It is not enough to be just a traditional clamshell laptop nowadays.
Today's laptops have to twist, rotate and flip. They have to transform into tablets too. In addition, they have to support newfangled usage modes with names such as "tent" and "stand".
This trend applies to even workhorse models, such as the new Acer Aspire R14. But, seriously, do you really need your 14-inch laptop to transform into a hefty tablet weighing almost 2kg?
Besides the problem with its weight, the R14's touchscreen display has a middling screen resolution of only 1,366 x 768 pixels. This is not unusual for a mainstream 14-inch laptop.
The screen does not use in-plane switching technology either, so there is significant colour shift when viewed from the side. This is more pronounced on the vertical axis, such as when the display is tilted too far backwards or forward.
Again, this is somewhat to be expected of a laptop which costs $1,298. However, the poor display detracts from its multiple usage modes. Tablets typically offer good viewing angles. Acer boasts that the screen has no air gap between the glass and the display, but any advantage is undone by the lacklustre viewing angles.
At least the hinges for the touchscreen appear sturdy enough to support the laptop when it is used in tent mode (an inverted V shape).
The display holds up well with just a slight wobble despite my furious tapping.
In appearance, the R14 is nondescript with its plain grey lid. The machine is grey and black. Like other laptops which transform into tablets, the power button is at the side, although there is no volume rocker.
The laptop is thick enough to accommodate a pull-down Ethernet port. It has three USB ports, along with an HDMI port and an SD card reader. There is no built-in optical drive.
The keyboard offers decent travel, but there is no backlight. The touchpad supports multitouch gestures; scrolling with two fingers was smooth and responsive.
Inside this laptop, you will find an Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia graphics chip. It can run older games such as Bioshock Infinite at a decent clip at Medium setting. However, this is not a laptop for serious gamers. It does not help that its 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive feels relatively slow when loading apps.
On the bright side, the Aspire R14 has impressive battery stamina. Thanks to its 53 watt-hour battery, this laptop clocked almost seven hours in our video-based battery test.
Additional usage modes feel more like a novelty and Acer should have done a better job with the screen.
The Aspire R14 is an affordable and competent laptop with good battery life.
Processor: Intel Core i7-4510U (2GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 820M 2GB DDR3
Screen size: 14 inches, 1,366 x 768 pixels
Connectivity: 1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, HDMI, Ethernet port, SD card slot, combo audio jack
Battery: 53-watt hour
Value for money: 4/5
Battery life: 5/5
This article was first published on Dec 24, 2014.
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