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Acer Aspire R 13 review: A convertible laptop done right

Jon L. Jacobi | July 22, 2015
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.

The port selection on the Aspire R 13 is minimal, but if you're going to have only four ports, three USB 3.0 and HDMI, these are probably what you want. There's also an SD card. OK, I'd prefer DisplayPort, but at least the Wi-Fi is 802.11ac with Bluetooth 4.0, courtesy of Intel's AC-7265 chipset.

Lousy documentation

One thing I find monumentally frustrating about Acer is that quite often, they're Apple-like in their inadequate hardware documentation. There's a user's guide, but it doesn't tell you how to swap out the internal battery. Acer says the battery is not user replaceable. Really? It looked simple enough, I removed the 12 screws from the bottom of the unit and spudged (pried with a plastic tool) the bottom panel off. Sure enough, the battery is in plain view and replaceable. You can also easily access the mini-PCIe slot inhabited by the AC-7265 and the M.2 slot filled with the SSD. 

I understand warranty concerns, and I also understand that vendors make money by charging a premium for component upgrades. Apple has made billions that way. But as it's likely the battery will outlast the one-year guarantee, it would be nice to know you can replace it without incurring a service fee. As I've just told you how to do it, I won't hold that against the Aspire R 13, which I like quite a bit.

Performance

The Aspire R 13 R7-371T-59ZK scored 2,742 on PCMark's Work conventional test, and 2,146 on the Creative conventional test. CrystalDiskMark rated the Kingston RBU-SNS8100S3128GD SATA SSD at 518MBps sequential reading and 342MBps sequential writing. Those are good results and right about where you'd expect given the components. 

Gaming scores were typical for Intel HD 5500 graphics--playable only for lower resolution/lower detail Web and basic games. Movies looked great, but the sound through the speakers, despite the Dolby Digital Plus (which adds volume and a sense of space) is thin at best. With headphones, the Dolby helps a great deal.

Battery life is outstanding: The Aspire R 13 ran for an impressive 7 hours and 23 minutes while rendering a high bit-rate, 1080p MKV movie. That's better than a cross-country flight--that's all the way across the Atlantic from New York.

In office drone work, we measured the R13 at 638 minutes using MobileMark 14, which is even easier on the battery because it allows the PC's screen to go blank during the test to simulate real world use.

Conclusion

Some of my all-time favorite laptops have been made by Acer, including the 17.1-incher I take with me on road trips. The Aspire R 13 has joined that list, and the low-end model I tested should be more than enough computer for the majority of users.

 

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