Acer has been doing very interesting things with their Windows 8 machines, and the Acer Aspire R7 is their boldest product to date. The Aspire R7 would look at home on the set of Star Trek, as Acer pointed out in their marketing videos with a Star Trek movie spin. At first blush it's a 15.6" slim and light laptop with an odd but attractive lid design element. That design element is actually a very robust yet stylish looking center hinge, and this Windows 8 convertible transforms from laptop to tablet, to presentation mode and a variety of positions in between. It even has what we like to call a "lazy Susan" or "tray table" position where the display floats parallel to the table and keyboard for closer access. If you though the Lenovo Yoga 13 was cool and innovative, the Acer Aspire R7 makes it look a little staid.
Inside we've got standard Ultrabook components, though this machine is by no means and Ultrabook in terms of size and weight. The 5.3 lb. R7 runs on a 1.8GHz Intle Core i5-3337U CPU (that's the recently refresh Ivy Bridge Core i5 from Intel). It has Intel HD 4000 graphics, 6 gigs of DDR3 RAM, a 500 gig (5400 rpm) hard drive and a 24 gig caching SSD to speed up boot and application load times. It has dual band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 +HS and a 720p webcam. There's no dedicated graphics option here in the US. The machine runs Windows 8 64 bit on the same internals as other Ultrabooks on the market, and that means it's more than capable of handling MS Office, photo editing, light video editing, web browsing, email and social networking. It has all the ingredients to be a main laptop unless you're a serious gamer, heavy duty number cruncher or CAD designer.
The star of the show, once you look past the versatile design, is the full HD 1920 x 1080 display with 10 points of multi-touch. It has IPS-like 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. 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.
For $999, the Acer Aspire R7 feels and looks like a quality piece (Acer is no longer the company that makes cheap netbooks). The patented hinge is brilliantly simple with none of the trap doors or slightly exposed wires that we noted on the Sony Vaio Duo 11 and Toshiba Satellite U925t convertible Ultrabooks. The hinge's brushed metal back is attractive and strong. Acer calls it their Ezel hinge (a pun on easel + easy) and it's surprisingly firm, yet it doesn't require herculean effort to move. You can use it in any position and it won't wobble, shift or fall prey to gravity. Likewise it doesn't bounce when you touch it with a finger. We've seen, good, dubious and simply mediocre convertible designs on Windows 8 convertibles, and I'd call this one a winner. It's useful, not overly complex and attractive.
The drawback? The trackpad is oddly placed behind the backlit keyboard, so you have to reach across the keyboard to use it. Acer's counting on you using the touch screen instead of the trackpad. Since the Aspire R7 has a position that moves the display to cover the trackpad while bringing it closer to the keyboard, it mostly works for us.
Here's our Acer Aspire R7 video review. Our full written review will follow.