Products come across my desk regularly. Some are great, some aren't, and most are in between. While it's a perk, review products aren't often made for me. On a case-by-case basis, the products I am looking for are often aimed at different market segments than my own. This is not the case with the Acer Aspire S7.
The touchable, noble ultrabook is aimed directly at the road warrior, greedy for power, superuser. The S7 is an expensive machine. The starting price is close to $ 1400, but our spec configured with the Core i7 costs $ 1650. For the price, customers see a superlative data sheet and a beautifully designed body. I know what you're thinking. The S7 should better be amazing for that kind of money. Don't worry, with a few qualifying features, the Aspire S7 easily belongs to the top Windows 8 computers. Is that enough to justify the cost?
The S7's thin profile made of aluminum and gorilla glass makes a good first impression. The deck and the lid are completely rigid. There is no bend in the frame of the laptop. It's very comforting considering how light the machine is. The lid is framed with brushed aluminum, which is soft and cool to the touch. This frame is filled with white glass, which is nowhere near as susceptible to fingerprints as I expected.
The same applies to the (more important) glass on the other side of the lid. I suspect that Acer gave the machine's glass surfaces an oleophobic coating. This oleophobic coating is starting a trend that has emerged from the design of the rest of the laptop. Fingerprints are guaranteed to be painful on a laptop with a touchscreen. This coating relieves the pain of the user and prevents all but the greasiest fingers from smearing the screen. Thoughtful design and refined details like these litter the Aspire S7.
Acer Aspire S7 – $ 1,650
- 13.3 "1920×1080 LED multi-touch display with backlight
- Intel Core i7-3517U (1.9-3.0 GHz)
- Intel HD Graphics 4000
- 4 GB DDR3 RAM
- 256 GB SSD
- SD / MMC card reader
- 2 USB 3.0, HDMI, audio jack
- 802.11b / g / n, Bluetooth 4.0
- 1.3 megapixel webcam
- Chiclet keyboard
- Multi-gesture touchpad with integrated buttons
- 4-cell Li-polymer battery (4680 mAh)
- 12.73 x 8.79 x 0.47 inches, 2.86 pounds
Consider another constant problem with the first wave of touch-enabled laptops: the hinges just weren't designed to withstand bumps and bumps. This leads to uncomfortable ergonomic situations where the left hand is holding the screen while the right hand is cutting fruit in Fruit Ninja. The Acer machine corrects this error. The hinge is remarkably stiff and becomes even stiffer at normal viewing angles. This addition makes the touchscreen function infinitely more convenient and practical.
There is, however, a compromise: the reinforced hinge makes opening the S7 a little more difficult than I would like. To compensate, the entire lid has a slight indentation on the edge. It's perfect for sliding a finger under, and while the laptop still isn't that easy to open, smart design makes a definite design compromise less of a … well, compromise.
The S7's cooling solution is another of my favorite design choices. Each external fan is located on the back of the laptop. For this reason, the S7 never blows hot air over your hands. It's a smart, user-centric design.
These properties, in combination with the beautiful frame of the S7, are a convincing argument. In addition, the hardware design, even with a few minor issues, is the best quality of the S7.
Actually, the use of the S7 is more of a mixed bag. Some things, like the tiny power adapter and charging port, are great; other things, like the power switch placement, aren't. The power switch is located on the left side of the deck and is very easy to press. More than once, when I moved the laptop while it was in use (the power button is inactive when the lid is closed), the palm of my hand found the button and accidentally turned off the device. It appears the power switch moved as a concession for a clean deck for the S7.
It wasn't a smart call, but that's the exception rather than the rule.
As you move to the deck, the keyboard is wonderful to touch. The keys are soft, responsive, and offer great travel, not just for an ultrabook. The keyboard has a quirk. There is no function line. Instead, keys such as the row of numbers under Acer's five-line arrangement have a triple functionality. It's not the world's biggest loss, but keep in mind that there will be a learning curve for the S7's deeper keyboard functionality.
The trackpad made by Elan is not very good. The one-button aluminum sheet feels nice to the touch like the rest of the laptop, but it just doesn't work well for some tasks. Scrolling with two fingers works very well on the Metro start screen, but it can be jerky on websites. Pinch-to-zoom has never been more shaky on Windows. Unfortunately, the Elan device also encounters basic tasks. Finger tracking is solid, but tapping the pad to click works about 60% of the time, a tragically small percentage. Actually, clicking the trackpad works, but this is hardly my first choice for interaction.
The touchscreen is the superlative. It reacts in any case and works exactly as you expect and want it to. Oddly enough, I've used it a lot more than I expected in the traditional desktop segments of Windows 8.