Several months ago, Acer released the Aspire R7, a new and interesting take on touchscreen laptops. We didn’t have an opportunity to review it at the time of launch, but Acer did ship one out a bit later and it’s an interesting enough laptop that we wanted to discuss some of what might make this laptop appealing to a subset of our readers. We’ll start with the customary specifications table, and after you see the specs you’ll hopefully begin to understand why we aren’t going to do a super in-depth review.

Acer Aspire R7-571-6858 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-3337U
(Dual-core 1.8-2.7GHz, 3MB L3, 22nm, 17W)
Chipset HM77
Memory 6GB (4GB onboard, 2GB SO-DIMM, 12GB Max)
(DDR3-1600 11-11-11-28 timings)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000
(16 EUs at 350-1100MHz)
Display 15.6" Glossy AHVA 1080p (1920x1080)
(AUO B156HAN01.2)
Storage 500GB 5400RPM HDD (Western Digital WD5000LPVX)
24GB SSD Cache (Kingston SMS151S324G)
Optical Drive N/A
Networking 802.11n WiFi (Broadcom BCM43228)
(Dual-band 2x2:2 300Mbps capable)
Bluetooth 4.0 + HS (Broadcom)
Audio Realtek HD
Stereo Speakers
Headset combo jack
Battery/Power 4-cell, ~15.1V, 3560mAh, 53.6Wh
65W Max AC Adapter
Front Side N/A
Left Side Headset jack
2 x USB 3.0
1 x HDMI
1 x Mini-VGA
Right Side Flash Reader (SD)
1 x USB 2.0
Volume Control
Power Button
AC Power Connection
Kensington Lock
Back Side 2 x Exhaust Vent
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 14.8" x 10.0" x 1.1" (WxDxH)
(376mm x 254mm x 28mm)
Weight 5.29 lbs (2.4kg)
Extras HD Webcam
86-Key Keyboard
Ezel hinge
Pricing MSRP: $1000
Online: $900

If we were to have looked at the R7 when it first launched three months ago, it might have made a bit more sense, but with the Haswell processors now launched and relatively available, Ivy Bridge is definitely showing its age. What’s more, none of the other specifications really stand out as being marquee features… except for the display and its so-called “Ezel hinge”. We’ll get to that in a moment, but let’s first quickly touch on the other specifications.

The R7 comes with 4GB of memory soldered onto the motherboard and a single SO-DIMM slot. There’s only one model of R7 currently available now, at least in the US (and this is not likely to change for this generation), and Acer populates the SO-DIMM slot with a 2GB DIMM. Storage duties are handled by a 500GB hard drive with a 24GB solid state drive as a caching drive; unfortunately, Acer uses Condusiv’s ExpressCache as opposed to Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology, so in my experience the boost from the SSD cache isn’t as noticeable. Still, it’s better than relying purely on HDD storage. Considering the size of the R7, the lack of an optical drive and somewhat small battery are also going to raise a few question marks.

The model we’re looking at uses a Core i5-3317U processor, with its associated HD 4000 iGPU. There was apparently a model overseas that had a GT 750M dGPU as well, but either it never made it to the US or it’s no longer available. It’s a bit of a shame, as having more potent graphics would have opened the door for additional use cases like gaming, and the touchscreen might have proved useful in some games (though the number of premiere games that are built with touchscreen support is amazingly limited right now).

Connectivity options are pretty much par for the course, though perhaps a little bit limited for a 15.6-inch notebook. You get two USB 3.0 ports and a single USB 2.0 port, HDMI and VGA outputs, a combination headphone/microphone headset jack, and an SD card reader. That’s pretty much everything I use on a regular basis, with nothing extra. Note that there is not Ethernet, which is an unfortunate omission considering the size of this notebook. The wireless solution is at least decent, with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios and connection speeds up to 300Mbps, but the lack of 802.11ac means real-world transfer speeds will never be more than about 20-25MB/s.

The specs are a bit underwhelming, but if you really like the design it’s possible to upgrade to the memory to 12GB with an 8GB SO-DIMM, and you can swap out the 24GB mSATA SSD caching drive for a full SSD, plus the chassis supports a standard 2.5” drive as well. You could try upgrading the WiFi as well, but many OEMs lock down the supported WiFi cards so that may not work. The only major drawback to upgrading is that you’ll have to open the bottom of the laptop, which isn’t too bad if not for one thing. You need a T-9 Torx screwdriver, and then you need to pry up two of the rubber pads to get to the last three screws. The rubber pads use an adhesive, so after prying them up you may find that they don’t stay put as well. Other than the three hidden screws, it’s pretty simple to get inside the R7, and the bottom of the chassis comes off with no difficulty.

