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Acer Aspire S7 Ultrabook review

Sabyasachi Biswas January 9 | Updated on January 07, 2013

Acer Aspire S7 Ultrabook   -  Business Line

Acer, as a computing device manufacturer has come out with many innovative designs. But mostly, the brand is associated more with its value for money personal computers, than the other gadgets it produces. With the advent of Windows 8, Acer produced its first touch-screen Ultrabook, the S7, because Windows 8 is best experienced on a touch screen.

So in this entire series of reviews on hybrids, we have a device which probably has the most conventional design. Just add a touchscreen to a super-slim Ultrabook, and you have the Aspire S7. But since the screen can be flipped back up to 180 degrees flat, and can be used as a biggish touchscreen tab, we decided to take the device as a hybrid in our comparison.

Design and build

The Aspire S7 follows the traditional Ultrabook form factor, and conforms to the latest trend in notebooks very well. The design is very slim, at only 11.9mm thick, and weighs only about 1.3kgs. Yes, we did find the Toshiba Protégé Z930 to be slimmer and lighter, but we have to consider that the 13.3-inch (the one that we got) S7 sports a touchscreen and a glass lid, which adds a little more heft than the magnesium-alloy bodied Z930.

Now that I have mentioned the glass lid, I should also tell you that the said panel adds a touch of class to the device. The smaller, 11-inch version of the S7 is also available in a brushed aluminium lid option, but personally, I found the white glass surface very beautiful. And if you’re assuming the glass will make it delicate, you’re wrong. It’s Corning Gorilla Glass, which is highly scratch resistant. And I’m saying this, because the S7 did not have a single scratch on its glass lid the entire time it was in my backpack, which is something of a metal maelstrom. Oh, and it also has a backlit Acer logo on the lid which looks smart in the dark.

Moving on, once you open the lid, you are greeted by a brilliant 13.3-inch HD IPS display, which supports 10 fingers multi-touch. Now this screen is full HD, i.e., 1920x1080 pixels. Everything, and by everything I mean every single thing, looks crisp, rich and clear on the screen. But it’s a gloss screen, so it is sometimes prone to glare.

The backlit, chiclet keys are decently sized for comfortable typing, and the trackpad is also large enough for comfortable usage. But I did have a couple of problems with the keyboard – the row of function keys was missing and I couldn’t find out if the Caps Lock was on or off. But the green backlight for the keyboard came on automatically, and they weren’t too distracting from the screen.

The rest of the body is made up of machined aluminium and plastic. The 13-inch variant features two USB 3.0 ports, one with charging function, an SD card reader, and 3.5mm headset port. There’s no full size HDMI or an RJ45 Ethernet port, but there’s a micro-HDMI port with an adapter, and a USB to Ethernet adapter in the box.

Tech and performance

The unit we received for review had an Intel 3{+r}{+d} Gen Core i5-3317U processor, packed 4GB of RAM and a 256GB Solid State Drive. The S7 is also available in other configuration options.

The first thing that I usually use on a review unit is multimedia. And on the S7, I really, really wanted to try out entertainment for two reasons. The first was the screen, and the second was the inclusion of Dolby Home Theatre enabled inbuilt speakers.

I watched the Blu-ray print of Behind Enemy Lines and neither the visuals nor the audio disappointed me. Since this screen is a 1080p one, watching the Blu-ray print was simply awesome. And for small inbuilt Ultrabook ones, the Acer’s speakers delivered high fidelity and loud but clear audio. In fact, it is one of the few laptop computers whose bass output I have liked.

The screen flips back flat till 180-degrees (3-4 degrees more, actually). Now amongst the whole lot of hybrids we’ve tried out, this one follows the oldest design, wherein the touchscreen cannot be separated form the base in any way, and you cannot use only the screen in a tablet mode. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I could get my most comfortable viewing angle on a big screen (relatively) at any point in time, and could just swap between using touch, keyboard or trackpad. Towards the end of the review, however, I was mostly using the touch function and depending on the keyboard only while typing out mails or work stuff.

The S7 scored an average of 597 on Novabench, lower than a few non-touch Ultrabooks we’ve used so far. But it makes up for that in what it offers visually and aurally.

The battery, however, was a little disappointing. The company claims to deliver a 5-hour run on the primary battery, and another 4.5 hours with the travel battery pack. The secondary battery was not available, and all I got on each full charge run was an average of 3.5 hours with different types of usage.

We say

It’s really difficult to say if this device is a pure hybrid, but then again, the term pure hybrid is an oxymoron in itself. I had an optimised touch experience which Windows 8 is all about, and that made this Ultrabook so different. Of course, I couldn’t use the standalone tablet mode, but then honestly, I like my tablets 10-inches or smaller.

In my opinion, this device is a good option for those who do not want to move on to a screen smaller than 11 inches, and still feel comfortable with an Ultrabook form factor and are hungry for performance delivery.

Rs 91,799

Love – brilliant screen, good design

Hate – battery life, pricey

sabyasachi.b@thehindu.co.in

Published on January 07, 2013

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