- Unique design
- Fast SSD
- Adjustable display
- Solid battery life
- Strong performance
- No home button on display
- Display lid difficult to grab
- Heavier than competing convertibles
- Poor audio quality
The Acer Aspire R13 combines power and versatility to provide the ideal 2-in-1 for users who want a marriage of creativity and productivity in a single device.
2015 has seen the introduction of a plethora of Ultrabook convertible laptops, but the Acer Aspire R13 is a bit of an oddity. Most 2-in-1 devices typically fall into two camps: either utilizing a detachable tablet display or a 360-degree display hinge. Acer’s newest convertible has neither of these design elements. Instead the laptop leverages a display form factor somewhat akin to the Dells XPS 12, with a display that swivels a full 180 degrees allowing the laptop to transform into the various modes you’d expect from a convertible.
Paired with an Acer Active Pen (for an extra $50) and armed with an Intel Core i5 CPU and lightning fast RAID 0 SSD, the Acer Aspire R13 is a weird amalgam of performance and versatility, making it ideal for users who value their stylus’ as much as they do their keyboards.
Build and Design
Calling back to one of my favorite Acer laptops the Aspire S7, the Aspire R13 features a protective Corning Gorilla Glass lid. The translucent surface serves to show off the attractive silver gun-metal chassis and provides an eye-catching sheen when light strikes the lid. In the middle left hand side of the display cover is the “acer” logo which lights up when the device is powered on. While the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lid helps to bolster the display’s durability, it also proves to be a fingerprint magnet. You can expect to find smudges on the screen lid often unless you rarely touch the back of the display.
Despite its similarities to the Aspire S7, the R13 looks quite unlike anything else in Acer’s lineup thanks to its floating display frame which only runs about half the height of the display. As a result, the Acer Aspire R13 has a unique appearance compared to other Ultrabooks on the market. The floating frame not only proves to be a stand out design, but an intelligent one. Without a full display frame wrapping around the screen there’s no thin frame to impede the user’s view while propping the display against the laptop’s deck or to get in the way when using the stylus.
The display surface itself is also encased in Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3. The screen sports a thick bezel and is cushioned with two rubber pads on the bottom. The pads are there to stop the display from scratching the laptop’s deck when you position in screen for writing or drawing in stylus mode. The only noteworthy thing lacking on this display is a home button, which is missed most when using the device as a tablet.
Utilizing the swivel display is fairly easy. Pushing back on the the top edge of the display will cause it to swivel and from there it’s pretty easy and intuitive the set the laptop in either standard clamshell (laptop), tablet or tent modes. The display can even be positioned on the front of the keyboard deck to provide the perfect angle and resistance for sketching in stylus mode. The only thing that’s actually hard to do is open the laptop from the front when it’s closed. Strangely enough the slanted front edge of the display lid can be difficult to grab. I found it annoying enough that I started opening the laptop from the side instead.
Measuring 13.54 x 9.07 x 0.71 inches and weighing 3.3 pounds, the Acer Aspire R13 is noticeably heavier than competing ultra-slim Intel Core M convertibles such as the 2.6-pound Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. At 3.3 pounds the R13 feels a bit unruly when using the device as a tablet, but the heavier weight is to be expected with the more powerful Intel Core i5 CPU and versatile design. In short, this is much heavier than an iPad Air 2, but the R13 is capable of handling far more than any iOS device.
The Acer Aspire R13 offers all the connectivity you’d expect from a modern Ultrabook convertible. The left side of the device features a security lock slot, full-size HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports and a combo mic/headphone jack. The right side houses a full-size SD card reader and a USB 2.0 port in addition to the power jack.
Acer Active Pen
The Acer Aspire R13 is compatible with Acer Active Pen technology, allowing users to pair the laptop with the optional $50 Acer Active stylus. The digital pen allows you to directly draw or write on the screen and makes the most of the laptop’s propped up swivel screen.
The R13 is also paired with Acer’s Hover Access software, which allows you to program the pen’s two buttons to open up a limited selection of apps, or it can change the pen to an eraser allowing users to quickly correct mistakes on the fly.
The sleek gun-metal pen looks right in place next to the laptop. It offers decent heft, feeling natural while wielding as a writing instrument. The stylus features 255 degrees of pressure sensitivity for more realistic handwriting and better control while drawing.
Display and Sound
The Acer Aspire R13 features a 13.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) display. At 236 nits the screen on the R13 isn’t’ as bright as many of its competitors. However, most people using this laptop indoors won’t have an issue with the relatively dim lit screen. The R13’s display provides excellent readability inside normal or dim room lighting and NBR staff members were impressed by the screen’s ability to retain detail in the rich blacks, dark blues and greens while watching a trailer for the Witcher 3.
Given the display’s limited brightness, I would have figured that viewing angles would be limited, luckily I was wrong. Images retain normal contrast and color out to almost a complete 180 degrees without any obvious color degradation. The display also fairs well in normal lighting conditions even when we tilted the screen towards a light fixture. However, under strong direct lights (i.e. in direct sunlight or a high-wattage light fixture) colors can get slightly washed out and the reflective surface of the screen suffers from glare.
The Acer Aspire R13’s speakers are located on the bottom back end of the chassis. Sound is able to escape easily enough and the R13 provides reasonably loud audio suitable for a small group of people. That said, the audio quality left our staff wanting as the device struggled to depict the full range of sounds in an orchestral track; there was noticeable distortion and the high notes sounded particularly tiny.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Acer Aspire R13 features a Chiclet-style keyboard. The squared plastic keys are easy to grip, but travel distance is minimal. Feedback also felt a little flat, though I never experienced any issues with typing accuracy. The left Caps Lock key has also been dramatically shrunk; it never affected our experience with the device, but it may bother some users.
Centered directly below the space bar is an adequately sized touchpad. The smooth matte pad is devoid of buttons (the left and right click are integrated beneath the touchpad surface. The pad offers little friction and easy travel, affording a solid level of sensitivity and control. Mouse clicks and multi-finger gestures work well too, with a quick and accurate response to each scroll and pinch.