I've given Acer grief over some of its products in the past, mostly its cheap and often poorly-realized Iconia stuff. But give the company its due: When the design team has a good day, it produces some excellent laptops. A prime example is the Aspire R 13, a fast ultrabook with long run time and a versatile dual-hinge mount that lets you rotate and re-orient the touchscreen display in a number of useful positions. I've seen it elsewhere described as clunky. I like it. Opinions vary.
Though it's not the first company to employ a dual-hinge display mount, (Dell's XPS 12 ultrabook convertible employs the same basic idea), Acer's take on it is superb. Acer calls it the Ezel hinge and has trademarked the name. OK. I particularly like the way the design lets you scoot the display forward for closer viewing while still maintaining a decent viewing angle and unfettered access to the keyboard. You can also flip it and turn the laptop around for watching movies without the distraction of the keyboard deck, minor as that is.
The Aspire R 13's appearance is handsome and unique. I actually used the word "cool" when I first saw it because the dual-hinge functionality is in full view. I also like the minimalist design that focuses your attention on what matters--the screen and to a lesser extent, the keyboard.
The backlit, Chiclet-style keyboard is one of Acer's better planks. It's not quite in the same league as a Lenovo, or some Dells in terms of feel, but it's more than type-able and I particularly like the bright, white-and-blue text. Even if you touch-type, the brighter text helps you orient your fingers at the get-go, and helps you more easily discern the secondary functions.
I also found the one-piece touchpad well-adjusted and solid-feeling. I've recently run into a spate of touchpads that are overly sensitive (for my tastes) to taps, and it was nice not inadvertently clicking all the time. The touchscreen was responsive to both my fingers and the Acer Active Pen. There's a hover function with the pen, so you don't actually have to touch the display with the pen to click on stuff. I rarely used it as I like the tactile feedback from pressing the pen against the display.
Despite all the display mounting hardware, the R 13 weighs in at a relatively light 3.3 pounds and is only about 0.7 inches thick.
Components and configurations
The Aspire R 13 is available in ten different configurations, starting with our test unit, the $899 R7-371T-59ZK with a Core i5-5200U, 8GB of memory, and a 128GB SSD. The line tops out with a Core i7-5500U, 8GB of memory, and a 512GB SSD for $1,499. There's also a model listed at $1,499 with the same specs, except the CPU is a Core i7-4510U. Click the Buy button with that one and it drops to $999. Come on Acer: Both the "$1,499" models feature a 2560x1440 display, while all the other models are 1920x1080.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.