Fold and Learn
When shopping for a notebook, why settle for a traditional system or even a two-in-one convertible that is a tablet or a keyboard-centric system when you can get something that is at least four computers in one. Acer’s Aspire R7-572 unique physical design allows it to bend onto itself to provide the most flexible computer ever made.
Like a Transformer toy, the R7 can be changed from a traditional notebook to a tablet, desktop or presentation system for small group work. The key is Acer’s innovative cantilevered Ezel Hinge design. It’s actually two hinges in one that allows the display to be placed at just about any angle. With minimal effort you can raise and pull the screen forward for a desktop-like experiencve, flip it over so that the display faces away from the keyboard for small group work or fold the screen over the keyboard to create a carry-anywhere slate.
In fact, one of its best attributes is the R7’s distinctive ability to be used as a touchscreen set at any angle between 5-degrees and full vertical orientation. This makes it perfect for use with small hands in the classroom for finger painting, educational games or even writing.
While the hinge is sturdy, the screen can wobble, particularly when it is horizontal, such as in an art class. Plus, if it’s in desktop mode, it’s easy to make the whole thing unstable if you tap the screen too hard. Still, the R7 is a masterful mix of form, function and – above all – flexibility.
The price you pay for this flexibility is that at 5.3-pounds, the R7 is a bit heavier than other notebooks with similar equipment and can be a lot to lay on your lap as a tablet. As a slate, it works better on a tabletop. With its small AC adapter, the system has a travel weight of 5.8-pounds, but requires a three-prong outlet.
Folded closed like a traditional notebook, the system measures 0.9- by 14.8 by 10.0-inches and is a little bigger than other 15.6-inch systems. With the R7’s screen folded down and the system in its wedge-shaped slate configuration, the system is between 1.0- and 1.8-inches thick. While the display sits at a comfortable 5-degree angle, the top of the tablet is a little wobbly.
Make no mistake, the R7 has its quirks. Because the system lacks a wrist rest area below the keyboard, its large touchpad is located above the keyboard. This takes some getting used to and it can be out of reach with some of the screen’s possible positions. On the other hand, the system’s 19.2 millimeter keyboard is backlit with two different brightness settings and can be turned off with a Function key combination.
Inside is an up to date system with a mid-range fourth-generation Core i5 processor that runs at between 1.6- and 2.6GHz depending on what you’re using it for. The R7 is one of the best equipped systems sold today with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. There’s no room for a DVD drive, but the R7 can be set up to share files with a variety of computers using Acer Cloud’s technology.
The 15.6-inch screen is HD ready with 1,920 by 1,080 resolution and uses Intel’s 4400 Graphics with 128MB of dedicated video memory; it can use nearly 1.8GB of system memory. The images are rich and more than bright enough for school use. Above the display are a 1,280 by 720 Web cam and dual microphones. Its audio uses Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater and the R7 has four speakers that deliver surround sound that’s best in class.
It is very responsive to touch and finger friendly with a near flush display and the ability to interpret up to 10 individual inputs. It works with an off-the-shelf stylus, but I much prefer using Acer’s $50 pressure-sensitive stylus. Made by N-Trig, it’s good for everything from sketching a map of the world to writing math equations. It uses a single AAAA battery.
While the R7 lacks a wired Ethernet connection, it has 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4 built in. It has Intel’s WiDi wireless display system and connected on the first try with a Netgear NeoTV receiver. There’s also Acer’s proprietary Converter Cable port that with a $35 adapter can yield a mini-USB, a wired LAN and a VGA connector.
It has all the ports you’ll need to use it as a teaching and learning machine. In addition to one USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 connectors, the R7 has a full-size HDMI port and an audio jack.
It is a good performer with a Passmark PerformanceTest score of 1,442.8 and won’t freeze up or bog down on processor intensive tasks. In other words, the R7 should be able to handle just about anything a student or teacher throws at it, from video editing to graphics-intensive science simulations. It’s not at the expense of battery life, though, with the system’s 3,650 milliamp hour battery able to run for 6 hours and 6 minutes of continuous playback of online videos; unfortunately, you can’t swap batteries.
The system comes with Windows 8.1, ArtRage and several Touch Tool programs from Acer, like an app for grabbing screens that can streamline setting up lessons. It includes McAfee LiveSafe Internet Security with a month of updates.
If the R7-572’s $900 price tag is too much, Acer also sells a $700 571 model that has an older processor, a 500GB hard drive and lacks the stylus but should do just fine in a school setting. With the ability to adapt to different classroom conditions, Acer’s Aspire R7 is the most versatile teaching tool that’s been created.
+ Incredibly flexible design
+ Excellent performance
+ Optional stylus
+ Battery life
+ Top configuration
- No wired LAN
- Slightly heavy and bulky