Ease of Learning: 4 / 5
Ease of Use: 4.5 / 5
Enjoyment: 5 / 5
Design: 5 / 5
Value for Money: 3 / 5
Ultrabooks have been around for some time now, and although they have great appeal for many in terms of its performance and ultra-thin design, you don’t often see them around. Acer, too, has been in the Ultrabook space with their previously released S3 and S5 models, which may have been leading the field, but for some niggling setbacks. The Acer Aspire S7 is the company’s first take at developing touch screen laptops, and, upon release, already had the impressive label as “world’s thinnest touchscreen Ultrabook.”
Upon first glance of the Aspire S7, you won’t be judged for thinking that it’s a thing of beauty. Its 13” screen and lid are both fitted with Gorilla Glass 2; a technology long entrusted by smartphone manufacturers for scratch and fingerprint resistance. The cold aluminium finish on the sharp-edged chassis adds to the look and feel of the S7. The aluminium surface extends to the trackpad and keyboard, which is also fitted with metal keys. Even with the supposed extra weight from all the metal, the S7 weighs just 1.3KG, even lighter than its predecessor. In short, it is both good to look at and hold.
Despite the use of Gorilla Glass 2, you’re bound to pick up fingerprints on the surface, just as you would on your smartphone. Unlike your conventional laptop, or even Ultrabooks for that matter, you needn’t worry too much about fingerprints; unless of course the odd passer-by attempts to point out something obvious with a good thump of their index finger against the screen. The touchscreen, then, is one of the more exciting features on the S7, while also being the most annoying. Be sure to carry a dry cloth around for a quick wipe between uses.
The resolution of the display is full HD 1080p, and coupled with the IPS screen makes it one of the best displays available on any Ultrabook, made even more impressive fitted on a 13” screen. Everything viewed on the S7’s screen seems crisper, even when compared to a desktop screen with full HD 3D LED. The display provides good viewing angles, without any colour distortion when viewed from wider angles. Windows 8 integration is fantastic, and although there’s almost no situation when you will use this feature, it also includes 10-point multi-touch gesture support.
As with many trackpads available on laptops today, the trackpad fitted on the S7 also supports gestures, which can also be used to bring up menus, such as the Charms Bar, on Windows 8. There are, however, a few of the nagging issues we find with trackpads, in that too often it registers a left-click for no reason, while pinch-to-zoom requires two or three attempts before it eventually kicks in. The keyboard, on the other hand, provides more of a delight. In addition to its metal finish, you will notice that the keys are quite awkwardly placed; although it sticks to the general QWERTY layout, the sizes of certain keys don’t align. This may cause some confusion to start off, but eventually aids user typing, and reduces random clicks on buttons such as the Caps Lock, while making it easier to find important ones such as the Backspace and Enter keys.
In terms of its performance, the Acer Aspire S7 won’t let you down, especially since it’s been fitted with an Intel Core i7 (1.9-3.0GHz), Intel HD Graphics 4000, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and 256GB SSD drive. The Core i7 processor is aided by means of two SSD drives, which has read speeds of over 900MBps, while write speeds reach an impressive 650MBps. To put this into some perspective, the S7 (cold) boots into Windows 8 at around 12 seconds. One thing to note, however, is that despite being able to push the performance that little bit more whenever you need to, it does tend to whine on high CPU usage. The Twin Air Cooling system kicks in all too often, which wouldn’t be too much of a concern if it were silently going about its business.
Other hardware features include x2 USB ports, an SD card reader, 3.5mm audio jack, micro-HDMI port, Bluetooth 4.0 and 1.3MP webcam. In addition to the pre-installed Windows 8, the S7 includes quite a bit of bloatware, some of which may be useful to the user, otherwise a simple uninstall won’t hurt performance. A few of these include 7digital, eBay, Evernote, Acer Explorer, the Encyclopedia Britannica; iCookbook, TuneIn, Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle, Netflix, StumbleUpon, Skype, newsXpresso, McAfee, MS Office, Taptiles and Shark Dash games, and Acer’s own Crystal Eye and AcerCloud.
Unfortunately, there is one big issue with the Aspire S7, which lies with the battery performance of its 4-cell, 4680mAh, Li-Polymer battery. Acer claims an average battery life of around six hours, which is often difficult to accomplish when in full use for that space of time. Adding video play to the mix, and you’ll be fortunate to make five hours. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, though, as the S3 and S5 both suffered the same fate. If you’re planning a long trip, be sure to use your hours of use wisely, otherwise I would suggest keeping your charger on standby.
There’s plenty to love about the Acer Aspire S7, especially when considering its looks. You can easily walk into a room filled with people using their respective Ultrabooks while still managing to stand out from the crowd…it’s just that good looking. The S7 has drastically improved upon the S5 in almost all departments. The addition of a touchscreen for Windows 8 is a bonus, but unfortunately cannot be snapped off and used as a tablet device.
Now down to the really important stuff; the price. The RRP for the Acer Aspire S7 is around R25,000. After taking some time to catch your breath again, consider all that it has to offer; even the little extras such as the Bluetooth mouse thrown into the bag. If only for the poor battery life, this price would have been vindicated. If you’re in the market for an Ultrabook, you’ll be hard-pressed to escape the fact that at some point or another during the process you will have to seriously think about just going for it. Whether or not you come to your senses after all is said and done, there is no wrong answer. If you decide to go through with the purchase, however, you can be rest assured of a smile whenever you look at it, or show it off to your colleagues and friends.
If only I could give an extra star on its design…