Acer Aspire R7 review: first look
We've seen some wacky hybrids in recent months, but the recently launched Acer Aspire R7 has gone further out on a limb than most. Its hinge, dubbed the "Ezel", resembles the central support strut of an all-in-one PC more than a laptop hinge, and it delivers a surprising amount of flexibility.
With the Aspire R7 fully closed, the strut is flush with the lid, with the hinge itself attached to the centre rear of the display. It looks odd, but this arrangement allows the screen to tilt back and forth, lift up above the keyboard so it's floating like a desktop PC monitor, spin vertically to face away from you or fold flat, facing up.
It can, of course, be used as a standard laptop, and positioning the display "normally" like this reveals the Acer Aspire R7's other party trick: its large, glass touchpad is positioned above the keyboard instead of below it.
In some ways this makes sense. It pushes the keyboard towards the front edge of the chassis, leaving room for the display to rest its chin just above, a position that makes reaching over to swipe, pinch and tap the screen that bit more comfortable.
It also gives you the luxury of a large, usable touchpad for those occasions when more precision is needed - when you're using video editing or high-end photo processing software, for instance.
On the other hand, we have concerns about the long-term practicality of this arrangement. While we were using it on the stand at Acer's big launch event in New York, we found it difficult to mouse about without resting a palm on the keyboard, inadvertently pressing keys.
The position of the keyboard at the very front of the chassis also means there's nowhere to rest your wrists while typing. On a hybrid, such as the Sony VAIO Duo 11, this isn't a massive problem because the keyboard is so thin. On the Aspire R7, however, the front lip of the keyboard rises a centimetre or so above the desk, which makes typing feel distinctly odd.
Also, although this may not be immediately obvious from the photographs, the R7 is a very big machine. The Full HD IPS screen measures 15.6in from corner to corner, and the mechanics of that hinge means it's a weighty piece of kit, too. Suffice it to say, it isn't a laptop you'll be wanting to lug around much and, perhaps in keeping with its all-in-one PC look, it'll likely stay tethered to a desk.
That screen though, does look good: it's as crisp and colourful as they come, and a few dabs and swipes confirm the touchscreen works well. Only the most effortless of flicks is required to move the Start screen around, and scroll, pan and zoom on web pages.
The R7's not inconsiderable size also means there's room for a full range of ports and sockets scattered around its edges, with twin USB 3 sockets and a full-size HDMI output on the left, and another USB 3 port plus an SD card slot on the right side. From a performance perspective, it ought to be on the money too, with a Core i5 processor, up to 12GB of RAM, and the choice of either a 1TB hard disk or up to 256GB of SSD catering for storage.
The Acer Aspire R7 is certainly a striking machine. Whether it's a practical one, and worth the rather high £900 asking price, remains to be seen. We'll bring you a full review once we've had the opportunity to fully test one and, more importantly, tried to live with it for a while.