The Aspire S7 is a 3rd-generation ultrabook from Acer and has incorporated a full touchscreen IPS LCD with Windows 8. Touted as one of the thinnest and sexiest ultrabook in the market, we were able to purchase a unit for review. Check out our verdict on the Acer Aspire S7 after the break.
For the purpose of this review, we were able to acquire the 11-inch version of the Aspire S7. It’s only available in one color, the white and silver variant although we were actually hoping they’d also offer it in a black & gray combo as well.
Design and Construction
Acer has obviously put a lot of effort in making their 3rd-generation ultrabook to as slim and light as possible and we think they have successfully done so in an elegant manner. Since the time of the Aspire S3, Acer continued to go back in the drawing board to refresh the design of the Aspire ultrabook line.
This time around they have done it right. The Aspire S7 comes in a very slim and sleek form factor, it’s got the thinnest profile we’ve even seen in any ultrabook we’ve ever tested — flat on the lid and flat at the back, no tapered edges.
The lid is made up of thick, solid aluminum with subtle criss-crossing, brushed line patterns. The silver tones extend towards the keyboard area which is also made up of a thinner sheet of aluminum, laid out with a silver-painted polycarbonate keys and a wide silver trackpad.
The bottom end is made up of white, matte polycarbonate material sealed in with about eight metal screws. Positioned towards the rear corner is a thick strip of metal peppered with pinholes that serve as air ventilation for the internal hardware.
On the left side is where the power button is located along with one USB port; the right side is another USB port, the 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD card slot. The Aspire S7 is probably the only ultrabook that has a microSD card reader and only one of a handful 11.6-inchers that comes with an SD card reader (the only other 11.6 inch ultrabook we’ve tested that comes with a full sized SD card reader is the Sony Vaio T).
We have to admit that the Aspire S7 invoked an impressive nod for us with its solid design, superslim form factor and premium materials — a stark contrast to the rather flimsy and plasticky feel of their first-generation Aspire S3.
The Aspire S7 was built to be fully Windows 8 compatible and as such, Acer placed a full touchscreen display on the unit. With a full HD 1080p resolution, the 11.6-inch display of the S7 is packed with so many pixels that sometimes the texts on the screen are just too small to read (we had the same experience with the Zenbook Prime).
The entire display panel is covered with Gorilla Glass which extends over the bezel and towards the edges. The only material that totally separates it from the edge of the panel is a thin, shock-absorbing strip of rubber that lines the edges before it is encapsulated by the solid aluminum frame.
The glossy display makes for a smooth touch operation when navigating around with Widow 8’s tiled UI. We’ve also gone more accustomed to using the screen for scrolling thru documents and web pages much like what we’d do when using a tablet.
We really liked the display’s high resolution IPS panel — colors are vibrant, images are crisp and clear while maintaining high brightness and contrast ratio.
OS, Apps and UI
Acer’s Aspire S7 was built primarily to adapt to Microsoft’s Windows 8 platform so it’s not a surprise that the OS works really great with the laptop. We’ve previously installed Windows 8 on older ultrabooks and the lack of a touchscreen display is actually somewhat crippling to the laptop.
We actually seldom use the Windows 8 UI and mostly look at it as a shortcut to applications we frequently use. Other than that, we never really bother to set the live tiles or customize the groupings of apps. As for the App Store, we also rarely use it because most of the applications that we use on the laptop are already installed separately. Perhaps this is due to the fact that we look at ultrabooks as a heavy productivity tool (Photoshop, MS Office, Chrome) rather than just a content consumption device.
There will be occasion where we’re still confused with all the touch and swipe navigation and we tend to look for the Start button. We believe it will take a little bit more time to get accustomed to how Windows 8 behaves and adjust accordingly.
Nevertheless, we somewhat see the value of a touchscreen display and the Windows 8 UI and while we see them as essential to each other, they’re not really at the core of how we intend use the system.
Performance and Benchmarks
Most of the latest-generation ultrabooks from last year carried a pretty decent hardware configuration. In fact, they’re almost similar with majority of the mid-level configuration carrying a dual-core Intel Core i5 1.7GHz processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and 128GB of SSD storage.
