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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  • andrejg - Friday, August 16, 2013 - link

    I think that you should divide Windows 8 criticism in two parts. One is metro and that one I can understand. The other one is the platform, kernel and everything beneath the UI, that is far better, faster, more optimized, smaller than any previous version of Windows.
    I did upgrade (in place over old install) my working horse (Core2duo E6400) to Windows 8 from windows 7, and it runs smoother and faster and it is an ancient HW. Also I run Windows 8 on my lattitude X2 with very slow Core 2 Duo SU9400 at 1,4Ghz and is much more fluid than Windows 7. I also upgraded my daughter's ancient HP with core2duo t5400 with 2Mb RAM and it shows...
    So, i guess you'd also benefit from upgrading, and with maybe Classic shell installed one can hardly know, he's running also Metro. And I will not even go to the hyper-v capabilities of Windows 8...
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 16, 2013 - link

    I did mention in the article that the kernel improvements of Win8 are worthwhile and good, and it's mostly the mess that is Metro and Metro Apps (and the Store) that are my complaint.
  • Braumin - Friday, August 16, 2013 - link

    I'll throw this in here too. You, as a power user, don't like the Start Screen. That's great, lots of people as you said have the same complaint.

    I, as a power user, love the Start Screen. When I'm in the desktop, I find myself missing features that are only available on the Metro Side - mostly Contracts, which are freaking amazing.

    However recently my grandparents needed a new computer. I took them shopping, and they bought an Asus all-in-one with a 23" touchscreen and Windows 8. Yes, it took a bit to teach them how to do things that they used to do in Windows XP, but they love the Start Screen. Everything they need is right there, and it's all pretty dead simple to use for someone who's not too computer savvy.

    You may ask why they didn't just get a tablet, but they needed something that could do more.
  • snajk138 - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    How about you using the start button that's on every keyboard to start the search? And why would you need to look at the search bar when the cursor's there already? For me it is no different from Vista/7. I hit the start button on the keyboard, start to type what I'm looking for and get the results to the left or just hit enter when I've typed enough.

    If you're at all worried about efficiency you shouldn't be doing this kind of thing with a mouse anyway...
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    That works great on a tablet too, doesn't it? How about this: type "Firewall" and see what you get. I can tell you of course: on Win7 if you hit Enter you get the advanced Firewall controls, which might not be what you wanted, but three items down is the normal Firewall option in the Control Panel. On Win8, do the same and you get "No apps match your search" (unless you have some non-standard app named Firewall...), so you arrow down twice to Settings (or click it in the top-right), and there's your Windows Firewall option. Which of course is a desktop mode window. Win 8.1 is supposed to improve this, sure, but it never should have been like this to begin with.
  • themossie - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    yes! yes! yes! Making you go -back- to the top right.

    Efficiency is important... but usability is a must.
  • Braumin - Friday, August 16, 2013 - link

    OK I just tried it. I hit Start, typed Firewall, and the first thing to come up was Windows Firewall.

    I'll agree that with Windows 8, they screwed up by changing the search into Files/Settings/Apps, but that's been corrected in Windows 8.1. I know this laptop you reviewed isn't on 8.1 yet, but I think you'll find that it corrects a lot of the issues with 8.
  • themossie - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    I just hit Ctrl+Esc :-) For power users, that's great. My relatives/friends don't use the start key at all, and my coworkers rarely do - most users don't use keyboard shortcuts AT ALL.

    On Windows 8 you often do need to look at the search bar. Why?

    There are different kinds of search results (Files, Applications, Settings) below the search bar (Top Right/Middle)... and I often need to choose what to search.
  • ZeDestructor - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    Good point, but for me: On WinVista (or XP if you replaced the start menu with one of the numerous Vista start menu clones) and up:

    1. Hit (physical) start button and type first 3-4 letters blindly (oh look, I condensed 2 of you steps into a single, faster, more comfortable one! I'm gonna have myself one cookie :D)
    2. Search results appear at top of start menu/screen

    Note on 2: If you use a vertical-left taskbar layout in Win7, the results also appear at the top-left. It simply always appear at the top-left of the menu. Win8 having a fullscreen "start menu", it remains at the top left.

    In addition, searching using few letters is so much easier since you have a ton of columns for programs to go side by side, and picking the correct one is easier because the hitboxes are about twice the size now (helps when your default sensitivity is 2400 dpi)

    Over and above that, you can pin significantly more stuff to the start screen, which is useful for shortcuts you use once in a while, but not all the time.
  • althaz - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    Not a bad point (you must sit mighty close to your monitor though). I guess I never thought about it because I mostly use the windows key for launching the start screen (and the glance from right-hand-side search bar to left-hand-side results is how things are supposed to be designed, people's eyes are amazing at glancing to the left - you can see this in the design of a horde of things and is a key principle in modern design).

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