Earlier this year, we looked at Acer’s R7 laptop – an interesting hybrid device that moves the keyboard forward and the touchpad back, with the idea being that you’ll use the touchscreen display rather than the touchpad. Its big selling point is the Ezel hinge, which allows you to do a few other things besides shifting the screen forward, like turning the R7 into a “table”, or flipping the screen over for “presentation mode”.

While I wouldn’t call the original R7 a bad laptop, at the same time it’s not laptop for everyone, and it definitely had a few flaws. Acer has now updated the R7 line with a Haswell processor, and they’ve added an active digitizer as a bonus (though the stylus to make use of the active digitizer is an optional extra). Is that enough to change the R7 from a quirky laptop into something great? Perhaps not entirely, but there are definitely improvements that warrant a closer look; here are the specifications for the R7, showing the old and new models:

Acer Aspire R7 Specifications
Model R7-572-6423 R7-571-6858
Processor Intel Core i5-4200U
(Dual-core 1.6-2.6GHz, 3MB L3, 22nm, 15W)
Intel Core i5-3337U
(Dual-core 1.8-2.7GHz, 3MB L3, 22nm, 17W)
Chipset Integrated (ULT) HM77
Memory 2x4GB DDR3L
(Two slots, 16GB max)
6GB DDR3-1600
(4GB onboard, 2GB SO-DIMM, 12GB Max)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4400
(20 EUs at xxx350-1100MHz)
Intel HD Graphics 4000
(16 EUs at 350-1100MHz)
Display 15.6" Glossy IPS 1080p (1920x1080) 15.6" Glossy AHVA 1080p (1920x1080)
Storage 1TB 5400RPM HDD 500GB 5400RPM HDD
24GB SSD Cache
Optical Drive N/A N/A
Networking 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
802.11n WiFi
(Dual-band 2x2:2 300Mbps capable)
Bluetooth 4.0 + HS
Battery/Power 4-cell, ~15.1V, 3560mAh, 53.6Wh
~6.5 hours battery life
4-cell, ~15.1V, 3560mAh, 53.6Wh
~4 hours battery life
I/O, Ports, Extras Headset jack
2 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 2.0
1 x HDMI
1 x Mini-VGA
Flash Reader (SD)
Kensington Lock
HD Webcam
86-Key Keyboard
Ezel hinge
Active digitizer
(Optional) n-Trig DuoSense Stylus
Headset jack
2 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 2.0
1 x HDMI
1 x Mini-VGA
Flash Reader (SD)
Kensington Lock
HD Webcam
86-Key Keyboard
Ezel hinge
Operating System Windows 8.1 64-bit Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 14.83" x 10.02" x 0.81-1.12" (WxDxH)
(376.8mm x 254.5mm x 20.6-28.5mm)
14.8" x 10.0" x 1.1" (WxDxH)
(376mm x 254mm x 28mm)
Weight 5.29 lbs (2.4kg) 5.29 lbs (2.4kg)
Pricing MSRP: $900
Online: $900
Stylus: $49 MSRP
MSRP: $1000
Online: $850

Most of the core features of stayed the same outside of the processor + chipset. The i5-4200U may actually end up being slightly slower than the previous generation i5-3337U, but it should be a lot more power friendly. Moving the chipset onto the CPU with a lower TDP of 15W results in some real power savings. In other areas, the new R7 comes with 8GB DDR3L memory, this time via two SO-DIMM slots, and it has a larger 1TB hard drive but no SSD cache.

The loss of the SSD cache might hurt a little bit, but in reality SSD caching only goes so far – particularly when it’s ExpressCache as opposed to Intel’s Smart Response Technology. What Acer really needs is at least a 120GB SSD for the OS and apps. I understand adding a full-size SSD would increase the price, but the difference in performance is so substantial for everyday tasks that I simply refuse to go any other route these days. Of course you can always upgrade from the 1TB hard drive to an SSD on your own; I’m not sure if there’s an mSATA slot, however (probably not considering there are now two SO-DIMM slots), so you would have to remove the 2.5” hard drive. I would have liked to see 802.11ac WiFi as well, but that feature didn’t make the cut.

As mentioned already, the only other noteworthy change on the hardware front is the inclusion of an active digitizer on the display, which works with N-trig’s DuoSense stylus (styli). Unfortunately, despite the stylus being used in all of the pictures Acer provided, it’s an additional purchase that will cost another $50. Given that Acer is pushing the stylus as being a useful feature, I think they’re shooting themselves in the foot by not including one on all of the new R7 laptops.

Not surprisingly, even with the same basic hardware the new R7 has advertised battery life that’s over 50% higher than the original model. Under a heavy load it’s not likely that you’d see that much of a difference, but for everyday tasks like web surfing for office work, Haswell’s improved low/idle power definitely makes a difference compared to Ivy Bridge.

So are an active digitizer with an optional stylus, improved battery life, and slightly more memory and storage enough to make the new R7 a worthwhile laptop? That all depends on what you want to do with it. With a stylus, perhaps the Ezel hinge may actually make the R7 more useful as an actual easel for artists. At the very least, it’s something different from the norm, and that might be enough to carve out a small piece of the market for Acer’s R7. I wasn’t actually sure that we would see an update to Haswell, so apparently Acer saw enough demand/interest that it was worth revisiting the R7. I just wish they had changed a few of the fundamentals, as the swapped keyboard and touchpad is still something I don’t really like in practice.

The new R7 is already available at Best Buy, though it might not actually ship until December. I couldn’t find a listing for the optional DuoSense stylus yet, but that should also show up sometime in early December.

Source: Acer PR

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  • unmarc - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    I CANNOT believe it.
    I wanted the previous model desperately but the WIFI was well known UNUSABLE, (See ACER Community forum).
    So I waited for the Haswell update and really-- better WIFI.

