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Acer Aspire S7 (2013, Haswell 13")

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What's Hot: Gorgeous design, very light, rigid frame, good performance.

What's Not: Expensive.

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Reviewed September 22, 2013 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

The Acer Aspire S7 was one of the hottest high end Ultrabooks to hit the market in 2012. The 13.3" model featured a white Gorilla Glass 2 lid, an extremely thin design and stunning good looks. Its Achilles heel was battery life, which was woefully short. Somehow Acer managed to significantly increase battery capacity without increasing weight, and this 2.87 lbs. machine now runs for 6 hours on a charge. Of course, the latest Intel Haswell CPUs with their power savings help too.

Acer Aspire S7

The Aspire S7 is as ever a premium Ultrabook, and you're paying extra for the unique glass and aluminum design and crazy light weight. That said, our Core i5-4200U model with 8 gigs of RAM and a 128 gig SSD lists for $1,499, making it more expensive than the MacBook Air 13" and the Sony Vaio Pro 13... and Sony and Apple aren't known for their low prices. The Core i7-4500U model with a 256 gig SSD lists for $1,699. Yes, there's a good chance you'll find these for $50 to $100 less than list price, shaving some of the pain off the purchase. Perhaps as time passes, retailers will drop prices a bit more.

With the second gen Aspire S7, there's only a 13.3" model; the 11.6" is no longer an option. That's a shame because the 11.6" Aspire S7 was a sweet high end machine that was keenly portable.

Design and Ergonomics

The Acer Aspire S7 is one of the slimmest and lightest Ultrabooks money can buy. The 0.48" thick machine may be thin but it's very rigid thanks to the aluminum unibody design. The glass lid might seem like a weak point, but so far it's proven to be durable with normal use. That said, I wouldn't subject it to harsh knocks to the lid! The hinges are directly attached to the display frame for added rigidity and less wobble when you touch the screen. As with the last gen model, that display can open flat to 180 degrees.

Acer Aspire S7

The machine has a one piece aluminum keyboard deck, and the keyboard is slightly sunken so the keys don't touch the display when the lid is closed. It has two USB 3.0 ports (one on each side), a full size HDMI port, 3.5mm headphone-mic jack and a 1 Acer Converter port. It has a full size SD/MMC card slot and the Lithium Ion battery is sealed inside. Stereo speakers fire from the bottom (powered by Dolby Home Theatre v4) and it has dual mics.

The last gen S7's fans sounded like miniature jet engines, so Acer revised the design and the result is a much quieter machine. The second gen Twin Air Cooling is as quiet as most Ultrabooks, which is to say generally unobtrusive. You'll certainly hear the fan if you're playing Civ V or encoding HD video, but otherwise the Aspire S7 is nearly silent.

Acer Aspire S7

 

Deals and Shopping:

 

Acer Aspire S7 Video Review

Keyboard and Trackpad

The first gen S7 had a very shallow keyboard that was usable but not particularly comfortable. Acer increased key travel from 1.0 to 1.3mm on this second gen model and it really does help, though travel is still shorter than average. It's similar to the Sony Vaio Duo 13 keyboard in terms of travel, but unlike the Duo 13 convertible, you get a full size trackpad that's very usable. Acer uses the same EL backlighting that comes on automatically and glows light blue. The keyboard is inexplicably non-standard with the Fn keys sharing real estate with the numbers, the del key is on the bottom row instead of the top, caps lock is tiny and the Insert key is oversized and located directly above the Enter key (I doubt many folks use Insert all that much).

Display

The S7 has a bright and attractive gloss IPS display with wide viewing angles and 10 points of multi-touch. Thanks to the unique hinge design, you can lay the display flat on the table, and that's where the wide viewing angles shine. Colors are pleasing and saturated, though the display doesn't rate as well as the Sony Vaio Pro 13 and Vaio Duo 13 for color gaming. The full HD, 1920 x 1080 panel provides 72% of sRGB and 55% of Adobe RGB. Brightness measures 336 nits according to our Spyder colorimeter and contrast is a very good 530:1.

sRGB graph

sRGB graph

Performance and Horsepower

Like the last gen Aspire S7, the SSD is configured in RAID0 for improved speed, and our 128 gig SSD's speed matched and sometimes modestly exceeded the PCIe SSD in the Sony Vaio Pro 13. We're also thrilled that Acer went with 8 gigs of RAM on this machine, since memory is soldered to the motherboard and you won't be able to upgrade it later. Even if you never exceed 4 gigs of RAM, it's nice to know it's there for the future.

