The Acer R7 is without a doubt one of the silliest notebooks that I’ve ever worked on. Also, I might just be in love with the damn thing.
There’s a reason why notebooks are popular these days. Compared to early models available, they’re compact, meaty with hardware and of course…compact. The problem however, is that the basic design hasn’t exactly changed, with few manufacturers wanting to build a better mouse trap.
Enter the R7, which is attempting to shake that notion up a bit. On the surface, it’s your typical notebook. Chiclet keys, a sleek finish and a big 16 inch screen that hits all the right resolution notes. But it’s more than that. It’s a tablet, a piece of technology that you can show off and something that’ll make life easier for those of us with a few ocular issues.
That’s the key selling point of this laptop. You’ve got a massive touch screen mounted in front of you, that’s just begging for you to start playing with the “Ezel” hinges, twisting it every which way that it can go. And the R7 actually works pretty damn well that way.
I had it for two weeks, and I used the laptop as a workhorse and entertainment device. I’ll admit, I actually did enjoy dropping the mouse and relying on the touch screen for every day activities. Thanks to my small hands, the screen felt responsive, although people with more normal-sized hands might get frustrated when they minimise a window instead of exit it.
It’s a beautiful screen as well, able to easily knock out all 1920×1080 pixels that you’ll need for your various tasks and video-watching needs. It’s got ten fingers of multi-touch gesturing available, you can view an image from any angle and still see it properly and it’ll burn your retinas out if you pump the brightness up.
And the entire Ezel makes it an adaptable notebook as well. You can leave it in the standard notebook set-up, turn it into a massive tablet, adjust the screen to better suit whatever working position you happen to have (I turned mine into a table) or just flip the screen and show it off to someone opposite you.
And yes, that Ezel can take plenty of abuse, as it survived two weeks with me. Hell, I even walked in on my cat sleeping on the R7, which I had left in Starship Enterprise mode, and that Ezel was as stiff and strong as ever. With the Windows 8 operating system in charge of the OS duties, the R7 also feels pretty responsive, and two go hand in hand with one another.
The Ezel is admittedly a gimmick that will be used to sell the R7, but it’s a damn good one at that and well constructed of stern-like stern-like stuff. It’s a big laptop, but with a decent weight to it, and the overall design feels solid and not at all tacky.
Expensive materials for an expensive laptop. I do wish however, that amongst all that stainless steel silver colour that keeps the R7 uniform in appearance, that someone would have made a plan with the gap left by the Ezel, which otherwise tarnishes an attractive laptop with a dust-magnet black zone.
Sounds like a great laptop then, right? Well, as much fun as the Ezel gimmick is, the R7 has also made some baffling design choices along the way.
You’ll find plenty of media hardware on the R7, such as SD slots, USB 3.0 ports, sound jacks and a DisplayPort, but good luck trying to play a Blu-Ray on it. There’s no optical disc drive at all in the R7, and it’s an omission that is sorely missed on an otherwise media-friendly device.
You’re going to have to resort to downloading your movies and series through more legit means, or go ahead and plug in a USB where your 1080P film was acquired through those less than legal channels in order to get your multimedia kicks.
What I can’t understand though, is why Acer had to switch the touchpad on the device to the top of the keyboard, instead of at the bottom. That’s something that never ever needs to be changed, but they went ahead and took a chance anyway. And it didn’t pay off.
While Windows 8 feels at home on the R7, you’re still going to find yourself using a mouse for quite a few programs. And when you’re short a mouse, the touchpad just doesn’t cut it. It’s feels so counter-intuitive to stretch that little bit distance further. Ergonomically speaking, its a clumsy choice that is uncomfortable for anyone involved. The R7 has a fine keyboard, with responsive chiclet keys, that can hammer out words easily enough. But the trackpad sours that working experience.
In fact, this is one laptop that could have done without a touchpad, as it kind of defeats the entire aim of the notebook. And honestly, who uses a touchpad these days anyway? I get that Acer wants to evolve notebook design with the R7, but the positioning of the touchpad is one link on the evolutionary chain here that can easily be left in the extinction pile.
When it comes to the meat of the laptop, hardware, you’ll find a device that is up to the task. Running multiple programs and processes is easy enough for the 1.8GHz Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and hybrid hard drive technology in front of you. The R7 also has a pretty decent battery life, with standalone operation on a balanced setting easily lasting around two to three hours for me, and sometimes stretching to the four hour mark.
Just forget about playing games on the R7, thanks to the integrated graphics card. I had a bunch of benchmark tools installed and ready, but honestly, there was no point considering that the R7 could barely run a 2 year old game such as Crysis 2 on the lowest possible settings without it stuttering worse than King George.
The R7 will boot up quickly enough and maintain an excellent operating speed while it farts out excess air at the rear, so if you’re looking for a fancy work device and don’t mind dropping more cash than you’d expect to, it’s not a bad device at all.
The R7 is a proof of concept notebook, something that points consumers in the direction of what these devices could one day be. It’s not perfect, but the Ezel idea and solid hardware make it an intriguing device for everyday situations, and less so for specialised ones.
If this is the path that Acer is taking for the future, then at least they’re headed in the right direction.
Last Updated: November 1, 2013