Review: Acer Aspire S7: Full HD IPS Touchscreen Ultrabook

Our score: 4/5
Reviewed: December 20, 2012 9:00 AM
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Published: December 20, 2012 9:00 AM
By Alexandre Botella
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
We already got a glimpse of this ultrabook last October at La Factory, but now we finally got to poke and prod at will. It's a 13.3-inch ultrabook with a Full HD IPS touchscreen, the Acer Aspire S7-391.

Design4/5



Acer Aspire S7-391 - box


Acer obviously did a lot of work on the box. It contains a charger cable, a USB-to-RJ45 (Ethernet) adapter, a mini-HDMI-to-VGA adapter, a carrying pouch and a small, wireless mouse. Unboxing the Aspire S7-391 is kind of like opening a Christmas present. The packaging is designed so well that you won't have to spend hours trying to get all the pieces to fit in (if, say you're going to sell it or ship it).


Acer Aspire S7-391 - box open

With a pearl white lid and edges, the Aspire S7-391 is an elegant computer. The contours of the keyboard are coloured in a metallic grey that combines nicely with the rest of the chassis.

The backlit chiclet keyboard has low-lying keys that are quiet when you type. The keys are generally the right size and in their standard locations, except for CAPS LOCK, which is much too small and the ² key, which is in an uncommon location, stuck up against the CAPS LOCK key, as you can see below.

Acer Aspire S7-391 - keyboard

Like the Sony Vaio S13 Series, the spacious touchpad supports all the Windows 8 touch gestures. You can, for example, browse through apps or launch them from Modern UI by moving your finger from the left side of the touchpad towards the centre. But the driver doesn't have as extensive help about the touch gestures as the Vaio S13's driver, which has videos showing the movements. Here all you have is drawings.

Acer Aspire S7-391 - ports 1

The Aspire S7 has the same connectivity as the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A: two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, a mini-HDMI out and a headphone/microphone combo jack. For Ethernet you have no choice but to use one of the two USB ports for the RJ45 adapter. We aren't thrilled about this solution, but at least the adapter's included.
 
Acer Aspire S7-391 - ports 2

If you need more than one USB port at a time (for a mouse, key, hard drive...) then you'll have to buy a USB hub to go along with this laptop.

Acer Aspire S7-391 - heat
Heat readings with the components under stress
Images captured with a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera

We were surprised to hear the fan wake up and jump to 42 dB(A) for over a minute while the computer had only the Windows desktop running. When you push the components to their limits with benchmarks and processor-intensive software, noise produced by the fan can go as high as 50 dB(A). The heat, however, always stays in check.


Display3/5


Acer Aspire S7-391 - delta e
Colour accuracy (Delta E)

As an IPS display, this screen necessarily offers wider viewing angles than a TN panel would. But what makes this screen stand out from the 13.3-inch lot is the Full HD resolution, which beats all the competition still stuck at 1366 x 768 pixels. The only thing is, the colours are inaccurate with a Delta E of 6.4. The contrast isn't amazing either, with a ratio of 550:1. To cap it off, the brightness maxes out at 220 cd/m², making the glossy screen unable to avoid reflections and glare from direct light sources (the sun, lamps, etc.).
 
Acer Aspire S7-391 - rotation

The Aspire S7-391's screen may not flip all the way back behind the keyboard the way the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga does, but the multitouch display is nonetheless comfortable to use with the computer sitting on your lap. Acer added its own shortcut (Fn + O) to rotate the image 90° or 180°. Portrait mode is especially practical for reading.

Acer Aspire S7-391 - rotate

 

Audio3/5



The headphone/mic combo jack certainly helps make extra space on the chassis, but it means that if you want to use something other than the built-in microphone, you have to use a hands-free kit. However, the sound is accurate and dynamic, with high volume and little to no distortion.

Acer Aspire S7-391 - audio
Frequency response curve from the built-in speakers
Green = good / Orange = tolerable / White = too heavily altered

The speakers have gotten slimmer with each successive generation and struggle to produce quality sound without instant saturation. We recommend sticking with the headphones.

Our Model:


The model we were sent to review features an Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 4 GB of RAM, an Intel HD 4000 graphics chipset and a 128 GB solid-state drive. Whereas the comments above refer to all versions of the Acer Aspire S7-391, the observations below apply to the configuration we tested only, as each model has different specifications. Individual components may also vary depending on the country/region you live in (see inset).

Processing Power5/5



The Intel Core i5-3317U processor is more than respectable and can handle most any task (3D modelling, video encoding...). The 128 GB SSD and 4 GB of RAM make the S7-391 a responsive device. Startup, including time to connect via Wi-Fi, takes just 15 seconds and shutdown takes 5 seconds.

Gaming2/5



For some reason—maybe price, heat or battery life—Acer decided not to give the Aspire S7-391 a dedicated graphics card. Instead, it's an Intel HD 4000 that handles video games (3DMark06 score: 4940). The HD 4000 is very limited in capability; for many games you'll have to use 1366 x 768 resolution. Smaller games, such as Dirt 3, can be played with the image quality set to medium.

The Aspire S7-391 decodes HD movies with ease.

Battery Life4/5



At 1.28 kg and 11.9 x 323 x 224 mm, the Aspire S7-391 has all the makings of a good travel companion. The 4 ½-hour battery life (with Wi-Fi turned off, the screen brightness at 100 cd/m² and headphones plugged in) isn't overly limiting, but it does place this computer about a full hour behind competitors such as the HP Envy Spectre XT and HP Folio 13.

4/5 Acer Aspire S7-391 DigitalVersus 2012-12-20 10:00:00

Pros

  • Quick startup & shutdown
  • Great performance from the CPU, RAM and SSD
  • Slim (1.19 cm) and lightweight (1.28 kg)
  • Full HD IPS touchscreen
  • Low heat
  • Quality finish

Cons

  • Gets loud (between 45 and 50 dB(A)) when the fan kicks in
  • Poor quality speakers
  • Glossy screen with inaccurate colours

Conclusion

Initially, we were sceptical about the idea of a touchscreen laptop that doesn't fold into a tablet. And yet, the Aspire S7-391 convinced us that it will win some people over with its good processing power and touchscreen that's more for occasional use than full-on tableting. The biggest issues with this ultrabook are the audio components and fan noise.

OUR SCORE 4/5
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