The keys are fairly large and well spaced across the tray. They don't have much travel though, making it sometimes difficult to know if you've pressed them. You need to develop a rather sure-footed typing style to avoid mistakes at speed. It's backlit though, so you won't struggle to see at night.
The trackpad is wide and is clickable, dispensing with dedicated buttons. It's not particularly responsive though. It's fine for hitting the big Windows 8 tiles, but for speedy Web browsing or accurately tapping small icons and sliders, you'd be better off plugging in a proper mouse.
Thankfully, Acer provides one in the box -- presumably because it knows the trackpad isn't great. It's a pretty cheap offering, so you'll probably want to grab a better one. It's not a massive issue, as you'll probably spend the majority of your time navigating using the touchscreen.
The S7 packs a 13.3-inch screen with a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. That's Full HD, so it's perfectly poised to tackle all the high-definition content you can throw at it. Many similar-sized machines offer 1,600x900-pixels, so it's good to see 1080p on board -- although, at this price, I'd have accepted nothing less.
It's bright and bold too, providing rich colours and pleasing contrast. You can find better screens knocking around, but this is certainly among the top players. It shows off high-definition content perfectly adequately and the brightness helps counteract the worst of any ambient light.
The screen is fully touch enabled to let you properly take advantage of the large tiles and gestures that make up Windows 8. Using the touchscreen and keyboard almost in tandem feels intuitive, and its very comfortable to switch between swiping at the screen to load apps and the Web browser and typing on the keyboard.
The downside is that you're often left with greasy fingerprints on the screen. It's a problem facing every touch-enabled laptop and tablet of course, but it's always worth having a cloth or soft t-shirt nearby to give it a quick polish before loading your videos up.
Power and performance
The S7 is powered by an Intel Core i7 processor clocked at 1.9GHz, teamed with 4GB of RAM. That's a decent processor, but I would like to have seen a faster clock speed, and I'd certainly like to have seen 6 or even 8GB of RAM, especially considering the high price.
It managed to achieve 8,257 on the Geekbench benchmark test, which is certainly a good score, but given how much you have to shell out for it, I did hope for a bit more. By comparison, the Asus U500 scored over 12,000 and costs the same. It did put in a better performance than the Dell XPS 12, but it wasn't significant enough to warrant the extra £500.
In general use though I found it to be very competent. It whizzed through the Windows 8 interface without any kind of lag and switched between open apps without delay. It coped fine with having numerous Web browser tabs open and streaming video, even with the lesser amount of RAM.
In all, there wasn't much I could throw at it that really slowed it to a
crawl, so it'll happily put up with any of the everyday computing tasks
you're likely to throw at it. It was able to do a good job with editing photos in Adobe Lightroom 4 and managed to encode my 11-minute 1080p video file into 24fps H264 in
around 11 minutes.
That's not the fastest time I've ever had, but it's good nonetheless. Sony's sliding Windows 8 Vaio Duo 11 managed to do it in 8 minutes, courtesy of its 8GB of RAM. In terms of straight-line speed, the Sony probably has the edge, but the traditional keyboard setup on the S7 is much more comfortable.
The Aspire S7 combines a super-slim, attractive design with a good touchscreen to help get the best out of Windows 8. Its Core i7 processor provides a decent performance, but it's not the powerhouse you'd hope it would be for the price.
If portability and the touchscreen are more important to you than raw power, the S7 is a decent option to consider, but you'll be paying quite a premium for that slick design.