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The Acer Aspire S7 was introduced by the company nearly a year ago in June 2012 as one of the company’s first touchscreen ultrabooks, and by far one of their best to date as it included a Full HD display, is made of a mixture of aluminum, white plastic and glass and comes with either an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor.

For the sake of this review, we decided to review the mid-range S7-391-6413 in order to get a good understanding of what the Aspire S7 is all about without having to gush over how powerful the Intel Core i7 processor is as this model has a pretty strong Intel Core i5 processor clocked at 1.8GHz. So without further ado, let’s take a look at how the Acer Aspire S7 did in our review.

Context

Owning a MacBook Pro for work, laptops are extremely important to me as there’d be no way I’d be able to pay the bills without being able to write, edit video and produce regular content for this fine website. The power of a laptop is important to me as I need it to edit video and play the occasional modern-day video game like SimCity or Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Portability is also extremely important to me in a laptop as I often attend events both in New York City and in remote locations. Lugging around a heavy laptop is not my idea of a good time, so the lighter it is, the happier my back will be.

Lastly, a laptop’s keyboard is also of importance considering a good portion of my day is spent writing stories. If a laptop’s keyboard doesn’t feel right, it could ruin my workflow, meaning you won’t get to read as many exciting and interesting stories from moi.

Just to clarify, I’ve been reviewing a number of laptops recently so I’ll certainly spend a bit of time comparing it to others I’ve used in the past, but just wanted you to know what I currently own and use on a regular basis for my day-to-day work

Technical Highlights

13.3-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) widescreen CineCrystal™ LED-backlit display
Intel® Core™ i5-3337U Processor 1.8GHZ with Turbo Boost Technology up to 2.7GHz + Intel® HD Graphics 4000
4GB DDR3 dual-channel RAM
Windows 8
128GB SSD drive
Acer Invilink™ Nplify™ 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi Certified™ with support for Acer
SignalUp™ wireless technology
Bluetooth® 4.0 + HS
2x USB 3.0 ports, 1x Micro-HDMI™ out with HDCP support, 2-in-1 digital media card reader, 1x Combo headphone / microphone-in jack
437mm x 271mm x 91mm (17.2″ W x 10.67″ x 3.58″)
1.3kg (2.87lbs)
4-cell lithium polymer battery (4680mAh)

Official Specifications on Acer.com

Industrial Design

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The Acer Aspire S7 is a nice looking ultrabook as it has a bright look to it due to a combined use of aluminum and a white plastic that is featured in certain areas. The back of its display has a white plastic, which is covered by a film of glass, and is outlined by a thin film of aluminum. When the S7 is closed, the base of the display is visible to show two small LEDs that show if the laptop is currently on and the status of its battery charge. The bottom of the S7 has a white plastic that extends up to where the ports are located on the sides of the ultrabook. The front corners are where the S7’s speakers are located, and its rubber stumps can be found at the edge of the speakers and hidden among two screws towards the rear.

When the Aspire S7 is opened, you’ll be greeted with a 13.3-inch Full HD display, which means its resolution is a full 1920 x 1080 and is capable of offering some very impressive visuals when compared to other ultrabooks of this size. The display’s bezel varies in size around the screen as the bottom looks to be two inches thick and prominently displays the Acer logo, while the sides and top bezels look to be about one inch thick, with the top bezel housing the S7’s 1.3MP webcam.

When holding the Aspire S7, the ultrabook feels extremely light and is easy to hold in one hand with very little effort. The bottom feels smooth due to its plastic material, while the top is a little less smooth due to its use of glass. Even though the S7 feels light, it doesn’t feel cheaply built as the combination of glass, plastic and aluminum work well together to accentuate certain areas of the ultrabook.

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Keyboard: The keyboard of the Acer Aspire S7 is aesthetically pleasing as it seems to pop straight out from the aluminum material that its base is made from. The keys are a slightly darker tone of aluminum that gives them a nice contrast from the rest of the base’s aluminum, and I also noticed there’s a slight dip in the base close to where the keys are located, which is also a nice touch, although I’m sure not many people will notice it.

