Acer is having its go at the convertible laptop with the Aspire R7, a 15.6" model that sports the firm's unique Ezel hinge. This original system allows you to flip the screen into multiple positions, including tablet mode. The model we're reviewing has decidedly multimedia-oriented components (Intel Haswell Core i5-4200U, Nvidia GeForce GT 750M graphics card and a 1 TB HDD), but doesn't feature an optical drive.
Built entirely of aluminium, the body is relatively thin for a 15.6-inch laptop. The massive brushed aluminium hinge in the back that turns the R7 into a multipurpose device is something you can't missed.
You'll probably only end up using three of the positions, shown here. It's easy to flip between the different modes and the hinge has just the right amount of resistance, making the system sturdy and reliable. With the screen placed over the keyboard in tablet position, the display stays slightly ajar, tilted upward so that it doesn't actually lay completely flat over the keys, making it look sort of like a drafting table. This is a great way to use the stylus, which comes included. When you tilt the screen so the edge comes up right next to the keyboard, it covers the touchpad, making it unusable. The final position turns the R7 into a standard laptop with the touchpad exposed. The touchpad is located above the keyboard, which makes it difficult to use. Acer includes a mouse, probably to make up for this annoyance.
The backlit chiclet keyboard has well-sized keys, but they have very little resistance, making them feel somewhat weak. Since the touchpad is placed above the keyboard, there's no palm rest, which isn't the most comfortable way to use a touchpad. That said, it's spacious and supports all of the Windows 8 touch gestures.
The ports are reduced to the bare minimum: two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, a headphone-microphone combo jack, an HDMI out, a Thunderbolt port and an SD card reader. Fortunately, there's a USB-to-VGA adapter in the box. But it's really a shame there's no DVD or Blu-ray player for a computer this size with components like these. The wireless connectivity consists of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, with a signal we measured at -42 dBm between 5 and 10 metres away and -54 dBm from 20 metres away.
Heat management is not one of the R7's strong suits. We found temperatures of up to 45°C on the underside and 42°C on the top. With the heat that high, the fan struggles to keep things in line and produces up to 39 dB(A) of noise while churning.
The Aspire R7 has a 15.6-inch IPS touchscreen with 1920 x 1080 pixels. It has a maximum brightness of 317 cd/m², which does a certain amount to counter the glossy screen's reflections. Fortunately, the high contrast ratio of 1,234:1 helps increase the visibility.
Grey colour temperature
The colours are a tad less impressive. The colour temperature is an acceptable 6,273 K (6,500 K is the ideal), but the Delta E equals 4, making the tones not quite natural. The best laptops get a Delta E of under 3, denoting more faithful hues.
Despite the large chassis, Acer only deemed it necessary to give the R7 an in/out combo jack, but the sound through it does have a good stereo image and volume, with no unwanted background noise.
The speakers aren't quite as good as the line out. They're incapable of producing proper levels of bass and mids and stay cottony in the middle of the spectrum. The sound is fine for voices, but nothing more than that. Shame for a multimedia laptop.
Note: The model we were sent to review features an Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 8 GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GT 750M graphics card, a 1 TB hard drive and a 24 GB SSD. The comments above refer to all versions of the Acer Aspire R7, whereas the sections below apply only to the model we tested (see inset below). Available configurations may also vary depending on the country/region in which you live.
It's an Intel Core i5-4200U at the helm, a processor we've already run into on the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus. In the Aspire R7 it performs 5% faster than in the Ativ Book, and it's a chip that can handle any type of task at reasonable speeds.
The graphics are handled by an Nvidia GeForce GT 750M, which is a good mid-range video card, as you can see in the graphs below. It easily outperforms Intel's integrated chipsets, as well as low-end graphics cards, but, of course, it's still a far cry from a real gaming machine like the GTX 765M.
You can get the GT 750M to run a good number of games in the screen's native Full HD resolution without having to make too many sacrifices in the settings. For more power-hungry games like Crysis 3 or Battlefield 4, you'll have to considerably lower the detail and resolution to get fluid gameplay.
MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE
The Aspire R7 held out for 5 hours and 45 minutes in our standard battery test (continuous video playback with Wi-Fi turned off, brightness at 100 cd/m² and headphones plugged in). That's good for a laptop this size and it should make it a trusty travel companion—as long as you have a bag that's big enough to hold it.