Tablet or notebook? What’s it going to be? There are two sides to this computing equation and you can’t be on both at the same time, it seems. The technology gods don’t like it much or something. But that hasn’t stopped several companies from attempting to be both at the same time, with Acer taking several shots at a tablet/notebook hybrid. One of these attempts is the Aspire P3, technically a fully-fledged Windows 8.1 tablet but one that ships with a keyboard dock-cum-protective case that kinda-sorta gives it full notebook capabilities.
The Screen (And Everything Else)
This is a tablet, okay? Let’s just get that straight, Acer’s Aspire P3 is an 11.6-inch tab, which is a sub-HD (1,366 x 768) multitouch screen that houses all of the machinery you need to compute… stuff behind the glass. Acer have opted for a very sturdily-constructed shell to collect all of the important silicon under, meaning that you could use the tablet portion to fend off an enraged weasel or something similar with impressive results. What? It happens. The downside is that it’s a lot thicker than we’ve come to expect from tablets, even those verging on full notebook size. 11mm isn’t skinny.
As for the internals, we’re looking at a Core i5-3339Y, a 1.5GHz chip from Intel, and 2GB of RAM packed in behind the P3’s display. Don’t expect anything fancy in terms of graphics, there’s an integrated Intel setup in there to take care of your video rendering. It’ll play videos and the sort of games you’d expect someone with no idea what a PlayStation is to play but that’s about it. All in all, enough to run the 64-bit version of Windows 8 that ships with the P3 but not powerful enough to make a MacBook or Lenovo laptop break a sweat.
There was a 128GB SSD in the review unit we had on hand, with about 118GB of storage available for general use (read: as many media files as we could cram onto it). That’s a tablet standard, albeit a high-end one, but it’s quite low for anything other than an ultrabook. Pity that most ultrabooks we could name would smoke the Aspire P3 in a head-to-head.
In terms of ports, there’s a micro HDMI, a single USB and the charging port down the upper left-hand side of the tablet screen, with a headphone jack on the right. We’re less than impressed by the lone USB, for reasons that will become apparent soon.
Here’s where things get silly. The Aspire P3’s keyboard dock resembles those low-ish cost Apple iPad covers, with a sort-of-leather cover concealing the main tablet as well as the chiclet keyboard. Since it looks like you’re holding a leatherbound book of some sort when it’s closed, hey, points for style. Open it up and it becomes a stand, with the base of the screen fitting into a groove over the keyboard.
But the keyboard, while light, isn’t much more than serviceable. It’ll get the job done but a good tablet and third-party Bluetooth keyboard will give you better results.
Speaking of which, you’re going to have to charge the keyboard separately. Using the only USB port on the device. So, if you happen to be forgetful, you could find yourself unable to work because you a) need certain files on an external storage device and b) need to type faster than a touchscreen will allow. Still, not a game-breaker. There’s no mouse or touchpad available either, but the touchscreen makes up for that.
It’s not a tablet or a notebook, even though it’s trying to be both. The P3 is still a decent portable device for those who are just looking to answer emails over coffee or in traffic (no really, never do this.). But it’s not as handy as a tablet for media consumption, unless you drop off the keyboard bits. In which case, you might as well have bought a slimmer, lighter tablet. It’s also not powerful enough to wholly replace your notebook. So why buy one? Well, it’s sturdy, long-lived and will do in a pinch. If you’re have trouble deciding which side to pick, this’ll do until you can appease the technology gods with a solid choice.