Indeed, solid hardware rounds out the S7’s winning formula. My test model was armed with a 1.7 GHz Intel i5 processor and a 120 GB solid state hard drive, which accounts for the computer’s speediness — and this is the low-end, NT$44,900 model. As far as design and looks, it’s hard for any computer manufacturer nowadays to escape the influence of the Macbook Air, but Acer managed to avoid making the S7 a slavish imitation. The interior, as in the screen and keyboard, is all brushed metal, but it looks original in its own right. The exterior casing is a translucent white, and gives the laptop an understated but sleek appearance.
The S7’s shape is not quite as fetching as the Macbook Air, but this Acer laptop is still wafer thin, with a 11.9mm profile, and a hair lighter at 2.87 lb (1.3kg). Another interesting feature is that the screen can folds all the way back so the computer is one long flat sheet. And the hinges seem solid, without a trace of creakiness. Though it’s impossible to know with full certainty, the S7 looks and feels like it was built to last.
The S7 does have a few drawbacks, one of which may be critical for some folks: battery life. I averaged under three and a half hours with everyday use, which for me meant keeping WiFi on, surfing the Net, watching a few YouTube videos, writing e-mails and the notes for this article. If you’re an office road warrior, this may have you thinking twice about the S7, especially since the Macbook Air is a similar price and offers better battery time between charges. Also, the S7’s keyboard lacks the function (Fn) keys normally placed in the first row. On the S7, they’re shared with the number keys, which you activate when you hold down the Fn button. It’s a minor inconvenience, but some power-users will miss it having those keyboard shortcuts. One other minor complaint I have is the unwieldy and bulky power cord (Acer, you have such a beautiful and ultraportable laptop. Why give us such an ungainly mess of cables to power it?)
If you’re looking for the latest and greatest Windows computer, the S7 is one of them — Acer has outdone itself with this laptop. That said, at the moment it’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend any Windows 8 computer, especially if you’re perfectly happy with Windows 7 or Vista, given that the new OS is a mixed bag of both improved and frustrating features. But if you’re willing to deal with the quirks of the new Windows, then the S7 should be at the top of your list.
Toshiba Satellite U940
Often overlooked, Toshiba makes some of the best-designed Windows laptops around. Its Portege Z830 was one of the better ultrabooks we tested (See page 13, Feb. 5, 2012, edition of the Taipei Times), and one of its newer products, the Satellite U940, is a respectable, low-cost laptop running on Windows 8. It retails for NT$36,800, but we’ve seen it on local online stores for around NT$30,000.