hindrance if you’re a keyboard shortcut ninja.

Performance

Windows 8 and the basic everyday tasks feel very responsive thanks to the Core i3 processor coupled with 4GB of RAM and a speedy SSD. Quick application launches and butter smooth operation are attributed to the SSD that has a read speed greater than 350 MB/s. It would be unfair to expect too much from a ULV processor with a very low TDP. The processing power is much less compared to the “U” series ultra-low voltage Core i3 processor found in many entry-level laptops. But that’s done to offer prolonged battery life while providing just enough muscle to handle the basic tasks. Also, the miniaturised cooling system should suffice for the processor. A more powerful processor would dissipate more heat and would demand better cooling. This in turn would tax the battery and even lead to heat build up with heavy load.

Model

Sony Vaio Fit 15E (SVF15212SN)

Acer Aspire

P3-171-6408

Samsung ATIV

Smart PC Pro

Price

Rs 34,990

Rs 54,999

Rs 75,490

Weight

2.7 Kg

1.39 Kg

1.6 Kg

CPU

Intel Core i3-3227U, 1.9GHz

Intel Core i3-3229Y, 1.4GHz

Intel Core i5-3317U, 1.7GHz

RAM

2GB

4GB

4GB

Storage

500GB HDD

60GB SSD

128GB SSD

Graphics processor

Intel HD 4000

Intel HD 4000

Intel HD 4000

Display

15.5-inch, 1366 x 768

11.6-inch, 1366 x 768

11.6-inch, 1366 x 768

OS

Windows 8

Windows 8

Windows 8

PERFORMANCE

 

 

 

SYNTHETIC (higher is better)

 

 

 

SiSoft Sandra 2013

 

 

 

Processor Multimedia

65.44 Mpix/s

47.92 Mpix/s

82.8 Mpix/s

Memory bandwidth

10.08 GB/s

10.47 GB/s

9.79 GB/s

PCMark 7 (Overall)

2272

3423

4117

CineBench R11.5 (multi-core)

1.9

1.4

2.41

CrystalDiskMark

(Seq. read/write)

95/90 MB/s

357/83 MB/s

439/247 MB/s

Battery Eater Pro (Classic Test)

2 hr

2hr 50 min

2hr 33 min

REAL WORLD (lower is better)

 

 

 

File compression: 100 MB files to 7zip @ultra, Bzip2

116 sec

148 sec

83 sec

Video encoding: 1 min MPEG to H.264 (2nd pass)

86 sec

118 sec

68 sec

Ray tracing: POVRay (800×600, AA 0.3)

58 sec

99 sec

46 sec

Things that deserve a special mention are the display and battery life. We would have really liked if Acer had included a full HD display instead of a 1366 x 768-pixel panel. Nevertheless, the IPS panel is bright and vibrant with excellent viewing angles. There’s no colour deviation even when the screen is viewed from extreme angles. Watching photos and videos are a real pleasure on the Aspire P3. The stereo speakers on the bottom of the tablet are loud and produce crisp audio quality, but minus the bass required for the desired warmth.

The Aspire P3 is powered by a 4-cell, 5280 mAh battery. It managed to run the extremely taxing Classic Test in Battery Eater Pro for a little less than three hours, which is very commendable. Most mainstream laptops survive for a little more than two hours. With light to moderate usage you should easily get around five hours of battery life.

Verdict and Price in India

The Aspire P3-171-6408 (Core i3 and 60GB SSD) is priced at Rs 54,999 and the Aspire P3-171-6820 (Core i5 and 120GB SSD) is priced at Rs 64,999. The P3-171-6408 is one of the most affordable Windows 8 hybrid laptop-tablets running a Core i3 processor. The reason for it being so affordable is quite obvious—the use of a Bluetooth keyboard case to transform the tablet to an Ultrabook.

A good-looker but doesn't come across as an Ultrabook

A good-looker but doesn’t come across as an Ultrabook

Now the question is whether the Aspire P3 is a worthy consideration. Well, if the luxury and comfort of a laptop is of supreme importance, then going in for the Acer Aspire P3 isn’t a good idea. There’s no palm rest, no touchpad, no memory card reader, no hinges to adjust the screen angle, insufficient USB ports and 60GB of storage may be too less for you. However, if you want a fairly powerful and an affordable Windows 8 tablet, then we recommend the P3-171-6408. You also get a Bluetooth keyboard case with it, which is a big bonus.

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