Review: Acer Aspire P3, An Awkward Hybrid

Not quite the right balance

Our score: 3/5
Reviewed: September 27, 2013 2:40 PM
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Published: September 27, 2013 2:40 PM
Updated: November 5, 2014 2:27 PM
By Rémi Jacquet
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
The Acer Aspire P3 is an 11.6-inch hybrid that runs under Windows 8 as both a laptop and a tablet. The Taiwanese brand forwent the touchpad altogether, making all controls go through the keyboard and touchscreen.

Design3/5


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The Aspire P3 is a laptop computer in which the screen detaches from the keyboard to become a touchscreen tablet, similar to the HP Envy x2. The keyboard is attached to a sort of imitation leather cover that folds closed when you want to carry it with you. Above the keyboard is a section that the tablet clips into to hold it steady. There's no connector between the tablet and keyboard; they communicate wirelessly via Bluetooth. Just above the keys is a notch where you snuggle the screen holder in to keep it upright. We found the Envy x2's screen easier to detach than this one.

The tablet is made of aluminium, giving it a solid, well-finished feel and keeping smudges at bay.

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The keyboard isn't very impressive; the finish could be of higher quality, making it not very comfortable to type on. The keys seriously lack rebound and the space bar has even more slack than the rest of the keys—it honestly doesn't make you want to use the keyboard for very long. Holding the device in laptop position with one hand is risky business, as the screen only rests in the keyboard slot, and the keyboard is a little too flexible to keep the whole thing stable. You'd need the grace of a waitress in a fancy restaurant not to make the screen fall over.

As there's no touchpad, the only way to move the cursor is by using the touchscreen. That's no problem when you're in the Windows 8 Start Screen interface, but once you get into the regular Windows desktop (i.e. 95% of the time), it stinks. You almost have no choice but plug in a mouse—and then your USB port is used up. Solution: buy a Bluetooth mouse or a USB hub (and carry them wherever you go).

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On hybrid tablet-laptops, the tablet usually has very little connectivity, but the keyboard often makes up for this with a variety of ports. Here, the tablet doesn't stray from the rule, with just one USB 3.0 port, a micro-HDMI output and a microphone/headphone combo jack, but the keyboard does—all it has is a single micro-USB port, which is used to charge the keyboard via a cable that you plug into... the tablet's single USB port.

There are a few buttons on the tablet: one for turning the screen on and off, two for the volume and one at the bottom-centre that switches from the Windows 8 Start Screen to the classic desktop.

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Heat readings with the components under stress (°C)
Images taken using a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera

The Aspire P3 has trouble managing its heat, even with just a Core i3 processor at the helm. At the back of the machine the heat can go up to 54°C (129°F). That's not hot enough to put the components in any real danger, but it's enough to make the computer uncomfortable to hold. As you can see in the images, the hot air is expelled out the top of the tablet. The fan isn't very loud, but when you press down just a little bit on the frame, you can hear the two touch.

Audio3/5


The sound through the P3's headphone output is clean, effective and loud enough for any headphones or speaker system, all without distortion.

Like most products like this, the speaker isn't amazing. The volume doesn't go very high, but fortunately it doesn't saturate much. The sound is nice and intelligible, but the utter lack of low- and high-end ultimately make the listening experience not worthwhile.

Configuration: 

The model we were sent to review features an Intel Core i3-3229Y processor, 2 GB of RAM, an Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset, 1366 x 768-pixel resolution and a 64 GB SSD. Everything mentioned above refers to all configurations of the Acer Aspire P3, but the sections below apply only to the model we tested (see inset).

Display3/5


The Aspire P3's IPS touchscreen has wide viewing angles and a satisfactory contrast ratio of 970:1. The brightness goes up to 360 cd/m², which makes it easily legible outdoors in the sunlight.

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The colours are less impressive, but still acceptable compared to the other laptops we've reviewed. The Delta E, which measures how faithful the colours onscreen are, is a somewhat high 5.3. But this is similar to the HP Envy x2 (5.5), and better than the Samsung Ativ Smart PC (7.9) and Acer Iconia W510 (9.1).

Processing Power2/5


The Intel Core i3-3229Y processor can handle all tasks at reasonable speed, although it takes 23% longer, on average, than the Intel Core i3-3217U found in the Sony Vaio Fit 15E to execute the same tasks.

In detail: it took the Aspire P3 630 seconds to export a batch of photos that the Vaio Fit 15E took 430 seconds to export; it took the Aspire P3 744 seconds to encode an HD video that the Vaio Fit 15E took 469 seconds to encode; and it took the Aspire P3 345 seconds to compress files that the Vaio Fit 15E took 206 seconds to compress.

The 64 GB solid-state drive allows the Aspire P3 to start up and shut down in just 7 seconds. However, such a small drive allows for only 20 GB of storage available to the user.

Gaming1/5


If you read our laptop reviews every week, then you're probably tired of hearing about the Intel HD Graphics 4000. So are we. It's a low-performance GPU found in many a low-gaming-capability laptop (3DMark06: 3680) that can run non-demanding games fine, but anything more interesting it will only run in the screen's native resolution with all the quality settings turned way down, and often times even that's pushing it. It does, however, play HD videos without a hitch.

Battery Life3/5


The Aspire P3 can last for 4 hours and 10 minutes of video playback (in airplane mode with the screen brightness at 100 cd/m² and headphones plugged in). That's light years away from the Envy x2's 7 hours without the keyboard dock and 14 hours with it. This is disappointing, especially given that Acer's Iconia W510 can last up to 18 hours.

The tablet alone weighs a relatively light 780 grams, but with the keyboard and cover attached, it weighs almost twice that: 1.34 kg. That's too bad, considering that the keyboard doesn't even have extra ports or a battery.

3/5 Acer Aspire P3 DigitalVersus 2013-09-27 15:40:00

Pros

  • IPS screen with good contrast (970:1)
  • Quiet fan
  • Satisfactory processor power
  • Good sound through audio output

Cons

  • The keyboard
  • The touchpad (wait, there is none)
  • Skimpy connectivity
  • Overheats (up to 54°C)

Conclusion

The Acer Aspire P3 has several things going for it, such as its screen, processing power and audio output. But the way it's designed makes it difficult to use the same way you would normally use a laptop (no touchpad, low-quality keyboard). And the tablet's light weight could have been a big selling point, but with the keyboard attached it weighs more than many 13-inch laptops.

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