Acer Aspire P3 review: first look

The Acer Aspire P3, launched at a glitzy New York press event in New York, wants desperately to be a rival to the Microsoft Surface. At first glance it looks like it could be: it has a keyboard cover, just like the Surface, and that cover can be folded over so you can use it  as a tablet or prop it up at an angle for use in laptop mode.

On the evidence of our first experiences with it, however, it's a long way from matching the Microsoft tablet's level of industrial design.

The keyboard cover, for one, is simply a snap-on case. It's quite an elegant on, we'll give it that, but it can't match the simplicity or slimness of the Surface's keyboard covers, which lock firmly, yet magnetically to the bottom edge of the tablet and make use of the Surface's built in kickstand to provide support.

The design of the tablet itself is pleasant enough to look at, with its matte-silver edges and white plastic strip on the rear. It's well-built, too, and met our efforts to twist it back and forth with stern resistance. But it's angular, and looks distinctly frumpy next to the Surface's angled edges and "Vapour MG" casing.

It's also quite a hefty beast with the case snapped onto the rear, and when propped up in laptop mode, there's no way of adjusting the angle of the tablet.


Having said all that, there are a lot of things to like about the Aspire P3. Our initial feeling is that the Scrabble-tile keyboard is a success. There isn't much travel to the keys, but they're well spread out, and give a decent amount of positive feedback. That leads us to think it'll be a productive working companion.

The IPS display, although not Full HD, is perfectly crisp at 1,600 x 900. In our time with it, the touchscreen felt responsive, and the screen looked vibrant and rich in colour. It's difficult to tell just how good the display is, under press event, so we'll reserve judgement until we're able to test it more thoroughly in our Labs. However, there didn't appear to be any fundamental problems, and viewing angles were excellent.

Look around the edges, and you'll also find plenty of connectivity options, with a USB 3 socket and a micro-HDMI, to go alongside a 3.5mm audio input/output and the power socket. Note, though, that there's no sign of  either a full-sized SD card slot nor one for microSD cards.

Despite the slightly angular design, though, we do like the feel of the whole ensemble, especially as it runs full Windows 8, and the base model comes in at £525, a price that includes a copy of Microsoft Office. But the key to the success of the P3 is likely to be battery life. It doesn't sport an energy efficient Intel Clover Trail processor, like the Acer W510, but a more power hungry, full-fat Core i3 or i5, depending on the model. If it meets Acer's quoted run-time of six to eight hours, however, it looks promising.

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