The two-in-one laptop, or hybrid, has been around for some time now, since the release of Windows 8 some years back. Each passing year saw many updates or more integration from different manufacturers to enhance some of the specifications. While some of these have managed to include a few nifty and useful features, many of them weren’t much of an upgrade over predecessors. Acer, also part of the first wave hybrids in the industry, has also made a few incremental upgrades to their Aspire R14 laptop. This year, however, the company released the Acer Aspire R14 Ultra with a fresh take on the two-in-one device. It is not just a specification upgrade over last year’s edition.
Build and Design
Hybrids have come in many shapes, sizes, and form factors. Some of these have a swivel approach, magnetic connections, or some really awkward and over the top switching. The R14 Ultra sticks to the simpler fold over approach, which allows users to flip the screen simply by extending it all the way to the other side, effectively switching between laptop and tablet modes. The reason why many other manufacturers have opted against this technique, choosing a lot more complicated approaches, is due to the end product resembling a much thicker version of a tablet. The R14 Ultra, however, goes one up on all other hybrids. With dimensions measuring 320x230x10mm, you can easily see why the unit stands out from the crowd. At just 10mm thick, this is definitely the thinnest convertible on the market.
While the Acer Aspire R14 Ultra isn’t the thinnest laptop around, the hybrid does well to feature among the top of the crop. The switch to USB3.1 Type C has assisted in the reduction of the unit’s size, although it does make things a little tough when you have a long list of USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices. A small investment in an adapter will set you back between R150 and R200 for a good quality make, or a little more when opting for a hub instead, which may be a better option. The removal of the standard USB ports also means that there’s no room for an optical drive, Ethernet port, or anything else for that matter, not even a fan.
The internals of the unit is covered by means of a fully metallic body, which also serves as part of the passive cooling system. The device uses the body to dissipate some of the heat generated by the hardware, along with some trickery on the inside featuring heatsinks and the rest, the unit remains relatively cool. It does, however, heat up slightly when you put the unit through more vigorous testing, but not enough to make it feel uncomfortable on your lap. The metal body does, however, feel extremely cold to the touch in the middle of winter, the opposite end of the scale.
Overall, the R14 Ultra looks beautiful and with its thin and light (only 1.2KG), backward folding chassis, it’s definitely one of the best on the market.
Screen and Display
As mentioned above, the R14 Ultra has a ‘switchback’ lid, which allows the screen to flip back all the way around, providing 180° rotation, switching into full tablet mode. The great thing about its thin and lightweight design makes the tablet mode feel a lot more natural when compared to other hinged devices. Whereas the detachable units offer the best results in terms of lightweight and portable results, they too have their downside in that they have to carry batteries in both the screen and keyboard portions, or ports in the tablet portion as well. None of the options, however, make it feel as natural as the everyday tablet, but the R14 Ultra feels the closest to this as any of its competitors.
The 14″ screen is fairly large for the tablet experience, but it feels great. The larger sized screen also fits well with the 10-finger touchscreen, providing ample room for gestures and the likes. The 1080p resolution isn’t the greatest by any means, but with only 14 inches to cover, it still looks great.
In terms of the device’s internals, it features the m7-7Y75 dual-core CPU, which has a 1.3GHz nominal processing speed, and 1.6GHz boost. It won’t be setting the world alight with the mobile version of the Core i7 (after running a few benchmarks), but it does very well nonetheless. The 7th generation Kaby Lake CPU reduces the power consumption while increasing the power output as well. The updated CPU also allows for better battery life over last year’s model, averaging around the 5-hour mark. This isn’t the greatest around either, but given that the unit most likely has been put through its paces during previous testing and reviews, it may still be able to eke out a few more minutes for good measure.
The unit also includes a 256GB Solid-State Drive, Intel HD Graphics 615 GPU, 8GB DDR3 RAM, and a light touch, chiclet-style keyboard, which makes for a great feel when typing that I enjoyed using. Unfortunately, you won’t be playing some of the leading AAA games with the unit, although it does well enough to be playing quite a number of games at reasonable gaming settings. The sound, however, is quite loud and can’t be played on its loudest as your ears might start to ring as a result. That’s quite impressive for such a small device.
The Acer Aspire R14 Ultra two-in-one laptop has no doubt changed the world of hybrids for the better with its slick design, making a case for truly lightweight and thin frame. While many of the other features and specifications aren’t world leading, they’re certainly are up there. The unique design sets it apart from the rest of the pack, and that is all that matters. The unit was officially launched a few weeks ago and has a retail price between R10,000 and R12,000 depending on the variant you choose. This is a reasonable price for a device that’s more tablet than a laptop but does equally well in both modes. When available, the R14 Ultra will make a great addition to any home or business as a truly standout device.