When it comes to laptops, you have a fairly standard design that they follow. Sure, some of them can fold or bend around and some even snap away from the keyboard to become a tablet. But I think the folks at Acer wanted to go just that little bit extra, which possibly explains what they were thinking when they released the Acer Aspire R7.
Build quality & Design
From the outside, the R7 looks like any other laptop on the market, sporting a shiny metallic finish and a number of ports all around. But right in the middle is a massive “Ezel” hinge, which is responsible for the R7’s various unique usability modes. Flip the lid up and you’re looking at a regular laptop, but pull the screen forward and it pivots on a strong hinge to use as a touchscreen. Fold it all the way down, and you’ve got a slightly raised (and bulky) Windows tablet.
The R7 is certainly heavy, and is designed more so to be a desktop replacement than a truly portable laptop. Yes, it’s got the styling of a laptop, but no one in their right mind is going to be carrying this around for very long. Port-wise you have a multi-port that lets you connect a series of optional dongles, HDMI, USB, SD reader, and volume jacks.
The R7 has received a minor boost under the hood, and our review unit came with an Intel i5-4200U processor at 2.30GHz, 6GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD, and an NVIDIA 750M discreet graphics chip. But for reasons unknown, the R7 seemed to take its own sweet time to boot into Windows each time, possibly down to the fact that it was running off an HDD rather than an SSD. Most apps did run without hiccups, although occasionally the R7 would pause for a few seconds if I swiped through various applications too quickly. Games are passable at medium settings – any higher than that and the R7 begins to struggle to keep framerates consistent.
You’ll get a comfortable resolution of 1920 x 1080 which is more than adequate for everyday use. Visually, the panel is bright and capable of display colors quite vividly with little loss of detail. The touchscreen is quick to respond to gestures and my constant prodding, and the included stylus pen is an added bonus. The pen is a cheaper alternative for any designers who can’t afford to have a separate digitizing tablet, since drawing on-screen was for the most part as accurate as using an external tablet.
When the R7 is folded down into ‘Tablet’ mode, the screen doesn’t quite sit flush with the keyboard, but the slightly raised profile does make typing a bit easier. However I found it uncomfortable to use the R7 in this mode, simply because it’s too big and heavy compared to a regular 10” tablet.
The R7 features some pretty loud speakers, which are capable of producing enough volume for listening to music or watching a movie. While they’re not exceptionally clear, they still offer a decent listening experience and a good amount of bass.
This is where the R7 loses most of its shine. Because the screen can be set at various angles, on a traditional laptop setup this would mean that a portion of the keyboard would be hidden by the tilted display. So Acer did the only logical thing they could think of and swapped the positions of the keyboard and trackpad. Doing this causes a number of issues. Firstly, you no longer have a palm rest to balance on when typing, and secondly your trackpad is now literally out of reach. You either have to stretch forward to use it properly or be content with tapping the screen instead. It’s this quirky design that makes the R7 a bit of a question mark – no one in their right mind would be able to use this laptop comfortably for extended periods of time. Thankfully though there is a small wireless mouse included in the box for when you’re using the R7 on a desk, but if you’re out and about and typing at an event or on a plane, you’ll have to try and figure out another way to navigate comfortably.
The R7 lasted just five hours before needing to be juiced up. That’s not incredible, but given the weight and size of this laptop, I don’t think you’ll be roaming too far from a power socket. The R7 did remain cool to the touch, even when playing numerous videogames and streaming movies.
I have to commend Acer on trying something different with the R7, but it just might be that the laptop’s design is a bit far away from mainstream ones, which might make it difficult for people to warm up to. But if you’re willing to overlook the awkward trackpad/keyboard swap, you could do some pretty interesting things with the R7 and its various usability modes.
+ Responsive touchscreen
+ Decent audio performance
- Quirky trackpad layout is hard to get used to