Our Windows Experience Index scores puts the Aspire S7 in very good standing with 6.9 on the processor and 8.3 on the SSD. We were actually surprised that the SSD storage got an 8.3 score when most other SSDs we tried before only topped at 7.9.
The laptop is pretty fast and very responsive. Photoshop CS3 loaded in 6.9 seconds and MS Word 2003 loaded in just 3.5 seconds. Boot time for Windows 8 hovered around 10 seconds from cold boot to the login screen.
Multimedia & Accessories
We’ve watched countless number of HD movies and TV series on the Aspire S7 and we’re pretty impressed with the full HD screen. Pictures are bright, crisp and clear. The colors are warm and contrast is pretty good.
There are two separate speaker grills found at the bottom side of the laptop, each one placed at the left and right corners to allow for the sound to travel more effectively. As such, we are able to enjoy a relatively loud yet clear sound experience when watching movies or playing songs (and not even once did we consider hooking it up to an external portable speakers ).
The Aspire S7 comes with additional accessories right out of the box — there’s a Bluetooth mouse, a VGA adaptor and LAN adaptor via USB. The external battery is also a surprise inclusion. While you’d have to buy these accessories separately when you purchase a new Macbook Air, Acer made it a point to include them for free (this is also the reason why an equivalent Macbook Air is priced more competitively).
One of the few issues we had with the Aspire S7 is the chiclet keyboard. The keys have very limited travel so it has somewhat affected our typing accuracy and speed. It is still very usable and not that frustrating that you’d wish you can hook it up to another external keyboard. For the most part, we think a little getting use to it will greatly help. It’s nice to note that the keys are backlit as well.
The trackpad works much better though. We think it’s got that smooth glass coating that allows for better control and accuracy. Finger gestures register quite well and is not too sensitive to accidentally hijack the mouse cursor.
Battery life is a tricky issue with the Aspire S7. Frankly, we’re torn on how to approach it. On one hand, you have an internal battery within that slim body that is somewhat sorely lacking. Our actual use gives us a mere 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours and 15 minutes which is a bit below par the normal battery life of most ultrabooks in its category.
On the other hand, the package comes with an extended battery that attaches into the back of the laptop. The external battery latches into the power port and sets firmly in place via two screws at the bottom. The right side of the battery pack has a light indicator so you’d know how much juice is left. While attached, the external battery pack can be recharged accordingly while the power is also transferred into the internal battery.
Since the battery pack bulges at the bottom end, it also raises the bottom end of the laptop for better ventilation. Acer also made sure that the micro-HDMI port at the back is still accessible even when the battery pack is attached.
With the combined internal and external battery, we are able to squeeze in about 5.5 hours to 6 hours when both are fully charged. In the end, we find ourselves leaving the extra battery pack in place all the time just so we can maximize the battery life on the laptop.
Acer has definitely done very well with the Aspire S7. This laptop managed to incorporate almost everything that we wished for in a Windows 8 ultrabook. It has a couple of shortcomings but those are readily overshadowed by its many impressive features.
Solid build quality, great design, good over-all performance packed in a very slim and light body makes the Aspire S7 a laptop to drool for. Perhaps we can even dare say it looks better when placed beside a Macbook Air. And indeed, we always find ourselves leaving the Air at home in favor of the Aspire S7 and in the last two weeks that we’ve had it, we’ve already convinced at least one other person to get himself one of these.
Acer Aspire S7-191 specs:
11.6-inch IPS full HD LCD display @ 1920×1080 pixels
Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz dual-core
Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz
Intel HD 4000 graphics
4GB DDR3 RAM
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
microSD card slot
2 x USB 3.0 port
4-cell Li-Ion battery
The Acer Aspire S7-191 has a suggested retail price of Php59,990 and is available in local stores.
What we liked about it:
* Very slim and sexy profile
* Impressive display quality and resolution
* Great build and over-all performance
* Bonus accessories
* microSD card reader
* External battery pack
What we did not like:
* Low internal battery life
* Short keyboard travel
Disclosure: We purchased this laptop straight from Acer Philippines and was given a considerable media discount.