The new generation of super-lightweight notebooks packs a seriously heavyweight punch. By Anthony Doman
Taking the fight to rivals such as the Macbook Air (on both aesthetics and performance), Acer’s Aspire S7 Ultrabook boasts a formidable array of features. Just to look at and touch, it’s quite something: the 13-inch (33,8-cm) version we had on test comes with a classy, slick but tough Gorilla Glass 2 lid. This is as far from plasticky as it gets. Yet the whole thing is just 11,9 mm thick and weighs a handy 1,3 kg. Acer says that it’s the first to use Gorilla Glass as part of the body construction – and not just for decoration. A cushioning layer between the glass and the notebook’s unibody aluminium frame helps protect the glass by absorbing shock.
Flipping open the lid reveals aluminium bodywork much like that of the Apple rival, though with keys to match. Thanks to its solid-state storage and Acer Green Instant On/Always Connect features, the S7 is ready for action within seconds. And thanks to the vibrant, pin-sharp Full HD 1920 x 1080 display, the interior of the lid is as striking and elegant as its exterior. It’s good for a 178 degree viewing angle, says Acer. Even better, it has some great party tricks: the most obvious being 10-point touch control that’s perfectly suited to Windows 8, and the ability to open 180 degrees and lie flat for those moments when you feel the urge to share. You’ll also notice that the screen pivoting motion stiffens up beyond a certain angle; that’s because of its “dual-torque” pivot, designed to ensure that the screen doesn’t flop around in its optimum viewing arc.
The keyboard uses the now familiar Chiclet keys. With a couple of exceptions – the tiny Caps Lock and oddly shaped Enter key gave rise to some finger trouble initially – everything slots neatly under the fingers. There’s a handy feature for variable-light or dark situations, too: electroluminescent backlighting illuminates the keyboard automatically according to ambient light. We occasionally had uneven results with the trackpad when moving the cursor, though of course there’s always either the touchscreen or mouse as an alternative.
Because these ultrabooks pack an enormous amount of componentry into a confined space, heat build-up can lead to hot lap, hot hands or both. Acer’s solution to this is Twin-Air cooling: said to keep the Ultrabook cool and comfortable to use, it uses two small high-speed fans – pushing, the other pulling, to circulate air. We’d agree with their cool-running claim, but the flipside of this is quite noticeable fan noise when the going gets hot.
In machines this sleek, space for connectivity options is generally at a premium; a couple of USB 3.0 ports, micro-HDMI socket, headphone socket and SD card reader are about it. However, USB-to-ethernet and micro-HDMI-to-VGA adaptors are supplied as standard. Finally, Acer quotes battery runtime as up to 6 hours, with an optional second battery available to double that.
Processor: Core i7at 1,90 GHz
Memory: 4 GB DDR3 SDRAM
Operating System: Windows 8 Single Language 64-bit
Features: Card reader, webcam, microphone, wireless mouse
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Screen: LED touchscreen 33,8 cm, 1920 x 1080 Full HD
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0 + HS, HDMI, USB (incl 3.0)
Battery: Lithium polymer 2 340 mAh
Weight: 1,3 kg
Price: R24 999
Related article: So you want to buy an ultrabook