    Now a 5400 RPM Drive with NO SSD Cache or SSD Drive option!

    It's gonna be 2014 and they put in a 2003 HD with NO Option?

    No 7200 RPM Drive which I Still wouldn't buy and Not even SSD Cache/

    It's inconceivable this thing will be slower than my 5 yr old 10" netbook, but it will because of No SSD.

    Tell me you guys are for real?
    What Totally Whacked-brain feriegners designed this?
    Tell me I can't even order with 256gb SD.
    Reply
  • unmarc - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    Acer, I don't expect the world but UnUsable Wifi is a Deal Breaker, and Now.... a NO-SSD-cached 5400 RPM Drive is the New Deal Breaker.
    Never bought an Acer and never will now.
    I really liked the front keyboard too.

    How is this even possible?
    How can they think anyone but Utter computer-illiterates would buy this?

    Only explanation?

    This is designed to stay under 1000 and sell to blithering morons in Best Buy only.
    No Drive cache or options is INexcusble.
    Reply
  • Kuttyjoe - Saturday, November 23, 2013 - link

    I think you're right about how they've crippled this device in order to keep the price under $1000.00 for Best Buy shoppers. It's unfortunate. I've been waiting for someone to make a modern tablet PC with as large a screen as possible and this was it. I was prepared to pay much more for it. I don't want to get one of these and be disappointed with performance and end up bringing it right back. I don't like that they went with N-Trig. I want to be comfortable that the stylus will work properly with the usual graphic software and I don't know about N-Trig. I want an i7 Processor and I don't want a compromised ULV type. Battery life is important, but processing power is more important. But if I don't pick up one of these I'll have to keep waiting and hoping that someone else will make one, and I'm not really hopeful about that. Reply
  • unmarc - Saturday, November 23, 2013 - link

    If Geek squad can replace the drive for me - or if anyone can, I'd still get it.
    Otherwise 5400 RPM with not even a 'Flash Cache' is just NOT going to happen.

    How much more would keeping a 24gb ssd cache in there have cost them? $20?
    Now the thing is inconceivable bad.
    And No reason not to offer optional 128gb/256gb SSD and sell for say 1099/1199 etc.
    Maybe they will but don't want to hurt initial sales by announcing it.
    The best way to get them To offer is NOT buy this first absurd edition.
    Reply
  • unmarc - Saturday, November 23, 2013 - link

    What's the point of having Haswell upgrade if overall the machine is overall Much SLOWER due to 5400 RPM drive with no SSD Cache nd No SSD option? (as the last model with Bad Wifi)

    No point except being able to say "Haswell" to illiterates.
    I'd much rather stay with 3rd gen processor and get SSD..

    I think Mohammed had a 5400 RPM drive on this "Mecca I" laptop in the 7th Century.
    Reply
  • aeophile - Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - link

    You mention the stylus. I am new to digitizer touchscreens and unfamiliar with the technology, though I am very tech-savvy. I have been researching 3D printing for awhile now, and want to start learning CAD and buy a 3D printer. I could afford a more expensive machine, but I love the fact the the touch screen on this lies at an incline, like an architectural drafting table (too a lesser extent), so I was thinking about purchasing one, swapping the hard drive for a solid state and upgrading the RAM. I am not concerned about photo editing or artistic drawing, just CAD. Do you know if a non Wacom will make a difference for that purpose? Also, if you are familiar with CAD, I realize I might have to swap out the GPU for one with dedicated memory. How doable is that in this machine? I am a tech-savvy guy, mechanically inclined, but not an IT pro. However, when my old Dell laptop got too loud, I got the 81 page repair manual, read the whole thing, took it apart piece by piece and changed the fan, resurfaced the heat sink, and applied new cooling compound, gel, or whatever it's called; problem solved. I'm not afraid of the work, but want to know if it can be done without too much risk of destroying the thing and if it the processor will even be compatible with some other GPU. Instructions/suggestions would be greatly appreciated, but all I'm really asking for is a little direction, like a link to somewhere I can do the research. Reply
  • blinkdt - Thursday, January 16, 2014 - link

    I've become a blithering Best Buy moron due to their price-match policy and no-questions-asked 15 day return policy. Try it for two weeks, take it back if you don't like that hassle free. Where else can I do that.

    As for the Whiners complaining about the HDD, man-up! I just bought a 250GB Samsung SSD with 500MB/s transfer speeds (extra enclosure included) for $200 delivered and will be popping that into my new R7, using the 1TB device for File History. My 7 year old can turn a screw driver and follow instructions, I might actually walk him through it.
    Reply
  • mitchellvii - Sunday, December 29, 2013 - link

    Um not to give you a hard time but let me explain how to solve this problem:
    1) By a TORX screwdriver.
    2) Remove the back.
    3) Remove the HDD.
    4) Buy a 128 GB SSD from Amazon for $89.
    5) Install it.
    6) Problem solved for about $200 less than you would pay the manufacturer to do it.
    7) Even better you can add a 128 GB mSATA SSD and keep the 1 TB HDD for backup.

    So seriously, what are you freaking out over? A child could do this upgrade.
    Reply
  • blinkdt - Thursday, January 16, 2014 - link

    Exactly. Heck, if the manufacturer offered the option I'd STILL do it myself. I want to choose my drive and my RAM. Reply
  • mitchellvii - Sunday, December 29, 2013 - link

    People seem to be freaking over the 5400 RPM HDD.

    First of all it is pretty quick, despite being 5400. Secondly, an SSD upgrade is incredibly easy to do (and cheap). So why all the bellyaching? No way Acer can sell this for $899 with an SSD and active digitizer. It's an amazing machine. Buy it and spend the $100 to upgrade the HDD.

    Geesh.
    Reply

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