As noted with other recent Intel Haswell Ultrabooks like the Sony Vaio 13, Intel's fourth generation doesn't bring significant CPU or graphics performance, but it does extend battery life, and that's something the original S7 needed. Our machine runs on the Intel Core i7-4500U dual core CPU with Intel HD 4400 integrated graphics. As with most Ultrabooks, especially one this thin and light, there's no dedicated graphics option.

Benchmarks

(Core i7-4500U, 8 gigs RAM and 256 gig SSD)

PCMark 7: 5075

wPrime: 22.7 sec.

Windows Experience Index:
Processor: 6.9
RAM: 7.5
Graphics (for desktop): 5.9
Gaming Graphics: 6.5
HDD: 8.3

PCMark 7 Benchmark Comparison Table

Acer Aspire S7 (Core i7-4500U) 5075
Samusng ATIV Book 9 Plus 5050
HP Spectre 13 (Core i5) 4826
Sony Vaio Pro 13 (Core i5 Haswell) 4549
Sony Vaio Duo 13 (Haswell Core i7) 4800
Asus Transformer Book TX300 4495
Acer Aspire R7 3981
Asus Zenbook UX301 5828
Samsung Series 7 Ultra 4469
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch (Core i5) 4670
Dell XPS 12 (Core i5, Haswell) 4889
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 (Core i5) 4427
Asus Taichi 21 (Core i7) 4952
Acer Aspire S7 (Core i5, 11.6") 4728
Microsoft Surface Pro 4657

CrystalDiskMark SSD Scores

crystaldiskmark results

 

Battery Life

Here's the great news: the second generation Aspire S7 with Haswell inside has competitive runtimes. In fact, it can last 6 hours on a charge with average power management aggressiveness and WiFi on. That's 6 hours of actual usage time and not standby, which consumes very little power. The battery is surprisingly high capacity for such a thin and light machine: 6280 mAh in 4 cells.

Conclusion

If your budget is generous and you have a taste for the best, the Acer Aspire S7 is a top contender. The glass lid, 0.51" slim design and 2.87 lb. weight make for a stylish and attractive Ultrabook that competes nicely with the also very light and chic Sony Vaio Pro 13. The Acer is a bit pricey, but you do get a nice set of upgrades: Core i7 rather than i5 CPU, 8 gigs of RAM and a 256 gig SSD drive that augment performance. Our complaints about the first gen S7's battery life have been addressed and the keyboard has enough travel now that I wouldn't call it punishing. Yes, it's still short travel and the layout is a little odd, but it's not a deal breaker.

Website: www.acer.com

Price: $1,699 as tested, $1,499 for Core i5 model with 128 gig SSD

Related:

HP Spectre 13 Review

Sony Vaio Pro 13 Review

Asus Zenbook UX301 Review

Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus Review

Sony Vaio Duo 13 Review

Dell XPS 13 (FHD) Review

Dell XPS 12 Review

13" MacBook Air Review (Haswell)

 

Acer Aspire S7

 

Acer Aspire S7

 

Acer Aspire S7

 

Acer Aspire S7

 

Acer Aspire S7

 

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Specs:

Display: 13.3" full HD IPS multi-touch display, 1920 x 1080. Intel HD 4400 integrated graphics. HDMI port and Acer Converter port. Supports WiDi wireless display.

Battery: 4 cell, 6280 Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is sealed inside.

Performance: Fourth generation Intel Haswell ULV CPUs, all with Turbo Boost. 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U, 1.8GHz Core i7-4500U (with HD 4400 graphics). Mobile Intel HM77 Express chipset. 8 gigs of DDR3 LPDDR3-1600MHz RAM. 128 or 256 gig mSATA SSD options (RAID0).

Size: 12.72 x 8.78 x .51 inches. Weight: 2.87 pounds.

Camera: 720p webcam.

Audio: Built-in stereo speakers with Dolby Home Theatre v4, dual mics and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated Intel Centrino Advanced-N7260 dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0.

Software: Windows 8 64 bit.

Expansion and Ports: 1 SD card slot.

 

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