Given how we weren’t all that impressed by Acer’s previous flagship Ultrabook, the Aspire S5, we were looking forward to its new ‘thinnest 13-inch Ultrabook in the world’ champ, the Acer Aspire S7 391, with mixed feelings. After all, the S5 offered awkward rear connectivity, an average keyboard that wasn’t backlit, and a sub-par TN screen with a bog-standard 1,366 x 768 resolution. Thankfully, the PC and laptop giant has given its premium S7 ultraportable range a complete design overhaul and, in the process, created one of the most stylish and feature-packed slim laptops around.
Let’s sum up some of the goodies this high-end Windows 8 Ultrabook gives you: a 1080p IPS 10-point touch screen protected by Gorilla Glass 2 for ‘tablet use’, a fully EL-backlit keyboard, Core i7 power, a massive ‘buttonless’ touchpad that’s a joy to use, and innovative cooling. Best of all, these bits are packed into a super-stylish aluminium and glass chassis that’s still the slimmest of its type at 12.2mm yet offers impeccable build quality, and the whole lot will set you back under £1,100. With all that going for it, is the 13-inch Aspire S7 the ultimate ‘traditional’ laptop?
If anyone thought the likes of Apple, Asus and Samsung had dibs on the classiest laptop designs, Acer is setting out to prove them wrong. Even when Acer focused on premium design in the past, it wasn’t quite special enough to wow compared to the best of the rest – but its Aspire S7-391 is desirable in pretty much every way.
Perhaps most controversially, Acer has gone the HP Envy 14 Spectre route in giving its high-end laptop a glass lid. Just to clarify, if you want the Aspire S7 with a white glass lid you’ll need to opt for the 13-inch model, as the Acer Aspire S7 11.6-inch comes clad completely in metal (a look and feel that we prefer, but that’s highly subjective).
The toughened Gorilla Glass 2 lid is backed by white and held by a uniframe anodised aluminium surround. Though it’s possible to mistake that glass for plastic at a distance, it’s still an attractive look, and is obviously far more resistant to wear and scratches than a glossy plastic finish would be.
The white colour also helps to hide fingerprints and smudges, which were such a problem on the HP Envy 14 Spectre’s black-backed glass lid. Our only practical complaints here are that glass does not provide a good grip (though an almost soft-touch matt plastic base helps to make up for that) and that it adds to the weight, though at 1.29kg, the Acer Aspire S7 is far from heavy.
Opening this premium Ultrabook up, you’re greeted by another Gorilla Glass 2 sheet covering that lovely 1080p screen and the white bezel, which matches the lid. The metal surround extends into the hinge and the flawless keyboard surround.
Both the keyboard and touchpad perfectly resemble the anodised aluminium they’re set into, and the overall effect is striking. It looks even better when the keyboard’s aqua backlighting is turned on in a dark environment.
Visually, the only fly in the ointment is the white plastic base and sides. While they’re far from unattractive, it’s the sole element of the 13-inch Aspire S7 that could possibly be called cheap. Mind you, the plastics feel lovely and build quality is superb throughout. Everything is carefully crafted and feels very solid indeed. The torque hinge is also perfectly balanced.
Unfortunately there are some minor physical issues with the design. The laptop’s smooth base can slip off your lap if you’re wearing trousers made of a smooth material. The sharp edges of the chassis don’t just look edgy but can be a tad too much so for comfort (just like some of Apple’s laptops, incidentally). Also, because the Acer Aspire S7’s base extends slightly beyond its lid on the front and sides, this Ultrabook is surprisingly difficult to open, unless you have long fingernails.