As a final note, this is definitely a hefty notebook, weighing 5.3 pounds without any particularly demanding hardware. In fact, I’ve seen gaming laptops with 15.6-inch displays that have quad-core processors and discrete GPUs that weigh this much. The reason for the bulk probably has a lot to do with the Ezel hinge, though I have to say that as far as Acer products are concerned, this is possibly the most solid feeling laptop I’ve ever seen from them. There’s no flex, creaking, or any other indication that this laptop might fall apart in a couple years. And with that said, let’s move on to the crux of this review: a discussion of the Ezel hinge and the various operating modes of the Acer R7.

Acer R7: Fundamentally Redesigned
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  • ZeDestructor - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    It does indeed. And so far, I haven't seen a single ultrabook with VGA (DIE VGA, DIE, TOGETHER WITH YOUR HATEFUL BROTHER, DVI!)

    Even projectors have moved on to miniDP/HDMI these days, with VGA firmly legacy, but of course, cheapskate business will try to save as usual, so you'll need an adapter for their 800x600 projector....
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    I understand it might look like DisplayPort, but it's not. Here's a link to the data sheet, which I admit isn't as easy to find on Acer's site as you might expect:

    Note how it says, "VGA: Yes".
  • jaydee - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    I did actually go to the spec sheet on Acer's site before posting, but I still think it's incorrect. Compare the following images:

    If it were mini-VGA, you should see the 7 individual pins in the bottom of the port, no?
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    There is no standard for mini-VGA -- it's a proprietary thing, so how you implement is up to you. I think there might even be a mini-VGA to VGA cable with the R7.
  • jaydee - Friday, August 16, 2013 - link

    After some googling, that port is actually called the "Acer Converter Port", and with proprietary cables, you can connect VGA, USB or ethernet to it. According to Acer's website, it is the exact same physical port as mini-DP. Hella-confusing if you ask me.
  • ZeDestructor - Friday, August 16, 2013 - link

    Just... why.... Why not just use Thunderbolt?
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 16, 2013 - link

    From the page you linked:

    Can I connect my Aspire R7 series to a LAN or VGA port?
    To connect to a LAN or connect to a VGA monitor, you first have to connect the Acer Converter cable to the Acer Converter port on your computer. The Acer converter cable is a one-to-three cable that provides an Ethernet port, VGA port and an additional USB port.

    Can I connect a DisplayPort monitor to the Acer Converter Port?
    The Acer Converter Port uses the same physical port as a Mini DisplayPort, but is designed to connect to an Acer proprietary cable. If you connect a DisplayPort monitor, Acer cannot guarantee the functionality of the monitor. No damage should occur to either monitor or notebook by connecting a Mini DisplayPort cable."

    Ummm... so is it a DisplayPort connector, or is it just the same shape? Because if it's not DisplayPort it won't work at all, but if it is then it should always work. And of course, Thunderbolt also uses the same style of connector, right? I don't immediately see any Thunderbolt chips in the internal images, but perhaps the chip is on the other side of the motherboard. I'm guessing more likely is that it's not TB or DP but something altogether different.
  • ananduser - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    I don't like this machine Jarred, not one bit. I'll also agree with you that Win8 is a yin/yang affair for the moment; personally I'll give MS one more year before I judge Metro on a desktop - waiting for one more iteration of Win8 devices with the expected CPU improvements in the industry. Until then, ClassicStart only.

    Now Jarred, how about reviewing some Vaios, the S7(preferably the Euro version or both). I've yet to read a review on a Vaio(Pro and Duo) that actually dives into the Triluminous/Quantum Dot tech Sony has developed. Only Anandtech™ can do that.
  • ZeDestructor - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    Anandtech hasn't reviewed any Sony devices for the past year at least... I'm still waiting for an Xperia Z review myself (hint, hint Brian Klug!)
  • djc208 - Friday, August 16, 2013 - link

    True, but that's kind of like saying Ferrari isn't as good as Honda because how many people own Ferraris.

    The Surface Pro is a laptop without the keyboard, and priced similarly. Its not really competition for iPads and Android tablets at half the price and functionality. The surface RT looses the benfits of Windows 8, without the apps and ecosystem of either iOS or Android for the same or more money. Besides the confusion over what RT can and cannot do. And the Vivo was cheap crap that was still too expensive for what you got.

    I don't think Windows 8 is perfect, nor do I expect 8.1 to fix everything, but Microsoft has most of the pieces to bring people back to Windows devices, and as usual they just can't execute.

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