Review: Acer Aspire S7
Acer’s Aspire S7 is a visually stunning Windows 8 Ultrabook, both thinner and lighter than Apple's iconic MacBook Air.
Harley Ogier | Thursday, December 06 2012
Product type: Ultrabook
RRP incl GST: $2,499
- Intel Core i7-3517U dual-core CPU
- 4GB RAM
- 128GB SSD
- Just 12mm thick
A gorgeous piece of technology, performs well, but you’re paying a serious premium for the design and build.
Acer’s Aspire S7 is a visually stunning Windows 8 Ultrabook. From its white Gorilla Glass lid and screen, to its satin-finish aluminium chassis, the design screams ‘premium tech’.
Most impressively, the Aspire S7 is just 12mm thick and 1.3kg. That's 5mm thinner and 50 grams lighter than Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air.
The Aspire S7’s 13.3-inch borderless touchscreen is full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels). This makes it sharper than most competitors, with 166 pixels per inch (PPI), though it doesn't compare to the new 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina with its 232PPI panel.
The screen’s hinge allows it to be bent right back 180-degrees, to lie flat on a desk. Given the Aspire S7’s wide horizontal and vertical viewing angles, this is a neat way to share the touch screen in meetings, or with friends when playing touch-based games.
Only one aspect of the design failed to wow me: the missing function key row. F1 through F12 have been demoted to second-class keys, accessed via the number row and an ‘Fn’ modifier key. There’s plenty of room for the function keys without reducing the existing key size, but the amount of hardware packed into such a thin space beneath the keyboard may have had some influence here. Honestly, only shortcut key users are going to find this annoying, and only in a few cases (Alt+F4 becomes Alt+Fn+4, for instance).
Two versions of the S7 are available – the one we tested includes an Intel Core i7-3517U CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
In many of our tests, the Aspire S7 performed well; comparably to Samsung’s Series 5 Ultra Touch. However, the Acer Aspire S7 beat the Series 5 by a clear margin in some computation-heavy, multi-threaded tasks where the latter seemed to experience overheating issues.
The difference in performance may be due to the Aspire S7’s aggressive cooling: despite its thin design, its quiet little fan sounds like a small tornado when it ramps up to full speed. This kept the temperature well down. Even during our most intensive benchmarks, we noticed nothing more than a little warmth from the baseplate, around where the CPU is located - less heat than some smartphones pump out when working their hardest.
This isn’t a performance or 3D gaming laptop, but it’ll certainly handle resizing and retouching your photos, editing a bit of video from your smartphone, and running casual games – such as Cut the Rope – which play wonderfully on the large and highly responsive screen.
One big ugly downside to the thin design is that it doesn’t leave room for the bulky connectors you’d usually find on a laptop. The only wired connections are micro HDMI, a headphone socket, an SD card reader and two USB 3.0 ports. There's also no Ethernet port and no video output compatible with full-sized HDMI or VGA cables you might have sitting around. However, Acer includes two useful adapters in the box: a VGA adapter that connects via the micro-HDMI port, and a USB to Ethernet adapter. The Aspire S7 supports the usual 802.11a/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless standards, as well.
Battery life is a little disappointing: in our demanding ‘productivity’ test, it came in lower than all the other PCs we tested in our December roundup, at just 2 hours 44 minutes. The Samsung Series 5 Ultra Touch, using the same CPU and with a mechanical hard drive rather than an SSD, came in at 4 hours 11 minutes.
It’s hard to make a call on the Acer Aspire S7. The Core i7 version we tested retails for $2,499, which is $500 more than anything else in our roundup. It takes first or second place in most of our performance benchmarks, but only by a very narrow margin. It's performance isn't enough to justify the extra $720 over its closest competitor, the Lenovo X1 Carbon.
Having said that, the Aspire S7 has one thing the Lenovo X1 Carbon doesn't: a touch screen. If you want to get the most out of Windows 8, this is a big thing.
If you can put price aside, and battery life doesn’t worry you too much, the Aspire S7 is an absolutely beautiful piece of hardware and provides one of the best Windows 8 experiences we’ve had. It's premium tech. Just remember that applies to the price, too.
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