Acer’s latest hybrid, the Acer Aspire R13, is a new twist on the vertical flipping screen type of device that we first saw with the Dell Inspiron Duo. A largely neglected format, instead of a central pivot point like on hybrids of old, or a 360 degree screen hinge like on the Lenovo Yoga the display instead is mounted on two arms and spins about its mid point.
The advantages are that it’s potentially sturdier than a central pivot style device and it means you don’t end up with the keyboard left exposed when in tablet mode like on Yoga-style devices. It also means you don’t have the top-heavy design compromises of detachable hybrids. The question is whether it adds up to a useful device, or is there a reason it’s the least popular style of hybrid.
Specs And Features
Acer Aspire R13 Design
Over the past few years, laptop makers have spent a lot of time trying to crack the formula for 2-in-1 design and in my opinion most have done it semi-well up until Acer released the Acer Aspire R13. Most companies have settled on 360-degree flip displays or detachable screens, but on the R13, Acer chose to go with a third option.
The R13 uses a floating frame to hold the screen, which allows the display to open and tilt like a traditional laptop while also letting it spin in place for tablet mode. Very convenient and quick and easy to use with very little overall movement of the device to switch modes.
This gives the R13 additional modes not seen on other designs, such as an “Ezel” mode, where the screen floats above the keyboard, and a low-angle stand mode that’s perfect for tight spaces or use in bed. You’ll also find the usual notebook, tablet and tent modes.
This design comes with a few trade-offs, though. The bezels on the R13’s screen are thick and fat, especially along the bottom. At a time when we’re seeing edge-to-edge displays on laptops and smartphones, the layered black borders around the display make the Acer Aspire R13 look clunky and dated. Another problem is that, unlike other 2-in-1s, there’s no touch Start button on the front of the screen for tablet mode, making you reliant on the side-swipe gesture to go back to the Modern UI home screen. Lastly, because the plastic floating frame extends only halfway up the side of the display when closed, the R13 is a sea of right angles and raised edges, lending it a somewhat unfinished appearance.
That said, the overall aesthetic isn’t a complete fail. The shiny plastic back looks sleek, and the seamless gunmetal-gray deck features a fluid transition to the inset Chiclet-style keyboard. With the Acer Aspire R13, Acer favored function over form. I just wish it could have combined all of the different elements into a more modern and cohesive package.
Measuring 13.5 x 9 x 0.71 inches and weighing 3.3 pounds, the Acer Aspire R13’s size is between the svelte $1,300 Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro(13 x 9 x 0.5 inches and 2.6 pounds) and the bigger and heavier $1,300 Toshiba Satellite Click 2 Pro(13 x 9.8 x 0.78 inches and 4.4 pounds), which has a detachable touch screen.
Keyboard And Touchpad
The Acer Aspire R13’s keyboard is deeply average. We wish Acer would have used the R13’s wide base to install a capacious typing surface, but the keys found here are small and tightly-packed; attributes that hinder fast, precise typing.
Key travel is middling, and the action is squashy and indistinct, without the snap of the best laptop equivalents. The layout isn’t too good, either: the Caps Lock, left-shift and Escape keys are tiny, and the Return key is made smaller by the Hash button. There aren’t any Function keys, either. On a laptop this size there really isn’t any reason to have a squished style keyboard like the Acer Aspire R13 has.
The trackpad is better. It’s wider than most, and the two built-in buttons are rapid and responsive; a bit light and plasticky feeling for lack of better words, however, that’s nothing to major in my opinion.
Screen And Display Quality
There isn’t much to choose between the Acer and its rivals on price, but the Acer Aspire R13 goes beyond every competitor in one area: screen quality and display. For starters, it’s a 1920 x 1080 panel, which means there’s more desktop real estate than the 1366 x 768 screens included in its competitors.
Colors on the Acer Aspire R13 are vivid and clear as well as clean and crisp. I watch a lot of video game and movie trailers and had no problems viewing those and feeling that I was getting true colors of most everything possible.
Even taking the Acer Aspire R13 outside and sitting on the porch while in bright sunlight, it was still very easy to use and to see the screen at nearly all times. This is something that can be quite difficult to find in a laptop and it’s good to see that Acer has paid close attention to this and made the display work really well in all situations.
Earlier in the week I reviewed the Acer Chromebook 15, and I know that since this is a laptop I can’t compare the two in any way really. However, as I mentioned in the review of the Acer Chromebook 15, the speakers were absolutely amazing on that device due to them being placed on the sides of the keyboard. Unfortunately, Acer chose to put the speakers on the Acer Aspire R13 on the bottom of the device and that seriously hurts sound quality in every way possible.
With speakers on the bottom of the device, this means that first and foremost the sound is being pushed out of the device in a direction away from the user and that instantly hinders sound quality. Then throw in the fact that they aren’t allowing sounds to flow into an open area and things just continue to go downhill.
