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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  • safcman84 - Friday, August 16, 2013 - link

    If Acer had gone for Win RT, then you be fair to compare to tablets. However this hybrid-ultrabook isnt competing in the same market. This is not a consumer tablet device

    If Acer had gone for iOS or Android it wouldnt be able to run full desktop apps, and therefore would lose its appeal to the market it is aiming for.

    You wont see the full impact of Win8 for another year/year and a half. The company I work at (120k employees globally) is rolling out win8 next year and abandoning the iPads it started to roll out last year. Why? cos iOS cannot handle the applications that win8 can, and they want their workstations, laptops, phones, laptops etc to run the same ecosystem so business users dont have to learn how to use 3 seperate OSes
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 16, 2013 - link

    Except, they'll still potentially have three different OSes:

    Windows 8.1 for desktops/laptops and expensive tablets
    Windows RT for inexpensive tablets, unable to run full Windows applications
    Windows Phone, which is another separate platform.

    So unless they only go with full Windows 8.1 devices, they'll still face a fragmented set of platforms, and the phones and RT devices will need new apps, and using RT and Phone is not the same as using Windows any more than iOS and OS X are the same.
  • bearinthevalley - Friday, August 23, 2013 - link

    hmm then you should work at a better company. the one i work at with 70k employees allows its employees to choose any platform he/she wants. it's called "any device" or "bring your own device" concept. we don't live in an age where corporate IT has to heavyhandly force devices and platforms on its users, but rather empowering its employees to be efficient and productive in the platform/device/OS they personally prefer. it's proven that employees are far more productive and satisfied if they could choose their own devices. hence if you come to our office you will see a diverse ecosystem of devices coexisting, from thinkpad to ipad, from macbook air to retina pro, from surface to android, you can use anything and all our corporate apps will just work (ideally at least)
  • gxtoast - Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - link

    I think that it should be noted just how immature Windows 8 Metro is as an OS and as a platform for touch centric applications. I think, as an OS, it is pretty good and can certainly keep up with IOS and Android. However, usability is a key aspect in the new touch world and Microsoft is struggling to adopt this new requirement.

    If you take a look at Apple it becomes clear that they have made usability the centerpiece of their OSes. From this position they have encouraged, through marketing and culture, all of their developers to match or better any Apple usability innovation.

    It remains to be seen whether Microsoft can fully embrace and realize usability in their own applications and OS, and push their developers to do the same.

    I've been using Windows for a long time and have recently come back to the Apple eco-system looking for a range of apps. What I have discovered is that most Apple applications have a refinement and usability excellence that just isn't present in the majority of Windows apps. It is quite astounding, actually. Apple developers just seem to go deeply into usability and produce beautiful user interfaces that ooze fuctionality. Windows is very clearly playing catchup in this way.

    Another misstep that Microsoft has made, and I think it is a major one, is their INSISTENCE of a 16:9 display ratio for all Windows 8 devices. This is THE biggest reason why my next tablet will be an iPad and NOT a Windows tablet. Microsoft talks about Content Creation, but their insistence on 16:9 puts them squarely in the Content Consumption category. A big fail I think.
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, August 24, 2013 - link

    But we're comparing the products here, not what the market thinks, don't we? Your task as a reviewer is not to say "people have not bought it in masses, so it can't be good" but rather "This and this are the strengths of the product, whereas these are weaknesses. It's worth buying in this and this scenario, but not in that one."
  • themossie - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    FWIW, I still have yet to meet anyone who uses the touchscreen on their laptop -and- runs Windows 8.

    Most professionals who need a touchscreen for their work don't benefit from Windows 8.
    Most (not all) consumers don't see the value proposition in paying more for it.
    Those consumers who do see the benefit of a touchscreen tend to just buy an Android/iOS
  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    This does not make sense. I've seen people using keyboards with their ipads and you'd bet that if they had a mouse they'd not be touching the screen. Think about it... . I have a Dell 24" touchscreen in front of me... Do I 'touch' the screen? No. Why buy it then? BECAUSE I CAN.
  • themossie - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    Kinda confused by this post...

    Plenty of consumers use iPads as their primary computer device, so they end up buying a keyboard. This is cheaper, lighter, easier to use (for light consumer workloads) and has a lot more touch apps than a good lightweight touch Win8 laptop.

    Why would they use a mouse with it? Have you seen anyone use a mouse with an iPad? I haven't tried it, but with an Android tablet a mouse is a miserable experience - because everything's designed for touch.

    Buy a 24" touchscreen you don't touch "because you can"? Huh? Isn't that >2x the regular price for a feature you won't use?
  • karasaj - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    To be fair the first year of android tablet sales weren't exactly spectacular. It wasn't until the kindle fire that they really began to catch on. And I think windows 8 is a better tablet OS than android was back then with its 6 android tablet optimized apps... So its quite possible 8.1 and $200 tablets could help a lot.

    Microsofts issue is charging $90 for an OS in a world where all of the other major competitors provide it for free. That eats into an OEMs margins, which either drives the price up or makes them unwilling to adopt. It HAS to be cheaper or free. Like, $10.
  • nafhan - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    I'm curious what you mean by "fully functional". Runs windows apps?

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