Review: The Acer Aspire R 14, your new officemate
By Ajith Ram May 4, 2016
THE Acer Group is having a good time these days. Although the PC market continues to shrink by single digits every year, Acer is bucking the trend. Last year, it managed to ship over 20 million desktop and laptop units, a growth of over 3%. Although many of the units were in the budget Chromebook segment, it is still a commendable achievement in a tightening market.
Despite this, Acer lags well behind market leader Lenovo which shipped over 50 million units. One of the market segments that Lenovo dominates is the SOHO (small office, home office) and business market. The Acer Aspire R 14 2-in-1 is aimed squarely at that segment and competes against similar offerings from Lenovo, Dell and HP.
The Acer Aspire R 14 is a genuine beauty. With its black brushed metal lid and its silver linings, this 2-in-1 will be at least a visual joy for a long time.
There was once a time more than a decade ago when almost all PCs that shipped had a beige cover. Now it seems that laptops these days have been infected with a 'black brushed metal' virus. We recently reviewed the MSI GE62 Apache Pro that also has a similar black covering.
The top side is not completely metal though. A very thin plastic trim runs along the top edge of the screen cover. The invisible mouse keys are blended into the bottom half of the touch pad itself.
Weighing around 1.82Kg, the Aspire R 14 falls nicely into the thin and light segment, one of the key requirements to succeed in the SOHO and business market. It is also just 0.73 inches thick.
The Aspire R 14's keyboard is not the most ideal for long typing sessions. Compared to the SteelSeries keyboards that MSI offers or even regular keyboards in the Dell, Lenovo laptops, the keys feel muted and less bouncy. After about 45 minutes of use, I found my wrist starting to ache slightly. On the flip side, the track pad is very responsive.
Display and Ports
The Aspire R 14 has a 14-inch Full HD (1920x1080p) screen. Although it is not exactly groundbreaking in its resolution, it is very much the mainstream in laptop screen resolutions these days.
The really good news is that the screen is perfectly usable even in bright direct sunlight. Whether it is text, video or a game like Asphalt 8 Airborne, the screen on this Acer 2-in-1 is easy on the eyes.
The screen is also very touch responsive in its tablet mode. An anti-static coating ensures that it is not an instant magnet for dust and fingerprints. To cap things off, Acer has included a blue light protector to minimise eye strain.
The left side of the laptop includes the security lock, headphone jack, USB Type-C port, HDMI and two USB 3.0 ports. The power switch, SD card reader, volume buttons, power socket and a USB 2.0 port are on its right side.
Our test version of the Aspire R 14 came with an Intel Core i5-6200U processor. Launched late last year, this dual core CPU belongs to the 'Skylake' generation of processors.
The chip also integrates an Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU and a dual channel memory controller. Manufactured using Intel's latest 14 nanometre process, this CPU falls firmly into the ultra low voltage category.
The Aspire R 14 also comes with 4GB of DDR3 RAM. This is slightly on the low side considering that most mid-range laptops these days have 8GB of memory. Acer does provide an option to buy a version of the Aspire with more memory.
Data storage comes in the form of a single 128GB SSD. As one would expect, the Aspire R 14 also includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
When it comes to performance, Acer's 2-in-1 is very much in the 'horses for courses' category. And it is definitely a horse for the office, business category and not for gamers.
Thanks to its speedy SSD, booting Windows takes less than ten seconds. Despite having only a dual core CPU, it has no problems with multitasking. Business and home users should have no problem running regular office software such as MS Office or Outlook. Even a bit of image editing using Photoshop or video editing using Premiere Elements is easily possible on this device.
But as you would expect, considering the hardware specifications, gaming is not its forte. I tried running The Witcher 3 and Far Cry Primal. Neither would attain playable frame rates at the screen's native Full HD resolution and highest quality settings.
Dropping the resolution to 720p and using low quality settings solved this problem. It is clear that if you wish to play games at the top resolution, you will be limited to the golden oldies or less resource-intensive titles like Candy Crush Saga and Asphalt 8.
Considering its thickness, the audio from the Aspire R 14 is surprisingly good. Whether in laptop or tablet mode, the sound is good enough to fill a small meeting room.
Long battery life is another commendable feature of the Aspire R 14. Even with both the CPU and GPU running at full throttle using the Unigine Heaven and Valley benchmarks, Acer's 2-in-1 lasts over six hours on a single charge. It is also whisper quiet even when the hardware is pushed to its limits.
The Aspire R 14 comes with the bog standard installation of Windows 10 Home edition and the trial version of Office 365. The included Acer Care Center app displays useful information on the device's performance and battery life.
The 2-in-1 also comes with abPhoto (for photo management) and abFiles (for data backup using the cloud). The Acer Quick Access app provides a single GUI to control its Bluelight Shield, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Dolby software is included to improve audio quality.
It would have been nice to see Acer make a bigger attempt to differentiate itself from the competition by including some other unique software aimed at its target market.
So is the Aspire R 14 something that you should 'aspire' to get? Probably not immediately. Let me be clear - the Aspire R 14 is by no means a poor 2-in-1. It is beautifully designed and has good enough performance for the SOHO, business market it is aimed at.
The problem is more prosaic. It is up against strikingly similar offerings from Dell, HP and Lenovo. There are also tidings of 2-in-1 devices with 4K screens about to hit the market.
My feeling is that Acer's 2-in-1 does not have enough unique features to help it stand out from the crowd and it might get chosen based purely on price.
Rating: 3 out of 5
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