The Acer Aspire R7 is built for Windows 8

The Acer Aspire R7 is built for Windows 8

Summary: Lately the lines between a PC and tablet have been blurred by Windows 8 systems that employ all sorts of tricks. One of the most ambitious to date is the Acer Aspire R7, which I’ve been testing for a few weeks.

TOPICS: Laptops, Tablets

The differences between a PC and a tablet used to be pretty clear. Lately, though, the lines have been blurred by Windows 8 laptops and all-in-ones that employ all sorts of tricks to sideline as tablets. One of the most ambitious to date is the Acer Aspire R7, which I’ve been testing out for the last few weeks.

The Aspire R7 is a mainstream laptop with a 15-inch (1920x1080) touchscreen that folds nearly flat. This puts it somewhere between true Windows convertibles--of which there are many to choose from--and a new breed of “transportable” all-in-ones such as the Dell XPS 18, HP Envy Rove 20, Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon (which I recently tried out) and Sony Vaio Tap 20.

The Aspire R7’s most distinctive feature is its “Ezel Hinge” which lets you pull the display forward so that the bottom edge of the display is positioned on top of the base rather than at the rear. Ordinarily this arrangement would cover up the keyboard, so to get around this Acer swapped the location of the keyboard and touchpad.

This approach has its pros and cons. By moving the display closer, Acer made it easier and more comfortable to use touch to navigate Windows 8 apps.While there are lots of laptops with touchscreens, this is one of the first that that really feels like it was designed around Windows 8. That’s also the problem. Unfortunately there are many key applications--including nearly all of Microsoft Office--that do not have Windows 8 versions optimized for touch. When using these “classic” Windows 7 apps, you need to slide your hands under the display to reach the touchpad without letting your hands or wrists hit the keyboard. It’s so awkward that I suspect most R7 users will simply buy a wireless mouse instead.

If you pull the screen even closer, you can tilt it backwards and fold it nearly flat covering the entire keyboard and touchpad. The rear edge remains raised slightly, but this didn’t bother me much. The fact is that unlike most convertibles the Aspire R7 is too big and heavy to use as a true tablet anyway, and the slight angle leaves the display in a good position for reading, touch typing, or writing or drawing with a stylus.

Finally you can flip the display over 180 degrees either to show it to someone sitting opposite you or to watch videos or read without the keyboard deck in the way. In general the Aspire R7 is a great system for entertainment with its edge-to-edge 1920x1080 display and four above-average speakers with Dolby Home Theater v4. When you flip the display over, the video automatically rotates and the audio channels reverse.

Despite its unusual exterior, inside the Aspire R7 is a conventional mainstream laptop. The one I tested has a third-generation Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, 6GB of memory and a 180GB solid-state drive. The retail model, however, has a standard 500GB hard drive paired with 24GB of SSD cache to boost performance, and costs $1,000. In comparison, the Lenovo IdeaPad Z500 Touch (15.6-inch 1366x768 touchscreen, Core i5 processor, 6GB of memory, 500GB hard drive and DVD drive) is $850 and the HP Envy TouchSmart (15.6-inch Full HD touchscreen and a similar configuration) costs about $830.

The performance was exactly what you’d expect for a system with mid-range specs. It isn’t quite as fast as premium Ultrabooks with Core-i7 processors, and the Intel HD 4000 graphics aren’t up to high-end 3D gaming, but the Aspire R7 is fine for common productivity and entertainment applications.

The Aspire R7 is bigger and heavier than most convertibles (which generally have smaller displays), but reasonable for a 15-inch laptop at slightly more than an inch thick and 5.3 pounds.Like many newer 14- and 15-inch laptops, the Aspire R7 does not have a built-in optical drive.The battery life is rated at about 4 hours and that seems about right. I wouldn’t choose the Aspire R7--or any 15-inch laptop--for everyday commuting or frequent travel, but it is fine if you want a system to move around the house and bring along on occasional weekend trips.

In a world where everything could be done in “modern” Windows 8 apps using touch, the Aspire R7 would be a clear winner. Unfortunately that’s not the case and, given the prevalence of classic Windows apps, the notebook’s unorthodox keyboard and touchpad will probably scare off some shoppers. The touchpad does take some getting used to, but there’s an easy solution: a wireless mouse or touchpad. And the innovative design has some real benefits when using Windows 8, so the Aspire R7 is worth a good look if you want a 15-inch laptop. The design may also appeal to those who would ordinarily buy a new desktop, but are looking for something that will take up less space and can be moved around easily.

Eric Wong contributed research assistance for this post.

Topics: Laptops, Tablets

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  • Finally an unbiased review

    After reading daily Microsoft bashing click bait "articles" from the likes of James Kendrick, nice to finally read something by someone not under the employ of apple.

    Kudos Microsoft.

    Kudos Acer.
    • Thankyou for explaining

      that for an article to be unbiased, it must be pro-MS.
  • Could have been a good machine.

    But this being Acer, they missed quite a few marks.

    - No digitizer
    - No trackpoint-styled pointer
    - No GPU/Haswell chip

    Things like build quality, keyboard, and ports were solid. Had they implemented the three above, it would've been a perfect machine.
  • About Windows 8

    No other Microsoft PC OS or any other OS for that matter has excited me as much as Windows 8 since Windows 95... it may take some time for the public to fully appreciate Windows 8... but the OS capabilities are unparalleled and we will see more super exciting form factors in the coming months
    • Too bad it is so difficult to install

      a second OS for dual boot. I might have bought a new Win8 PC to check it out if the required secure boot implementations were not such a mess, but after helping several customers with different OEM Win8 PCs trying to achieve a dual OS device with Win8 is such a mixed bag that it is not really worth it. There are plenty of devices with win7 or Linux pre-installed that work much better for me.
      • Hyper-V

        Run Hyper-V and forget about the dual boot.
        • Hyper-Ventilate

          So I want to run an OS under an OS Layer?

          yeah.. I get the whole do more with less .. and virtualization .. but some things don't virtualize well enough ... and 2nd or 3rd class citizen on the hal is not always workable.
  • Pixelated Display

    What happened to retina display? Why for this size are we stuck with 1920X1080. Even my Amazon Fire HD 8.9 is better.
    • Retina is really overrated, especially with small form factors, including

      small laptops.

      I use a 24 inch display, with 1920x1080 resolution, and everything on the screen is sharp enough. That same resolution on a smaller screen is still more than enough, and retina would be overkill. Retina is a sales tool, and makes things more expensive.
  • The Keyboard And Trackpad Are Still Live Behind The Screen

    The review on Ars Technica covers a pitfall of this "feature".