Acer Aspire S7 Review: The PC Revival Is Late, But It's Here
Laptops, as a group, have undergone a massive refinement over the past few years. Three generations of ultrabooks, and the gap between the
A few things about the S7 are something close to perfect. The keyboard, for one, is lovely. The original S7 had keys that were sort of mushy, and didn't have quite enough travel distance-that's fixed this year. And importantly, there's zero flex to the keyboard's chassis. This is a crucial detail a lot of laptops screw up while trying to get thinner or lighter, and they end up feeling like junk. Not so here.
Acer's also stuck with the condensed keyboard layout that has a few keys in unexpected places. Function keys are gone, meaning you hold the function button for stuff like volume up or adjusting your brightness. It's an efficient and extremely usable layout, even if the function symbols on the keys ugly them up some.
The screen is wonderful. It's got better color performance and contrast than just about anything that's not the Chromebook Pixel. That said, it still suffers from Windows's poor scaling (yes, even in 8.1). That's not Acer's fault, but it's a reality you'll have to live with. At 1080p on a 13-inch screen, though, you won't notice it as badly as you do on, say, the
There is some flex to the lid and screen, and it's still a shame that Acer insists on sticking with the Gorilla Glass lid instead of the flatly gorgeous aluminum design on the 11-inch. The flex, combined with the very minor beginnings of the light leakage around the edges of the LED, is a little troubling. It's also worsened just a bit by a hinge that isn't quite perfect. It's strong-Acer understands here that laptops should be slightly harder to move around when they're mostly opened than when they're in the process of opening-but isn't quite firm enough when you're poking at it, and wobbles a little.
Trackpad performance is top notch. The Synaptics trackpad on ours doesn't have quite the same heavy-car-door feel of the Pixel, but it's damn close. It's definitely on the top tier of trackpads, and its performance for basic gestures (two-finger scrolling being the main one) is as good as you'll see on a Windows rig.
Battery life, as with everything else running on
The full allotment of ports (mini-DisplayPort, HDMI, two USB 3.0, and an SD card slot) is also a surprisingly nice feeling. The S7 doesn't have an Ethernet port (the body is literally too thin for that), but it can handle pretty much anything else you'd throw at it.
The battery life, obviously, but exceptional if not identical battery life is standard across every Haswell generation ultrabook. The screen is wonderful, and especially good on colors compared to some other panels. It's only really matched by the new Sony Vaio. The keyboard is terrific as well, and the trackpad performance is top notch. The things that are best about it are the things that are most functional.
The design isn't quite beautiful, but the computer always feels well made. And, once you tweak what you want within Windows, the underlying performance of the keyboard, trackpad, and display are all on point. Those are the three most crucial points of interaction for any laptop, and the S7 nails them.
There's only one truly stupid thing about the S7, and that's its power button. It's on the back-left side, and it is astonishingly easy to press. In fact, it's in the exact location your index finger probably goes when you lift an open laptop. It's very annoying.
Otherwise, the keyboard layout takes a little getting used to, though it's ultimately fine. The hinge is decent, but for a touchscreen laptop, it's not quite firm enough where it needs to be firm, and a little loose where it should be loose. It's still above average, but it makes adjusting the screen or poking at it feel more unsure than it should. The speakers are also still in a really dumb place for laptop (bottom-front) and don't deliver sound as well as they could. A few times, I found myself cupping my hands under them to reflect sound when I sat the computer on my lap. And the power cord is kind of a bummer, with a smaller than average nub that slips out from time to time-it's fine for now, but you get the sense that within a few years it might not be.
- The S7 played BioShok Infinite on Medium settings at 720p at 40+ FPS, with no real issues.
- Giz Standard Battery Test: 5 hours 19 minutes
- For some idiot reason, the SD card placeholder isn't a push-to-eject-you've got to jam your fingernail in there. I bite mine, so it was a pain.
- The S7 comes with a fairly well made and deeply, unforgivably ugly case. Replace this as soon as you possibly can; if you're spending this much on a laptop, get it a proper case.
- Fans are very quiet, even while running a game.
- Heat dissipation was never an issue either, with most of it congregating in the large, cleared out area above the keyboard.
- During battery testing, Chrome crashed once or twice, but was fine for day-to-day, less idiotic uses.
Should You Buy This
Yes. Hell yes. This has been my favorite Windows laptop to date. The
14-inch Razer Blade
Processor: Intel Core i5 Haswell 1.6GHz (up to Core i7)
Memory: 8GB RAM (standard)
Storage: 128GB SSD (up to 256GB)
Display: 13.3-inch 1080p IPS
Dimensions: 12.7" x 8.8" x
Weight: 2.87 pounds
Ports: USB 3.0 x2, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, SD Card
Price as tested: $1450 ( $1330 Amazon ); ($1700 for 256GB SSD/i7)