As for the feel of the keys themselves, I wasn’t too fond with the Aspire S7’s keys as they barely provide any feedback and feel squishy without a hint of a click felt towards the end of each key press. As I used its keyboard, it was hard for my fingers to distinguish when a key was pressed successfully as that feedback in the end just isn’t there. I also didn’t like the layout of some of the keys, specifically the location of the arrow keys and the Home and End keys as it seems like they were thrown in last second in the bottom corner of the keyboard and are one of the smallest keys on the entire keyboard.

The palm rests were nice as the entire base of the S7 is made of aluminum, which helps in having your hands glide across with little effort. Having your palms hit the edge of the palm rests won’t result in a sharp feeling as the edge has been smoothed down slightly, which is a welcome feature for those of us who don’t like a sharp edge.

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The trackpad on the Aspire S7 feels like its made of a much smoother aluminum than the base, similar to how the keys look and feel. It’s a wider trackpad, which will probably help in moving the mouse’s pointer all over the screen with very little effort, that is, as long as you tweak its settings as we found its default speed of the trackpad was a little too slow for our liking. With its default setting, we had to move our finger across the trackpad two to three times in order for the pointer to move from one edge to another. Clicking on the trackpad can be performed by simply tapping it, or clicking on the majority of the trackpad, except for the bottom-right region which is specifically for right-mouse clicks.

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Ports: The right side of the Aspire S7 is where all of the data ports are located as you’ll be able to access two USB 3.0 ports and a 2-in-1 digital card reader. The left side is where you’ll find you can plug in its AC adapter and have access to its micro-HDMI and audio jack. You’ll also be able to find the S7’s power button on the left side, which is certainly strange spot in my opinion to place it, but nowhere near impossible to find like the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist’s power button location.

Display (excellent!)

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The 13.3-inch display on the Acer Aspire S7 is able to produce a resolution of 1920 x 1080 thanks to its Full HD display and its use of IPS means you’ll be able to view it at extremely wide angles without any true degradation in its image quality. The display can even extend itself so the entire ultrabook is completely flat, which can be helpful if you’re collaborating with someone who is sitting across from you.

The Aspire S7’s display has a 350 nit brightness which on an overcast day, we found it to be comfortable to use at around 20% – 30% of its full brightness. At its full brightness, the S7’s display could be used on a sunny day without any difficulty as we were able to work on it without searching for the sanctity of shade.

Webcam (good)

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The Acer Aspire S7 is equipped with a 1.3MP webcam, which for our tests, we put up against the MacBook Pro (mid-2010) which has an iSight camera.

In our daylight tests, the Aspire S7’s camera produced an image that was able to see a nice amount of details and colors which don’t seem to be as washed out as they look with the MBP’s camera. Even on an overcast day, the S7’s webcam was able to perform as well as we expected it to.

Our low-light tests certainly resulted in the S7’s webcam failing to capture an image when lighting conditions aren’t optimal for late-night puppet shows. As you can see from the image the S7 produced, the picture looks very dark and you can barely able to see me sitting right in front of the ultrabook. You can see a bit of my glasses, my shirt and a little bit of the form of my face, but overall the image is quite poor when compared to the MBP’s image under the same low-light conditions.

Performance (excellent!)

The Acer Aspire S7 we used during our review was the S7-391-6413 model which features an Intel Core i5 processor clocked at 1.8GHz, but is able to use its Turbo Boost technology to run at 2.7GHz. During my real world use of the S7, I didn’t notice any lag in its ability to complete many of the tasks that I threw at it. With that said, let’s see how exactly this Aspire S7 performs in a number of our benchmark tests.

One of the first benchmarks we like to run for PCs is PCMark 7 which is a  benchmark used in order to simulate real-world tasks such as opening applications, booting up your computer and doing some mild graphical tasks.

pcmark 7 results

The Aspire S7-391-6413 achieved a powerful score of 4608 in PCMark 7. It performs as well as a number of notable ultrabooks like the Dell XPS 13 1080p and the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist S230u. The S7’s score is very good and will be able to keep up with many of the tasks you’ll probably be throwing at it.

