Buy the Acer I74500U Aspire 15.6-Inch
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Several months ago, Acer released the Aspire R7, a new and interesting take on touchscreen laptops. We didn’t have an opportunity to review it at the time of launch, but Acer did ship one out a bit later and it’s an interesting enough laptop that we wanted to discuss some of what might make this laptop appealing to a subset of our readers. We’ll start with the customary specifications table, and after you see the specs you’ll hopefully begin to understand why we aren’t going to do a super in-depth review.

Acer Aspire R7-571-6858 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-3337U
(Dual-core 1.8-2.7GHz, 3MB L3, 22nm, 17W)
Chipset HM77
Memory 6GB (4GB onboard, 2GB SO-DIMM, 12GB Max)
(DDR3-1600 11-11-11-28 timings)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000
(16 EUs at 350-1100MHz)
Display 15.6" Glossy AHVA 1080p (1920x1080)
(AUO B156HAN01.2)
Storage 500GB 5400RPM HDD (Western Digital WD5000LPVX)
24GB SSD Cache (Kingston SMS151S324G)
Optical Drive N/A
Networking 802.11n WiFi (Broadcom BCM43228)
(Dual-band 2x2:2 300Mbps capable)
Bluetooth 4.0 + HS (Broadcom)
Audio Realtek HD
Stereo Speakers
Headset combo jack
Battery/Power 4-cell, ~15.1V, 3560mAh, 53.6Wh
65W Max AC Adapter
Front Side N/A
Left Side Headset jack
2 x USB 3.0
1 x HDMI
1 x Mini-VGA
Right Side Flash Reader (SD)
1 x USB 2.0
Volume Control
Power Button
AC Power Connection
Kensington Lock
Back Side 2 x Exhaust Vent
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 14.8" x 10.0" x 1.1" (WxDxH)
(376mm x 254mm x 28mm)
Weight 5.29 lbs (2.4kg)
Extras HD Webcam
86-Key Keyboard
Ezel hinge
Pricing MSRP: $1000
Online: $900

If we were to have looked at the R7 when it first launched three months ago, it might have made a bit more sense, but with the Haswell processors now launched and relatively available, Ivy Bridge is definitely showing its age. What’s more, none of the other specifications really stand out as being marquee features… except for the display and its so-called “Ezel hinge”. We’ll get to that in a moment, but let’s first quickly touch on the other specifications.

The R7 comes with 4GB of memory soldered onto the motherboard and a single SO-DIMM slot. There’s only one model of R7 currently available now, at least in the US (and this is not likely to change for this generation), and Acer populates the SO-DIMM slot with a 2GB DIMM. Storage duties are handled by a 500GB hard drive with a 24GB solid state drive as a caching drive; unfortunately, Acer uses Condusiv’s ExpressCache as opposed to Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology, so in my experience the boost from the SSD cache isn’t as noticeable. Still, it’s better than relying purely on HDD storage. Considering the size of the R7, the lack of an optical drive and somewhat small battery are also going to raise a few question marks.

The model we’re looking at uses a Core i5-3317U processor, with its associated HD 4000 iGPU. There was apparently a model overseas that had a GT 750M dGPU as well, but either it never made it to the US or it’s no longer available. It’s a bit of a shame, as having more potent graphics would have opened the door for additional use cases like gaming, and the touchscreen might have proved useful in some games (though the number of premiere games that are built with touchscreen support is amazingly limited right now).

Connectivity options are pretty much par for the course, though perhaps a little bit limited for a 15.6-inch notebook. You get two USB 3.0 ports and a single USB 2.0 port, HDMI and VGA outputs, a combination headphone/microphone headset jack, and an SD card reader. That’s pretty much everything I use on a regular basis, with nothing extra. Note that there is not Ethernet, which is an unfortunate omission considering the size of this notebook. The wireless solution is at least decent, with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios and connection speeds up to 300Mbps, but the lack of 802.11ac means real-world transfer speeds will never be more than about 20-25MB/s.

The specs are a bit underwhelming, but if you really like the design it’s possible to upgrade to the memory to 12GB with an 8GB SO-DIMM, and you can swap out the 24GB mSATA SSD caching drive for a full SSD, plus the chassis supports a standard 2.5” drive as well. You could try upgrading the WiFi as well, but many OEMs lock down the supported WiFi cards so that may not work. The only major drawback to upgrading is that you’ll have to open the bottom of the laptop, which isn’t too bad if not for one thing. You need a T-9 Torx screwdriver, and then you need to pry up two of the rubber pads to get to the last three screws. The rubber pads use an adhesive, so after prying them up you may find that they don’t stay put as well. Other than the three hidden screws, it’s pretty simple to get inside the R7, and the bottom of the chassis comes off with no difficulty.

