Acer’s first major MacBook Air competitor, the Aspire S3-951 laptop, will go on sale this week, the company announced today.

The MacBook Air has run virtually uncontested in the ultra-thin laptop category with its blazing fast speeds, SSD hard drive and tiny form factor. But Intel’s Ultrabook line, starting with the Aspire S3, will provide a Windows-7-powered challenge to the Air.

The biggest difference between the S3 and the Air is the price. The first Aspire S3 Ultrabook will sell for $899 while the comparable 13-inch MacBook Air costs $1,299. And in this economy, that sort of price difference is significant, especially for two devices that offer similar power and designs.

In the specs department, the Aspire S3 offers up a 13.3-inch screen with 1366-by-768 resolution, a 20GB solid state drive running Windows 7, a 320GB hard drive for storing media and programs, a Core i5 processor, and 4GB of RAM. To top it off, the machine weighs just under three pounds.

Whether you’d pick between the S3 or a MacBook Air will come down to what you can afford and a Mac versus Windows preference. Honestly, I could go either way and make solid arguments on both sides. Acer will likely continue to release more models of Ultrabooks with different hardware configurations, and Toshiba’s got an Ultrabook in the pipline too, so this competition will continue to be fun to watch.

Would you pick up an Acer Ultrabook or are you willing to pay the premium for an Apple-made ultra-thin laptop?

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