With Windows 8, Microsoft has finally given us a truly touchable Windows, and the results have included some of the most fascinating experiments in computer design in recent memory. PC makers are bending over backwards to deliver crossover and hybrid devices that twist and turn this way and that, morphing between laptops and tablets, tablets and all-in-ones, and back again—all in an effort to achieve new levels of versatility, to accommodate the widest range of computing situations and scenarios.
One of the leaders in this march toward making our gadgets more clever and convenient has been the Taiwanese electronics giant, Acer. Back in January 2013, the company’s Iconia W700 was one of the first tablets to move away from the cookie-cutter detachable keyboard dock. A bold move, the W700 met with some skepticism—even here at Computer Shopper, we were a bit dubious at that slate’s unconventional approach to being a tablet that doubled as a desktop PC. We had to give Acer credit for trying something so unusual, though.
Well, Acer’s new notebook makes the W700 look ordinary.
The concept behind the Aspire R7—a laptop that doubles as a tablet—is nothing new. Several recent machines, such as Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga 13, come with screens you can manipulate into quasi-tablet positions. That’s a reasonably safe bet. The gamble Acer has taken this time hinges (pun intended) on the way the $999 Aspire’s touch screen attaches to its chassis.
The 15.6-inch screen sits on a uniquely designed hinge—Acer calls it an Ezel hinge—that permits you to move the panel into several positions or modes which change the laptop’s functionality in intriguing and useful ways. We’ll look at the Ezel hinge in some detail on the next page.
From left to right, the Ezel hinge’s four modes: easel, laptop, presentation, and tablet.
In an even bolder move, Acer has relocated the touch pad of the Aspire R7 from the usual position—in a palm rest or wrist rest below the keyboard—to a harder-to-access location above the keyboard. The company claims that, combined with the Ezel hinge’s ability to move the screen closer to the keys, repositioning the touch pad emphasizes and encourages use of the system’s touch screen and that pointing devices are no longer as necessary on touch-enabled PCs.
Perhaps. But as you’ll see in our discussion on the next page, moving the touch pad is a huge change that significantly affects the way you work. Some users, we fear, may consider this move a deal-breaker, as may serious typists who dislike the lack of a wrist rest.
The Ezel hinge hardware also makes the Aspire R7 a little thick and heavy, so it’s less than ideal for frequent travelers. Otherwise, with its third-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 1,920×1,080 display, and 500GB hard drive, this is a mid-range notebook comparable to several other 15-inch models we’ve seen lately.
The Aspire R7 does its impression of the Starship Enterprise
As laptops go, this one is well-built, has a great-looking screen, and performs as expected for a computer built around this CPU and supporting components—a bit better than expected in our battery-rundown test. Some users, especially consumers interested in media consumption, will find the innovative Ezel hinge highly useful and convenient—and the R7, in our opinion, a terrific value at $999. If, however, you type a lot, you may find the placement of the touch pad disconcerting, even a bit counterproductive.
See the entire review at Computer Shopper.