The newest iteration of Acer’s Aspire R7 laptop series, the Acer Aspire R7-572-6423 ($899.99 list) comes with improved touch technology, a more efficient processor, and a larger hard drive, but is it enough to overcome the problems seen on the previous model, the Acer Aspire R7-571-6858? Like its predecessor, the R7-572-6423 features a flipping, folding display, and a swapped keyboard and mouse layout that is as puzzling as it is eye-catching. If you were tempted to buy one the first go around, the improvements will definitely entice you now, but the problems haven’t been solved, making it hard to recommend.
The Acer Aspire R7-572-6423 desktop-replacement laptop measures 1.1 by 14.8 by 10 inches (HWD), and weighs 5.22 pounds. The R7-572-6423 winds up being far bulkier than the Sony VAIO Flip 15 (SVF15N190X), which offers a similar sort of flipping and folding 15-inch display, but weighs under five pounds.
Like the previous iteration, the Aspire R7 offers superb sound thanks to four speakers enhanced with Dolby Home Theater v4 software enhancement. In addition to great sound quality, the overall volume is better than expected—it puts out enough volume to not only fill the room, but to be heard the next room over.
The 15.6-inch touch display still offers 1,920-by-1,080 resolution and a capacitive touch screen with 10-finger tracking, but it has been upgraded with an N-Trig DuoSense digitizer, making it compatible with the new Acer Aspire R7-572 Active Stylus, an optional accessory stylus ($49.99 direct). This upgrade makes the R7-572-6423 a good option for anyone who needs to draw or have more precise touch input than fingertips will allow. And for the designer who doesn’t have the budget for something like the Wacom Cintiq Companion, the R7-572-6423 is a viable alternative at a much lower price.
The key feature that makes the R7-572-6423 stand out from other hybrid laptop is its Ezel hinge, a combination hinge and stand for the 15.6-inch touch display. This hinge allows the Aspire R7 to switch between five different modes: Notebook, Ezel, Display, Kiosk and Pad modes. In notebook mode, the display lines up with the back of the chassis, and looks quite similar to a standard clamshell notebook. In Ezel mode, the display is tilted, supported by the Ezel hinge to float above the keyboard, much like a separate touch screen monitor. The hinges in the Ezel stand are firm enough to hold up against your touches and taps on the screen, but you can still adjust the angle and (to an extent) the height.
Flipping the display over (facing back) puts the R7-572-6423 in Display mode, letting you show the screen to someone else. When flipped over from Ezel to Display, the stereo sound automatically switches as well, swapping right and left channels to provide properly oriented stereo sound to the observer. While this is a neat trick, I have yet to see an instance where flipping the display like this—effectively giving up your own screen to show it to someone else—makes any practical sense.
Similarly questionable is Kiosk mode, where instead of flipping the screen all the way over to show in front or back, it is set at a horizontal angle in between. In theory, the entire laptop can then be mounted to a wall and used as a customer service device. In practice, this sounds like more trouble than its worth, especially since there are less expensive purpose-built systems available to businesses.
Finally, you can fold the screen down, with the display facing out, and set low against the keyboard, sort of like a large tablet. The hinge puts the display at a bit of an angle, so it won’t quite lay flat, but the angle actually makes for a more comfortable experience when using the touch screen at a desk or table. It also makes for a particularly good experience when drawing, especially when using the optional stylus. What it doesn’t do, however, is make the R7-572-6423 any more portable than the average 15-inch desktop-replacement. It’s still too heavy and bulky to carry around the way you might take a tablet or hybrid ultrabook, and the angled display is really best for stationary use anyway.
The largest problem with the R7-572-6423′s unconventional design isn’t the touch screen or Ezel hinge, but the inverted keyboard layout, which swaps the placement of the keyboard and touchpad. The reasoning behind this change is that the floating touch screen would block part of the keyboard in normal use, but with a touch screen, you’re less inclined to use the touchpad. Whatever the reasoning, the end result doesn’t come off as a thoughtful design change, but as a gimmick that actually renders the keyboard and mouse less usable. The touchscreen is blocked off by the display, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never want to use it, only that it’s now an inconvenience. And by moving the touch pad (and the palmrest as well) above the keyboard makes the keyboard less usable, ruining the ergonomics of resting your palms and wrists on the keyboard as you type.
Acer has taken a step to fix this, including a foldable palmrest pad with the R7-572-6423 that can be set just in front of the keyboard to replace the missing palmrest. It sort of works, but the fact that an accessory has to be included to provide basic functionality only highlights the deep flaws in this design. However clever, the design—both the adjustable display and the flipped keyboard layout—comprises the biggest problem with the R7-572-6423, and it is impossible to ignore.