The second benchmark we like to run on our test machines is 3DMark 11, which is a benchmark that is more demanding as its primary focus is how well it’ll perform as a gaming machine. And we’re not talking Facebook or Flash-based games here as those tend to not demand so much from a system, but instead, actual games like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed or any other current-generation games.

3dmark 11 results

The going trend for ultrabooks has been to include the Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU which is certainly capable of performing simple graphical tasks, but in no way has helped in having us consider any ultrabook featuring it as a gaming machine. With a 3DMark 11 score of P642, this just solidifies our theory you should probably not be using the Aspire S7 as a serious gaming machine.

The final benchmark we like to run on our test machines is Geekbench, which isn’t a benchmark that tests the laptop with real-world applications, but instead squarely focuses on the CPU’s raw performance score by throwing mathematical equations at it.

geekbench results

The Aspire S7 didn’t score as high as we would have hoped in our Geekbench benchmark as it scored a 4531 in our benchmark. This means the actual raw performance of the Intel Core i5 inside of the S7 is pretty much average and will be able to perform as well as you expect it to.

Value for weight, price

We know when purchasing any PC, people tend to look at its internal specs and purchase a computer based on what they currently need. One factor many overlook is its weight as more powerful portable computers will most likely be heavier than PCs that aren’t as powerful. That’s why we also like to look at a PCs performance relative to its weight so we can see if all of that power is worth you breaking your back over or if a PC’s weight isn’t worth its sub-par performance.

performance results

The Acer Aspire S7 is an extremely light ultrabook as it only weighs 2.87lbs and when that’s considered with what kind of performance you get out of it, it certainly is an ultrabook that can be recommended based on these factors. An ultrabook that is under 3lbs with this kind of performance isn’t common these days, which is why the S7 stands out among its competitors in this category.

Battery Life (good)

The Acer Aspire S7 features a 4-cell lithium polymer battery that can hold up to 4680mAh and is one of the areas of the S7 we could certainly see an improvement in. The first battery test we ran on the S7 was a long-term battery drain test to see how long it would take for it to drain. Our testing showed an hour of battery drain resulted in a 19% drop in the S7’s battery under the conditions of leaving its Wi-Fi on, its screen at 50% of its brightness and leaving it on to let its battery drain. This means you should expect a little over 5 hours of battery life under these conditions.

The battery drain issues continued into our video tests as well as we conducted two tests of running video located on the S7’s hard drive and the other, a streaming video. The first test was conducted under the conditions of the S7’s screen brightness was at 50% while playing a 1080p local video, which resulted in a 26% drop in its battery, which means you should expect close to 4 hours of local video playback. As for our streaming video test, it was conducted under the same conditions, but instead, the video was a streaming 1080p video and resulted in a 30% drop in its battery. This means you should expect around 3 hours of streaming video playback.

Battery Charge

Charging the battery of the Aspire S7 won’t take long as we noted we were able to recharge it from 0% – 100% in approximately 2 hours and 35 minutes. This is certainly a good thing when you consider the battery life isn’t the best we’ve seen in an ultrabook, so at least you’ll be able to get it charged back up to 100% in no time.

Conclusion (a good ultrabook with not-so good battery life)

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The Acer Aspire S7 may be one of the company’s first touchscreen ultrabooks, but the company certainly knew what it was doing when it designed the S7 as it looks really nice and can perform very well with its included Intel Core i5 processor. We did have some concerns with the S7 as its keyboard was a little too spongy for our taste and its battery life left much to be desired.

If neither of those items matter to you in a touchscreen ultrabook, then the Acer Aspire S7 would make a fine addition to your arsenal as its light, powerful and has a great-looking 1080p screen. If its battery was better, then we could certainly recommend the S7 easily. As of now, we think you should really put some thought and consideration on what exactly you want out of the S7 before you decide to throw $1,400 at a retailer for the ultrabook.

Filed in Computers >Featured >Reviews . Tags: Acer and Laptop Reviews.
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