As a final note, this is definitely a hefty notebook, weighing 5.3 pounds without any particularly demanding hardware. In fact, I’ve seen gaming laptops with 15.6-inch displays that have quad-core processors and discrete GPUs that weigh this much. The reason for the bulk probably has a lot to do with the Ezel hinge, though I have to say that as far as Acer products are concerned, this is possibly the most solid feeling laptop I’ve ever seen from them. There’s no flex, creaking, or any other indication that this laptop might fall apart in a couple years. And with that said, let’s move on to the crux of this review: a discussion of the Ezel hinge and the various operating modes of the Acer R7.

Acer R7: Fundamentally Redesigned
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  • mooncancook - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    I tend to agree with you. I had been interested in convertible notebook and tried them out in store before, the experience was lacking. Then came Win8 and I tried the Sony Duo 11, I was intrigued, but I was turned off by the short battery life. Finally Haswell arrived, and I tried the new Sony Duo 13 and I was convinced and bought it. I love it so far. With traditional notebook, the only place that I use it is on a desk, but with a hybrid I start using it while lying on the couch or bed, and the touch browsing experience with IE is great. If I need more precise control I can use the Wacom-liked stylus or the built-in touchpad, and if I am seriously working on desktop mode I'd connect a BT mouse. It costs 4 times as much as a good tablet but it can be 10 times as useful. It is not for everyone but it opens new doors and new opportunities. On the other hand, I don't think a 15" hybrid that weighs over 5 lb is appealing. Overall I like what MS did to put serious touch capability into their new OS. Without Win8 and Haswell I would not have purchased a new hybrid notebook at all. Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    This is obviously an opinion, but the Ezel hinge is a ridiculously stupid idea. Having the touchpad ABOVE the keyboard makes it basically useless (you are guaranteed to nudge keys with your wrists) and the ability to lay the open screen completely flat with the body of the machine doesn't exist. This is for a market that doesn't want a tablet, notebook, convertible, ultraportable, or DTR/powerhouse. Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    I agree. I see the only really useful hybrid formfactor to be a totally detachable tablet. Maybe something like the HP Split, I think it is. Even some of the cool hinged designs, like the dell (I cant remember the name) or the Lenovo Yoga are still basically laptops, and you are stuck with hauling around the keyboard all the time, and they are too heavy and bulky to easily be used as a tablet, even when folded into tablet form.

    So ultimately, the only convertible option I would choose would either be a tablet with a dock, or a laptop with a totally detachable tablet portion. Actually, I suppose those two are basically the same thing.
    Reply
  • nerd1 - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    Actually the ezel hinge is the best option out there for convertible tablet, as it can be made quite sturdy, and can house the main logicboard (ativ Q does so). Vaio duo 13 uses the same architecture and managed to fit a small touchpad BELOW the keyboard to make it actually useful as a laptop. Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    If they were going to put the logic board in there, then why not go all the way and make the screen detachable? Ohh, right, the battery. The whole implementation is poor. You get no real benefit over a laptop for double the price and a virtually unusable track pad. Reply
  • sheh - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    It seems the screen is 6-bit, without even FRC? Is there obvious dithering? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    The only places that say it's 6-bit are not really reliable sources. I'm guessing most assume 6-bit since that's what all TN panels use, but this isn't TN. Sadly, AUO's page doesn't say anything: http://www.auo.com/?sn=149&lang=en-US&c=34...

    AHVA is a high-end technology, though, basically in the same category as IPS, so I'd be surprised if it was actually only 6-bit. In fact, other sources say AHVA can do 10-bit, but they're no more reliable than the places saying 6-bit. In use, I didn't see any signs of dithering, but then even dithering on TN panels has become good enough that I don't notice.
    Reply
  • ZeDestructor - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    Just thought you should know: You can also get IPS panels with 6-bit (the well-known, much-liked Dell U2412M comes to mind, source: http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/reviews/dell_u2412m.ht... ).

    On that note, if you spend the money, you can get a damn good TN panel as well, as the 1920x1200 panel in my Dell E6500 shows. First time I powered it on, I mistook it for an MVA panel because it had rather good colour gamut (compared to my dual U2410 setup), with negligible colour shifting, little washout at 120° (60° each side).
    Reply
  • ViperV990 - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    I can't stand the fused enter/backslash key design Acer has been employing. Reply
  • althaz - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    why did Microsoft even waste so much time and energy creating the Start Screen

    Because the Start Menu is actually complete rubbish. It's worthless, with only one redeeming feature (arriving in the much-maligned Windows Vista): Search.

    The Start Screen is an order of magnitude better at everything except search. For search it can either be much better or a bit worse. The things that actually do need criticism in Windows 8 are the (entirely optional) swipe-ins (on the desktop accessed by the hot corners) and metro apps (which suck on a desktop and should not be the default apps for anything). On tablets those things are actually pretty great (Windows 8 on a tablet is a very long way ahead of Android/OS in terms of user experience, despite being somewhat unfinished). On touchscreen notebooks they are somewhat useful, but still slower than keyboard shortcuts.
    Reply

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