This Windows 8 Ultrabook features a beautiful 13.3-inch 1080p touch-enabled display, superb build quality and a stylish design. Is it worth $1,650? Read our review to find out.
The Acer Aspire S7 has great quality and a refreshing exterior design scheme. The touch display is beautiful; its unique hinge design keeps it from wobbling too much. The keyboard is good; overall system performance is excellent. Our gripe with this Ultrabook is its overly loud cooling system. Other cons include an annoying power button location and a 4GB RAM limitation (most Ultrabooks are 8GB).
Build and Design
The Aspire S7 has a refreshing exterior; the white pieces are Gorilla Glass and the silver is aluminum. The chassis bottom is matte white plastic. The Aspire S7 is exceptionally thin at just 0.47 inches and a lightweight at 2.87 lbs. This is one of the most solid feeling notebooks I've tested in some time; there's no flex anywhere. The attention to detail and general quality is outstanding. The aluminum pieces are precisely machined, especially the keyboard surround; it's all one piece with the rest of the palm rest and has a classy beveled edge. Even the speaker grilles and vent openings on the bottom of the chassis look great.
The Gorilla Glass 2 on the screen surface is good for the touch screen aspect; I'm not too crazy about it covering the back of the lid though as it smudges up easily. The 11.6" version of the Aspire S7 uses an aluminum backing.
Upgrading the Aspire S7 isn't a simple task and requires removing all of the torx screws on the bottom of the chassis. This Ultrabook is limited to 4GB of RAM.
Input and Output Ports
The Aspire S7 has a respectable port selection for an Ultrabook including mini-HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports and a media card reader. Adapters are thankfully included for VGA and Ethernet. It's worth mentioning that the location of the power button is troublesome; it is easy to accidentally hit white picking up the notebook. I unintentionally pressed the power button several times during the review process.
All picture descriptions are left to right.
Left: AC power jack, mini-HDMI out, headphone/microphone combination jack, power button
Right: Media card reader, 2x USB 3.0
Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size keyboard has a Chiclet style layout as do most new notebook PCs. It's neatly integrated into the one-piece palm rest which says a lot about the quality of this machine. The Aspire S7's thinness means the key travel distance is short; on too many Ultrabooks this means a vague typing experience since there's not enough tactile feedback, but the Aspire S7's keyboard has precise action. The metallic feel and sound is surprisingly pleasant.
The white keyboard backlighting has multiple levels and automatically adjusts the brightness depending on the amount of ambient light. Something I didn't quite adapt to during the review process was the keyboard layout; notice it only has five rows because Acer removed the top-row function keys; they're integrated as secondary functions into the number keys. I use these keys frequently as shortcuts in programs; needless to say I prefer them as their own keys; the same goes for the Home and End keys. One last thing I don't like about this keyboard is the lack of a Caps Lock indicator light.
The ELAN clickpad lacks physical buttons; press down anywhere to produce a click. It's appropriately sized for a 13.3" screen and has a smooth matte surface. My issue with it is the inaccurate clicking action; there's too much distance between pressing down and the click actually happening, making it feel imprecise. At least the clicks are reasonably quiet.
Screen and Speakers
The 13.3" screen is one of the Aspire S7's highlights. It has a full 1920x1080 resolution which is perfect for Windows 8 and productivity in general; it's easy to use two windows side-by-side. Additionally it brings high detail pictures to life. The next plus is the fact that this screen is an IPS panel (In-Plane Switching). IPS panels have unlimited viewing angles; the picture looks the exact same no matter where you're looking from. Color reproduction and contrast are excellent - photos and videos truly stand out. Brightness is excellent too; I used it on two notches below full most of the time.
This screen is touch-enabled which works better than expected thanks to Acer's unique hinge design. Touch doesn't work too well on normal notebook displays because they wobble; Acer's hinge design has progressive resistance; it can be opened with one hand but develops a lot of resistance past the 90 degree mark; this keeps the display from moving backward or moving too much. This hinge design is a great idea.
There are two stereo speakers located under the palm rest and facing out the side. They have ample volume and are reasonably clear up to 70-80% of total volume; a few people could watch a movie with these speakers in a pinch. The speakers lack bass but otherwise get the job done. The headphone jack is thankfully free of static.
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