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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  • themossie - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    I sit 3-4 feet from my monitor depending (it's on an arm) - 27" 16:9 is quite wide, and not all that long ago a 27" monitor was unheard of for consumers :-)

    Can you show me some popular examples of this 'type search right -> glance left design' ? You
    may be right, but can't think of any programs I use that do this other than CTRL+F in web browsers.

    All programs I use:
    1. "annoying popup in middle of screen for search" (sigh)
    2. search bar along top/bottom

    I strongly prefer glancing up or down (like reading a page of text) to left/right (switching between two pages of a book?) - maybe that's just me.
  • rainking430 - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    I upgraded from 7 to 8.0 on a non-touchscreen 27" monitor myself and hadn't been bothered as much about that difference. That said, have you used the 8.1 Preview? All search results show up in the search bar now.
  • themossie - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    Haven't seen this, just looked up some screenshots. Thanks for the information!

    I'm still on Windows 7, that observation was from running Windows 8 in a VM. Might fire up 8.1 for fun.
  • sheh - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    I was checking at Panelook. Can't say how accurate they are, but they SEEM like they should be.

    If it is 6-bit and you can't see it, perhaps the DPI helps.
  • themossie - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    pg. 2: *lion's share of the duty. Late or spellcheck failure :-)

    "It’s the other three modes that are going to pull the ***lines share of the duty, so let’s look at each of those."

    Thanks for the article!
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    Actually, it was Dragon Naturally Speaking. I picked that back up and have used it for some of the dictation in some of my recent articles. Funny that they missed that one.
  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    "Also, grabbing smaller elements like scrollbars for the edge of a window to resize can be difficult with a touchscreen – there’s just not enough precision to pull it off properly." - Increase the DPI. Personally I don't see an issue.

    "this design revolution comes up a bit short – much like Windows 8 itself." - Please, just stop already, it's obvious that you, personally, do not like Windows 8.

    "Obviously, this is just one man's opinion on the subject, but if you scour the web you'll find many others with a similar take on Windows 8" - But as you suggested there's a whole load of people that DO like Windows 8.

    Certain sections of this article really do need to be changed as it's painfully obvious what the agenda is. If a reviewer doesn't like Windows 8 then just give the device to someone else to review.
  • rainking430 - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    Agreed. This is labeled a review, not an opinion article. It's a shame really, because I've enjoyed Jarred's reviews up till now and thought he was doing a decent job. Hadn't noticed such extreme bashing before.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    All reviews are opinions, and when a laptop/device is very clearly designed around the idea of Windows 8, that's going to be a major part of the review. Increasing DPI doesn't address the Excel issue. Without going into a menu, make a cell bigger, using just a touchscreen. To do this, you have to adjust the column width or row height, but while you can double-tap to get the autosize option, you cannot actually press and drag to create a custom size. Period.

    The response is of course the Steve Jobs line: "You're doing it wrong! It's not what I do, so why would anyone else want to do that?"

    Anyway, I wasn't aware that we had any sacred cows in the computing industry. I'll make a note of the fact that any time I have an opinion that may ruffle some feathers, I should turn over a review to someone that doesn't have an opinion on the matter. Is that really what people need?

    I'm trying to bring up some hard questions, and other than a lot of "you're totally wrong", "you should just stop", and "you just need to give it a try without bias", no one is actually giving any real solution to the problem. The problem is that I and a lot of others don't like the Windows 8 Start Screen or Metro apps, specifically on a desktop or full laptop. What is the end game here, and how does it play out?

    I didn't love Vista at first blush, but I didn't find it horrible (other than driver support for some devices). Win7 was basically thumbs up from the start, and the same goes for Windows XP, 98, and even 95. (I left out WinME on purpose.) Windows 8 on the other hand is Windows 7 in so many ways, but then with the whole new world of Metro overlayed in ways that often frustrate. Get rid of Metro and it's fine, except when Metro tries to rise from the dead (like creating a new user account).

    I'm not a huge Apple fan, having never really enjoyed using OS X much, but I'll go on record and say that it may be years or even "never" before Apple tries to integrate touchscreens and iOS apps into OSX. Microsoft did something Apple has so far been unwilling to do (trying to combine two disparate OSes and apps into one unified whole). Until we get screens that don't smudge or scratch, and applications for everything (not just consumption) that are designed to work well with touchscreen input, I at least am not clamoring for touchscreens.
  • ddriver - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    2 different 3D mark tests but not a single actual game? Does 3d mark synthetic performance tests favor intel's IGPs?

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