Display and Multimedia
The star of the show, once you look past the versatile design, is the full HD IPS 1920 x 1080 gloss display with 10 points of multi-touch. It has wide viewing angles and clarity, and colors are vibrant. It's a really bright, sweet looking display, and that's perfect for this multimedia-centric convertible. Though glossy like most all touch screens, reflections aren't overbearing and text is viewable at 100% font scaling on the Windows desktop UI. HD movies look lovely with good blacks, rich colors and no motion blur. Text is crisp and it's a huge step up from lower resolution TN panel laptops.
Acer places two large speakers with Dolby Home Theatre v4 on the bottom, and they're loud enough for a family to gather 'round to enjoy a movie together. Bass won't tickle your teeth, but it's not tinny or harsh either. Very nice.
Performance and Horsepower
The Acer Aspire R7 runs on the updated Ivy Bridge Intel Core-i5 3317U 1.8 GHz CPU with Turbo Boost to 2.7GHz. This is a ULV (ultra low voltage) CPU that's more commonly found in Ultrabooks and it's more than capable of handling 1080p video playback, MS Office work, web browsers with several tabs open, photo editing and even HD video editing. The R7 ships with 6 gigs of RAM for the initial release US model, and it has 4 gigs of RAM soldered on the motherboard and one standard SODIMM RAM slot with a 2 gig DDR3 RAM module installed. RAM speeds were surprisingly good, reaching dual channel speeds.
The machine has a 24 gig caching mSATA SSD (ours is Kingston brand) that speeds up boot times and Windows. It's not accessible as a drive letter for program installations. The 500 gig HDD is your C drive (ours is a Toshiba 5400 RPM drive), and it's a standard low profile 2.5" SATA drive similar to those used on other slim notebooks. That means it's fairly easy to find an upgrade part if you wish to move to an SSD drive, a higher capacity drive or a faster 7200 RPM drive. The Aspire R7 boots quickly, launches apps fairly quickly and feels very responsive thanks to the caching SSD. The caching SSD plus a capacious HDD is a good combo here, offering both responsiveness and lots of storage. It doesn't benchmark as well as machines with 100% solid-state storage, but it feels quick enough.
So far in the US, the Aspire R7 is available only with Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. We've heard that there are dedicated graphics versions popping up overseas for a considerable price premium. For non-hardcore gamers, the HD 4000 is more than adequate and it can handle light 3D gaming with more forgiving current titles at low settings and resolutions. But this is by no means a serious gaming rig.
PCMark 7: 3981
3DMark 11: P646 (performance, 720p test setting ) 563 graphics, 2945 physics
Windows Experience Index:
Graphics (for desktop): 4.8
Gaming Graphics: 6.2
PCMark 7 Benchmark Comparison Table
Accessing the Internals: Upgradable Parts Inside
If you want to access the single RAM slot, standard 2.5" SATA hard drive bay, mSATA SSD and wireless card, you'll need to remove 10 visible Torx screws and three additional Torx screws that are hidden under the two rubber strips that run across the bottom (not under the rubber feet). These strips are affixed with double sided adhesive tape: be careful not to tear it up when you pull the strips off or you'll have to go shopping for very thin double sided sticky tape.
One you've removed the bottom cover, the machine is quite upgradable. You can upgrade to 8 or 12 gigs of RAM by removing the single 2 gig DDR3 1600MHz RAM module and replacing it with a 4 or 8 gig DIMM. The 2.5" SATA drive bay will accommodate standard thin profile SSD and HDDs. Nice. You could also upgrade the mSATA caching drive, but that would likely require more fiddling in Windows 8 since the mSATA drive is set up as a caching rather than main drive.
Though low travel, the Aspire R7's keyboard was surprisingly efficient and the island style keys are touch typist friendly. It feels a little weird not having a wrist rest area on the keyboard deck, but we managed fine when typing with the laptop on a desk. The backlight is lovely: the letters light up and there's a gentle white ring of light around each key.
Battery Life and Heat
Thanks to the ULV CPU, the Acer Aspire R7 runs cool and quiet. The fan rarely got loud and the R7 was never hot to the touch. It ships with a fairly compact charger, and since it uses Ultrabook internals, it doesn't require a big charger or huge battery. That said, it's no Energizer bunny, and we averaged 4.5 to 4.75 hours of use on a charge with brightness set to a very adequate 50% and WiFi on. The 4 cell, 3560 mAh Lithium Ion battery isn't particularly high capacity and the 15.6" full HD display is power hungry, so don't expect 6 hour Ultrabook runtimes here.
We praise Acer for their innovation and the Aspire R7 has one of the cleanest hinge designs we've seen for a contortionist convertible. This is a good looking machine that's quick, cool and not noisy. It's the perfect family PC because it can be easily moved from room to room, yet the full HD 15.6" panel and loud stereo speakers offer a pleasing multimedia experience. It can handle video playback, MS Office, photo and video editing and social networking with ease and makes for a good general use PC with lots more oomph than low priced alternatives. The touch screen is responsive and the backlit keyboard surprisingly pleasant to use. Be prepared to use the touch screen because the trackpad's awkward placement is a challenge.
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