The sound wasn’t horrible, as it seemed considerably louder than other devices that I’ve used, Acer Chromebook 15 aside, but the sounds were flat and muffled with no real distinction of bass, mids and highs. Quite disappointing for someone like myself who loves to listen to music majority of the time as well as watching movie trailers and various things like that.
Acer Active Pen
The Acer Aspire R13 features Acer Active Pen technology, which works with the optional $50 Acer Active Stylus for writing and drawing directly on the screen.
Acer’s included Hover Access software gives you the ability to program the Active Stylus’ two buttons to open a limited selection of apps(Fresh Paint, OneNote, Sticky Notes and Windows Journal), or to change the pen into erase mode by holding the top button.
The Acer Aspire R13 responded accurately to taps and swipes, but when I tried to draw in Fresh Paint, I struggled to find the middle ground between a faint wispy line and a full-weight stroke. Another quirk was that I could never reliably use the stylus’ buttons to open its assigned app. Instructions to hover the stylus above the screen and hold down the button failed to summon any software, even after multiple visits to the Hover Access settings menu.
Palm rejection worked as expected, preventing inadvertent touches from turning into unneeded writing. Outside of Acer’s approved apps, the stylus was a fine substitute for my fingers, tapping and dragging without a problem. Acer’s Active Pen performs well for taking notes or making simplistic illustrations, but the advanced functions can be hit or miss.
Ports And Webcam
The Acer Aspire R13 comes with a built-in 720p webcam which I tested a few times via Google Hangouts with my girlfriend in various locations. It was decent and the images seemed to be relatively clear and clean. However, there was of course a noticeable difference between this 720p webcam and my normal one that does 1080p. But that’s like comparing apples to oranges so I can’t take anything away from the webcam that Acer included. It simply worked and the did the job it’s meant to do and did it decently.
There are two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port on the Acer Aspire R13 which is about standard on most devices like this now days. Also included is an HDMI port that allows you to hook the device up to your TV or large HD monitor or whatever so that you can view things on a larger screen.
Then throw in that there’s an SD Card slot so you can ultimately just slip an SD Card into the Acer Aspire R13 and save any of your files directly to a source in which you can carry with you in your pocket or whatever.
The last port that it has is the standard headphone/microphone 3.5mm audio jack so you can plug in a set of headphones and listen to your music or watch that favorite movie without interrupting others around you.
The battery life of the Acer Aspire R13 is decent, but to accomplish the 7 hours and 20 minute average battery life that I experienced, you’ll have to tone the screen brightness down quite a bit. With the screen brightness turned all the way up, I got an average of 6 hours and 41 minutes and that was across 10 times of use after fully charging the device. Not bad, but not the best as other devices that I’ve messed around with get a bit better battery life.
Featuring a 2-GHz Intel Core i7-4510U CPU, 8GB of RAM and two solid-state drives totaling 512GB of storage, the Aspire R13 comes with everything you’d expect from a $1,500 convertible, and a little more. This Acer was more than fast enough to handle my normal workload which often includes 15 – 20 tabs, several of which might have a trailer or a video of some kind playing as well as a graphics program and things like Google Hangouts and even iTunes.
The Acer Aspire R13’s secret weapon is its two SSDs, which are configured in a RAID 0 arrangement for blazing-fast drive performance. From a cold start, it takes 10 seconds or less to boot Windows. Opening large files or multiple programs at once take no time at all and this is something where a lot devices seriously struggle.
Performance is definitely the place that the Acer Aspire R13 excels and while the other places that it failed or didn’t do so well might be important to some, performance is the number one thing in my book.
Am I pleased with the Acer Aspire R13? In some ways yes I am and in some ways I’m definitely not. As mentioned above, sound quality and display quality are both very important to me as well as over all speed and performance. The Acer Aspire R13 doesn’t do well in the audio department and that’s a big thing for me since I listen to music constantly from my devices as well as am constantly watching videos of some sort or another.
The display of the Acer Aspire R13 definitely makes up where the sound quality lacks and I can almost deal with that. Where the Acer Aspire R13 does excel is in the performance department and that’s a big plus in my book. I can often take a hit in other places as long as my device is performing as fast as I like it and the R13 definitely does that.
Would I buy one personally? Probably not only because it’s in the 13-inch form factor and I’m one who prefers the 15-inch and 17-inch laptop sizes as long as I don’t have a heavy device. Would I recommend this to someone who loves the 13-inch form factor? That I can honestly say I believe I would, but I’d encourage anyone to really sit down with it and test it before pulling the trigger and purchasing it. Make sure you can live with the sound issues that I mentioned above.
Another thing that really urges me to recommend this is the different styles of use that the Acer Aspire R13 has. For some, that’s a really big thing to have access to all the different modes that it can do instead of just being a laptop that sites on your desk or in your lap and nothing more.
You can pick up an Acer Aspire R13 for yourself for anywhere from $999 to $1500 just depending on where you look. So make sure you search around a bit and take a close look at the processor you are getting. One model has an Intel i5 processor while the more expensive one will have the Intel i7 processor so depending on yours needs and wants, you might be able to save a few bucks by going with the lower Intel i5 processor.