Last week we met with Acer to go over the fall product stack, and we’ll have a bunch of announcements over the coming two weeks all leading up to the late October launch of Windows 8. We start off today with their S7 Ultrabooks, Acer’s highest tier of Ultrabooks. We’ve previously reviewed Acer’s Aspire S3 and more recently the Aspire S5, but the S7 goes all-in on build quality, materials, and design. 

The S7 will be available in both 11.6" and 13.3" flavors. Both models feature an all-aluminum unibody design, but the top cover material differs between the two. The 11.6" model has a brushed aluminum top cover, while the 13.3" model uses Gorilla Glass 2 as its outer surface. On the underside of the machine is a soft touch, smartphone-like plastic finish. 

The materials look and feel great in person. I was particularly impressed by the glass on the 13.3" model. The two chassis are also some of the thinnest Ultrabooks we’ve ever encountered, measuring 0.47”/0.48” (11.9/12.1mm) thick. The 13.3” models also feature a 180 degree hinge that allows the LCD to lie flat on a table, desk, or other surface where it can function as a typical tablet.

Some of the key features of the S7 series are the touch enabled 1080p displays on both 11.6” and 13.3” models, Intel 3rd Generation Core i5 and i7 processors, and pure SSD storage solutions. At least for the 256GB model it appears that Acer is using two Lite-On CMT-128L3M SSDs in RAID-0. Lite-On's drives use a Marvell controller similar to the Plextor M3 series. 

The displays looked great in person, with subjectively very good brightness, contrast and viewing angles. We'll have to get the S7s in house to truly evaluate the performance of the panels however.

The keyboard on both models felt good although the lack of a dedicated row of function keys seemed odd. Also impressive was the trackpad performance which didn't exhibit any of the usual issues we've seen from Ultrabooks thus far.

The 13.3” S7-391 will be available in two models initially, one with an i5-3317U processor and a 128GB SSD for $1400 with the second featuring an i7-3517U processor and a 256GB SSD for $1650. The S7-391 weighs 2.86 lbs. (1.3kg). The smaller S7-191 includes the same i5-3317U CPU and 128GB SSD but weighs just 2.29 lbs. (1.04kg) and will cost $1200. Both models also feature backlit keyboards with an ambient light sensor that will adjust the backlight levels appropriates. Battery life is a bit of a question still, as Acer quotes up to 12 hours with an optional battery; we don’t have details on the optional battery or the default battery configurations, unfortunately. Note also that both models feature 4GB DDR3 memory that’s soldered onto the motherboard; we’d really like to see 8GB these days, especially considering the cost and the inability to upgrade should you desire additional RAM in the future.

The full specs for the three announced models are below. Also be sure to check out our hands on video from IDF last month, also below.

Acer S7 Series Ultrabooks
Model S7-191-6649 S7-391-6810 S7-391-9886
Processor Core i5-3317U
(1.7-2.6GHz, 3MB L3)
Core i5-3317U
(1.7-2.6GHz, 3MB L3)
Core i7-3517U
(1.9-3.0GHz, 4MB L3)
Memory 4GB DDR3 onboard 4GB DDR3 onboard 4GB DDR3 onboard
Storage 128GB SSD 128GB SSD 256GB SSD
Display 11.6” FullHD 1080p
(Touch sensitive)
13.3” FullHD 1080p
(Touch sensitive)
13.3” FullHD 1080p
(Touch sensitive)
Dimensions 11.17”x7.70”x0.48”
Weight 2.29 lbs. (1.04kg) 2.86 lbs. (1.3kg) 2.86 lbs. (1.3kg)
Operating System Windows 8 Windows 8 Windows 8
Price (MSRP) $1200 $1400 $1650

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  • KPOM - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - link

    No, but Apple was the first to see that ultrathin portables could be a mainstream class and not merely a niche product.

    I've always been a fan of ultraportables, all the way back to the NEC Ultralite back in the early 1990s. However, while 4lb notebooks were common in the early 1990s (think the Sharp PC 6220 or even the original Compaq ), the industry went off on a tangent with thicker and heavier designs. There's really no reason why 3lb notebooks couldn't have been mainstream in 2008. It took Apple to take the category seriously (though they didn't get the formula quite right until 2010).

    Today, in late 2012, there is really no reason why an ultrabook can't be a "main" computer for about 90% of the population. With dedicated game consoles like the Xbox, few people really need a discrete GPU. SSD prices have fallen dramatically, and 8GB is pretty easy to put into an Ultrabook (Apple offers an 8GB Air, so others can do so just as easily).
  • tuxRoller - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - link

    This isn't even the third company to make ultrabooks that don't look like macbooks. See Samsung series 9, and lenovo U-series (the later, when opened and only looking at the keyboard, looks like a macbook in that it is sparsely decorated and solid aluminum, but the rest looks quite different).
    For that matter, even the Asus ultrabooks, with their unique exteriors, don't seem to leave people wondering if they are macbooks.
  • chucknelson - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - link

    First of all, the way the laptop is being held in the video while using the touchscreen - strange. I get it for demo purposes, but I don't see anyone holding a laptop like that.

    I'm wondering why the pictures and the video have no demonstration of the 180-degree hinge. Did they not let you use that functionality? Seems like that would the first thing you do with the 13-inch model to demo the touch screen...
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - link

    A 360 degree hinge would be more interesting IMO; being able to fold the keyboard/palm rest under the display is a lot more likely to be used as a tablet then simply letting you lay the screen flat.
  • jamyryals - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - link

    Very attractive laptop. I'm mostly interested to see how well the new windows 8 trackpads will compare to the mac trackpads. That's my single biggest complaint about current windows notebooks.

    Even if it does have a better trackpad though, 4GB of RAM on a $1600 machine that I can't upgrade is an absolute no buy. At least provide an option for people...
  • andrewaggb - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - link

    What are you planning on running on an ultrabook that needs more than 4GB of ram? I'm curious.

    With intel graphics I can't see anybody doing serious graphic work. And I doubt anyone would be running a a large relational database.

    Maybe some virtual machines? (hyper-v built into windows 8 works really well)
  • xype - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - link

    If you are doing any development work (which requires bloated tools or, like you said, VMs) or graphics/photography/video work (for which you don’t _really_ need a cutting edge GPU), 4GB can be pretty annoying. Most people who use laptops for work plug them into a display at home and the office anyway.

    I’m doing lots of work with Photoshop and optionally an IDE or browser open for development and I’m getting by with 8GB mostly because the SSD makes paging out bearable. Which is the main reason I haven’t switched to a MacBook Air and probably a reason many have trouble finding an Ultrabook that would work for them.

    A bit of a bummer, really, just like the year-long reluctance to put decent screens into Ultrabooks. People who buy those machines for work don’t even mind a $100-200 premium that much for those features.
  • Gunbuster - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - link

    All three with 1080p, touch screen, SSD, and not slathered in glossy plastic?

    From Acer?

    My world has turned upside down this morning.
  • andrewaggb - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - link

    lol. That's actually what I was thinking too. Looked like a fairly nice machine.

    At first glance it seemed a little expensive, but I haven't compared ultrabooks in a while. Maybe for a 1080p touch screen and sdd this is what they go for.
  • Spivonious - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - link

    Proofread? Right in the first paragraph: "preciously reviewed". I'm pretty sure you meant "previously reviewed".

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