Thanks to Intel’s latest CPUs needing less power than ever, we’re seeing an ultraportable market awash with spectacularly thin laptops that still deliver excellent performance at a price point that won’t demolish your bank account. Between Dell’s XPS 13, Razer’s Blade Stealth and even Apple’s latest Macbook, we’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to laptops that are barely thicker than your average magazine. The latest to join this range is Acer’s Spin 7, but unlike the rest it’s also fully convertible, with a screen that is attached via dual 360-degree hinges.
This means it can operate in four modes – laptop, tablet, display or tent, making it far more flexible than many of the other ultraportables on the market. Unlike its competitors though, Acer has gone for a rather plain design, lacking the slick laser cut edges or bronze chassis of the others. There’s a nice silver edge around the glossy touchpad, but that’s about as stylish as things get – it’s definitely not going to become a status symbol that others will notice.
It’s also a little bigger than the competition when it comes to screen size. According to Acer, it sports a “14-inch narrow bezel screen on a 13-inch chassis”. Using a trusty ruler, we measured the diagonal size at 35cm, but the edgeless design makes it look even bigger. It’s a 1920 x 1080 IPS panel that pumps out exceptionally vivid colours and a healthy dose of brightness. To do so they, Acer has resorted to a glossy finish, which many of you will know doesn’t play well outdoors or in extra-bright environments. That’s the trade-off for such an exceptional image quality though. It’s also fully 10-point touch compatible, and the touch-accuracy is superb. There’s also no sign of the grid-like lines that covered old-school touch-screens, though that’s also true of the competition these days.
As expected, Corning’s Gorilla Glass has been used to ensure it’ll handle a few knocks and bruises, while the chassis appears to be fully aluminium. As a result, it’s a real lightweight, measuring in at just 1.2kg. Sure, that makes it about 220 grams heavier than some of the most portable laptops around, but it’s still light enough that you’ll barely notice it in your handbag or briefcase. There’s an external power pack, but it’s not a behemoth, weighing an extra 200 grams. This is connected via one of the two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports – it’d be nice if the industry adopted a standard way of declaring the speed of each port, as some companies claim USB 3.1 is 10Mbps. In this case, the “Gen 1” tag declares that they’re only actually capable of 5Gbps… which is still a darned sight faster than USB 2.0.
Acer has made a bit of a big deal about the Dolby-certified audio, but to be frank we found the twin stereo speakers rather prone to distortion at higher volume levels. It’s not that surprising though, as this thing is incredibly thin. Measuring just 10.98mm in height makes it the slimmest convertible on the market (for now – we’ve seen another 2-in-1 that is even thinner due to launch very soon), which doesn’t leave a lot of depth for quality speaker drivers.
A single 720p front facing camera is mounted above the display for video conferencing, which does the job, but we’d really like to see laptop makers move over to 1080p to match the displays that these videos are usually pumped out on. The integrated microphone is fully compatible with Microsoft’s Cortana assistant, though as many Aussies will know, Cortana isn’t exactly the best voice recognition software around.
Powering it all is Intel’s CoreTM i7-7Y75 CPU, which boosts up to 3.6GHz when necessary. It’s only dual core, but the addition of Hyper-Threading, alongside a healthy 8GB of DDR3L memory and a 256GB SSD (237GB usable) delivers excellent performance. Our overall PCMark 8 Home Accelerated score of 3046 puts it slightly below par with other laptops in this weight/size range, but not by a huge margin, likely because it’s using a SATA 6 SSD instead of M.2. Battery life was not successfully tested as the machine crashed on each of the three day-long runs we attempted.
We can’t deny how lightweight and configurable this convertible is… and yet it’s not quite as spiffy nor good value as some of the competition. However, the fact that it’s able to operate in several modes means you get a lot more options for the higher price.