Acer Aspire S7 Ultrabook review

3.5 out of 5
£1165

For

Gorgeous exterior, 1080p screen and good viewing angle, thin, light, responsive touchscreen, included leather envelope carry case, backlit keys, loads fast

Against

Too expensive, small trackpad lacks response to defter touches, shallow key presses, key backlighting isn't uniform, fairly average battery life

Windows 8 has seen the rebirth of, well, pretty much every existing Ultrabook with a new touchscreen equivalent. But the Acer Aspire S7 is more than that. This white veneer-like finish laptop sure does look the part and also manages to cram a new 1080p resolution screen into its slender design. But with a price tag hovering at around £1,200 for the Intel Core i5 model, is the price overbearing?

Design

Striking is the first word that springs to mind when unveiling the Aspire S7 from its box. The review sample of the S7 delivered to the Pocket-lint offices is whiter than white; it's enough to make Simon Cowell's teeth look bad.

When the product box has been arranged with thought it instils a certain confidence. There's even a stitched leather carry envelope included in the box. It's all rather lovely.

On the front of the S7 the initially shiny and silver Acer logo also subtly illuminates with a white glow in low light too. A bit like that certain fruit-named company.

From its exterior we're nothing short of impressed: the Acer S7 looks great, and at a mere 11.9mm thick and weighing in at 1.3kgs it's perfectly trim and light for a 13-inch model. Ideal for carrying around on the go.

Keyboard and Screen

Open the laptop and it's backlit keys will automatically glow in an off-white, almost greenish colour that's automatically adjusted depending on the ambient light. We'd prefer a more normal white colour and a better uniformity of light to be honest, but it's still a useful feature nonetheless. Midnight typing? No problemo.

The metallic, silver-like lower panel that the keyboard rests in doesn't carry forth the same quality as the S7's exterior though, which is a bit of a shame. The grey-coloured keys bunched together in this space have just enough distance between them for a comfortable typing experience. But it's their depth that feels a little bit shallow - there's not a firm enough response from each press, which may take some getting used to before confident typing comes naturally.

The Acer S7's trackpad is also a little bit on the small side, which doesn't feel necessary, given how much empty real estate there is around the keyboard. It ought to be more responsive to the deftest of touch, but isn't. Although it's workable, it's just not as luxurious as this Ultrabook's exterior might otherwise suggest.

But things step up a gear where the screen is concerned. Its 1920x1080 HD resolution is a cut above the previous Acer S3 and S5 models and looks exceptional. Then, of course, there's the touchscreen integration built in.

READ: Acer Aspire S3 review

Visually we were pleased with the Aspire S7's screen in terms of colour and the viewing angle is far beyond what it was previously. The adjustable brightness will cater for most lighting conditions, although the white level on our particular review model felt muddied - it lacks the sort of eye-popping clear brightness some competitors can muster. Still, in isolation this won't be apparent.

The touch sensitivity is perfectly responsive. Dashes to the side to pull up the Windows 8 start bar, double taps, selection squares and anything else we threw at the screen was carried out without issue. Whereas some competitor screens' touch panels add a very subtle, textured-like finish to the screen, the S7 looks as clear as they come. It's an excellent integration on a great screen.

Performance

Any laptop in the over-£1,000 category has got to have some serious processor guts behind it, right? See here's where this particular Aspire S7 model feels somewhat exposed: it's equipped with a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 processor that, while speedy enough, can be found in laptops several hundred pounds cheaper. And the price ought not be to do with the touchscreen addition or build quality - take a look at the also rather pricey Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 or Apple MacBook Air, both of which cost less.

READ: Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13

Performance-wise what it tends to boil down to for us is whether we can juggle those Word documents with a bit of Photoshop and various other applications. With the S7 i5 model we sure can. But this isn't a super-speedy gaming machine by any stretch - it's more about the visuals, both inside and out, paired with a fair balance of core performance.

Throw more process-intensive tasks at the S7 and the fan noise becomes equally intense which, while not like an airshow flyover, is still more audible than it ought to be.

Elsewhere under the bonnet the Acer Aspire S7 i5 model comes loaded with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD drive to store all your files. Two USB 3.0 ports are met with a mini HDMI and 3.5mm headphone out ports on the opposite side, but on account of physical size there's no Ethernet port. Instead there's built-in speedy Wi-Fi.

Windows 8 comes as standard and the full-on, 64-bit operating platform is a solid workhorse. If you're unfamiliar with its touchscreen and tile-based access then worry not, as there's also a desktop set-up tucked away in there too. Ultimately Windows 8 trims the fat off Windows 7 and is a far leaner operating system to use.

The S7's battery life, at least according to Acer, can last for up to 12 hours. Maybe if you keep the screen dim and don't run anything processor intensive, but otherwise we found nearer to the four hour mark was more realistic. Fairly average really, but manageable enough. If you need more there's an optional battery attachment that can double the life, although it looks rather ugly - which seems to fly in the face of what the S7 is ultimately all about.

Verdict

Acer's got the S7's look locked down, that much is clear from the moment the Ultrabook is lifted from its box.

The screen is leaps and bounds beyond the Aspire S5 model, there's enough power to deal with most tasks, Windows 8 runs like a dream and the touchscreen integration works a treat too.

The Aspire S7's slender size and weight also means it's a breeze to carry this Ultrabook around anywhere. And if you didn't think it already looked stylish enough then the protective leather envelope included in the box adds another dimension.

But looks really aren't everything when it comes to a laptop. That's where the S7 comes undone. It's not that the S7 has any firm slip ups, as such, it's just that it doesn't offer as much grunt for the rather large near-£1,200 asking price as we'd have expected. It's almost £200 pricier than the MacBook Air despite specs being pretty much level-pegged.

The Acer Aspire S7 sure does win at Windows 8. It's a lovely machine that we're very fond of. But it's the price that costs this Ultrabook scores on the board. Trim it back in line with its competitors and it'd pick up a whole extra star. If price is no object, the S7 scores high, but for the more realistic buyer the price just isn't right, so we can't award a Brucey bonus to this Ultrabook as it stands.