Acer's going high brow for Windows 8 with its S7. Coming in 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch versions, they both use touchscreens and have full HD IPS panels. It is, for all intents and purposes, a slight freshening up of its earlier S5.
- Touchscreen: yes
- USB 3.0: 2
- Video: micro HDMI (VGA via adapter)
- Ethernet: 100Mbps via USB 2.0 adapter
- Wireless: dual-band 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
While we wondered how the desktop would look at full HD at 11.6 inches, we had no issues at all. For those who find themselves squinting, moving a notch up to 125 per cent DPI should fix your troubles. Viewing angles were good, and, impressively for a laptop, there was only a small amount of light bleed, emanating from the top.
You can get decent volume out of the speakers, but sound quality isn't great — bring your headphones.
The 11.6-inch model has an aluminium back, which looks impressive, but makes the screen feel a little top heavy, especially when the laptop is held in the hand. There's a cute bit of engineering here — after you open the lid to 90°, the resistance increases markedly. This is to reduce screen wobble when tapping, and we can't say we ever noticed a problem in this regard.
The inside of the laptop follows the same metallic theme, while the bottom is plain, white plastic. It feels impressively light for what it is, coming in at 1.1kg.
The backlit keyboard is welcome, although not particularly bright, glowing a faint aqua colour. While it works fine in darkness, in half-light it's incredibly difficult to see the keys. Acer has also made a few odd choices; while moving the F1-F12 keys to the number keys (and making them activated through the Fn key) helps save space, it's also moved the delete key down next to the arrow keys, and the home/page up/end/page down assignments are just confusing, with the keys small enough to cause errors.
The touch pad is large, and supports standard gestures. An additional welcome gesture is a four-finger swipe up or down, which effectively acts like the Start key on the keyboard. You can't perform the gestures one after the other too quickly, and you have to raise your fingers off the pad afterwards, or they simply get ignored.
Port options are about what you'd expect for a laptop of this size: dual USB 3.0, micro HDMI, microSD and a headset jack are all you get. Acer bundles in a USB to 10/100Mbps Ethernet adapter, along with a micro-HDMI to VGA adapter. Also in the box is a wireless mouse and an incredibly nice laptop sleeve, with a faux-leather exterior and what feels like a soft neoprene interior.
Our review model came with a Core i7 3517U, 4GB of RAM and dual 128GB LiteOn SSDs arranged in RAID 0, for a single 256GB volume. This allows for some impressive speeds, with CrystalDiskMark showing 742.4MBps sequential reads and 689.9MBps sequential writes, and 4K random speeds hitting 13.37MBps reads and 11.38MBps writes. Disk speed is most certainly not a bottleneck here.
Handbrake encoding (in seconds)
- 383Acer Aspire S7 (11.6-inch, Core i7 3517U, 4GB RAM, 2x 128GB SSD RAID 0)
- 386Dell XPS 12 (Core i7 3517U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
- 397Acer Aspire S7 (13.3-inch, Core i7 3517U, 4GB RAM, 2x 64GB SSD RAID 0)
- 484Asus Taichi (Core i5 3317U, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)