Want a good looking, lightweight laptop? Then get an Apple MacBook. That’s been the standard for the last five years — a machine that combines high fashion, sleek design and excellent function.
It’s about time a Windows machine looked and felt as good. The Acer Aspire S7 does all that and more with an excellent high-resolution touchscreen display and a body that’s both thinner and lighter than the MacBook Air.
Beauty beyond simplicity
Today, beauty in design is based on minimalism, that less is more. You can thank Apple for that. As great as simplicity is, it means nothing extra, not even the nice stuff.
Acer‘s designers took both points to heart and produced a stunning aluminum body with an even better finish than the MacBook. The anodized aluminum is smooth with a mild reflective sheen and slight curves around the center to accentuate the backlit keyboard in a very subtle way. Sharp edges give the frame contour and a sense of precision without the sting of hard aluminum pressing against your wrists — something Apple is famously guilty of.
Aluminum is only a small part of the build, though after a few minutes you’d forget that. The body is actually mostly plastic on the bottom and glass on the top. Hardened white plastic houses the internals and simultaneously provides a nice contrast against the aluminum top.
Above, meanwhile, is a very slick glass-on-glass display panel, with a single pane of glass on the front and another on the back, framed entirely in a thin layer of aluminum. On the inside it’s gorgeous; a thick white bezel and the razor-thin aluminum frame, with slight gaps only for the camera, microphone and light sensor.
It’s the top that somehow looks even better… at least, when the display is off. The glass-on-white laptop cover is simple, elegant, and belies the size of the Aspire so much that several bystanders have asked how big the machine really is.
The problem with all this white? Very easy to get dirty. Still, beauty never comes without a price, and in this case, we’d gladly pay it.
Good looking, inside and out
The beautiful build may pull you in, but it’s the internals that’ll make you stay. The Aspire runs the latest-gen Intel Core i5/i7 processors (“Haswell”), packs 8GB of RAM and sports a humongous 2,560 x 1,440 resolution display. That’s the resolution you’d typically get on a computer twice the size, like the iMac.
For an Ultrabook, the S7 is surprisingly powerful. The test unit Acer sent has a 1.8GHz quad-core Core i7 chip and 256GB of storage; it retails for $1,600.
What makes it surprising is how all of the components work together flawlessly, something you don’t see that often on a PC. Plug in a set of headphones and you’re prompted to select whether it’s headphones, speakers, or a headset to provide the correct type of audio feedback. The fans have been expertly placed in the back so heat doesn’t go straight to your leg when plugging away. The built-in camera and microphone work immediately after installing an application like Skype. And you can keep 40 tabs open simultaneously and run the machine without so much as a purr. If you fire up up some streaming videos to really stress your network’s bandwidth, the fans will pipe up a bit but you’ll hardly notice.
And it’s fun to touch, too
With such a good-looking laptop, you’ll want to put your hands all over it. Fingerprints and smudges aside, the Aspire was built just for that, with a touchscreen display that’s made not just for one, but for two.
The screen’s hinge has 180 degrees of motion so you can lay the laptop flat on the table, with the screen level with the keyboard. That way, if you have something to show a friend or colleague sitting across from you, just tilt the display all the way down. It’s a neat feature, mostly because nearly all laptops have weak hinges. The S7’s stands strong, no matter what angle you set it.
Touching the display is also hugely convenient, though on the small 13-inch panel and high 2,560 x 1,440 display it’s hard to tap on links or anything else with any precision. The S7 ships with Windows 8.1 magnifying everything by 200% (effectively making it a 1,280-by-720 resolution display), which does make touch more effective but nullifies the great high-def screen. There just isn’t a good balance between ease of touch and high resolution.
The best way to handle it is with the excellent and large trackpad, which can adjust any webpage and plenty of applications to a more usable size for you with the simple pinch-to-zoom gesture. The keyboard also feels great with low-profile chiclet-style keys. Typing quickly is remarkably easy on the Aspire. One major oddity and annoyance is the miniaturized Caps Lock, which shares a space with the “`/~” key. Those are two keys that should never be near each other, and it effectively renders the Caps Lock key useless.
Take it and run
Good laptops are hard to come by. There’s almost always some compromise that makes us cringe when handing the cashier our credit card (or clicking submit on the order form). That’s why it’s so hard to decide when buying a new computer.
The Acer Aspire S7 doesn’t come with any major compromises. Battery life hangs around six hours per charge of general use (up to seven for light web browsing and productivity). It has one of the best displays I’ve tested on a laptop, which produces great colors and contrast levels, and it has an excellent viewing angle. The touchscreen is useful more often than you’d expect. The keyboard and mouse are both great, aside from an odd Caps Lock key. Most importantly, it’s just a laptop I like using.
And that’s something that I find people forget all too often, about pretty much anything. Buy it because it’s affordable, or because it has these features, or because it’s cool… but what about because I like it? The Aspire S7 is desirable. It’s pleasant to look at and to use and to show off and to put in the bag and to take out. And really, for a computer that may get thousands of hours of use, you should like every bit of it.
Acer Aspire S7
Excellent build quality • Vibrant touchscreen display • Thin and light, yet still very powerful
Useless Caps Lock key • Doesn’t take full advantage of high-res display
The Bottom Line
The Acer Aspire S7 the most desirable Windows Ultrabook you can buy.
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