While the floating display may split the R7-572-6423 in two, the port placement is very much like that of a typical laptop, with ports and connectors placed on the bottom half of the system. On the right, you’ll find an SD card slot, a power connector, a Kensington lock-slot, and buttons for power and volume. On the left, you’ll find a headphone jack, two USB 3.0 ports (one with power for charging devices), an HDMI output, and Acer’s proprietary Converter Port (which looks and functions like a miniDisplayPort), which can offer USB, Ethernet, and VGA connectivity via a special 3-in-1 dongle (sold separately, for $34.99 direct). For a desktop-replacement, the need to purchase a separate adapter for something as simple as VGA or Ethernet is frustrating, and doubly so since it’s difficult to even find the item in Acer’s online store.
Thankfully, the R7-572-6423 does offer wireless networking with dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 with support for stereo sound. An integrated 720p webcam sits above the display, but because it has a fixed position in the display bezel, you’ll need to put the display into Notebook mode for regular webcam use.
As mentioned earlier, the biggest change to the R7-572-6423 may be the added support for an active stylus. The new touch screen utilizes N-Trig DuoSense technology to offer capacitive touch for fingertip use and electromagnetic induction technology for the pen. With 256 levels of pressure sensitivity and more accurate tracking for more natural handwriting, the addition of the pen to the laptop’s uniquely touch-centric design should be a boon to anyone who wants to work on screen.
The new N-Trig active stylus technology is already integrated into many programs, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, and Autodesk Sketchbook, but Acer has added four new apps to enhance the touch experience. The new applications include: Acer MemoryBinder, for collecting and arranging photos and media for a multimedia scrapbook; Acer Screen Grasp, for easier screen capture and sharing; Acer Scrapboard, for gathering images and references from the Web; and Acer AccuFinger, for more precise cursor control when using touch.
The R7-572-6423 comes with a 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive—twice the size of the 500GB drive found in the previous iteration, but without the 24GB of flash memory and subsequent performance improvements it affords—and comes preinstalled with Windows 8.1. The laptop is also preloaded with apps and software like Skype, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Kindle Reader, and ArtRage paint. Acer covers the R7-572-6423 with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.
Another big change to the R7-572-6423 is the refreshed processor, now with a fourth-generation 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U processor. Paired with 8GB of RAM, the actual processing performance isn’t substantially improved over the previous third-gen CPU, but it’s not terrible, scoring 2,706 points in PCMark 7 and completing Cinebench R11.5 with 2.41 points. It’s worth noting, however, that many standard touch-enabled laptops in this price-range are equipped with more powerful Core i7 processors, and as a result, offer better overall performance. The Editors’ Choice Asus N550JV-DB72T, for example, scored 3,546 points in PCMark 7 and 6.93 points in Cinebench—a solid trouncing considering that the two are only $100 apart in price. Additionally, the Sony Flip 15, which offers similar touch and multimode options, is also outfitted with a Core i7 CPU, and still led with 2,941 points (PCMark 7) and 2.87 points (Cinebench).
The processor’s Intel HD Graphics 4400 integrated graphics solution does do a good job with visuals, topping other systems with integrated graphics, but not quite matching the oomph of a discrete GPU. In 3DMark 11, the R7-572-6423 scored 1,840 points (Entry) and 292 points (Extreme), topping all comparison models except the Nvidia-equipped Asus N550JV-DB72T, which blew past the rest with 4,279 points (Entry) and 785 points (Extreme). In gaming tests, the R7-572-6423 never came close to the 30 frames per second that indicates playability for modern games.
The biggest improvement offered by the switch to fourth-generation processing is energy efficiency, as seen in the R7-572-6423′s battery life. In our battery rundown test, the system lasted 6 hours 28 minutes, topping the Asus N550JV-DB72T (4:02), the Sony Flip 15 (SVF15N190X) (5:07), and pulling a full 47 minutes ahead of the Acer R7-571-6858 (5:41) largely on the strength of the new processor.
The original Aspire R7 had its share of problems, like middling performance. Some of those problems have been fixed with the Acer Aspire R7-572-6423. The new iteration also adds some desirable features, like N-Trig DuoSense technology, improved battery life, and a stylus for fine control. Unfortunately, no polished up feature set is enough to overcome the decidedly awkward design. The flipping display adds little to the touch experience, while the swapped keyboard and mouse certainly detract from the user experience at the most basic of levels. If you were intrigued by the original Aspire R7, then perhaps the improved R7-572-6423 is worth springing for, but on the whole, you’ll do far better with the Asus N550JV-DB72T, our Editors’ Choice for desktop-replacement laptops.
|Processor Name||Intel Core i5-4200U|
|Operating System||Windows 8.1|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|Networking Options||802.11n (2.4 GHz only)|
|Processor Speed||1.6 GHz|
|Primary Optical Drive||External|
|Screen Size||15.6 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||1 TB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc