Review: Acer Aspire R 14

Display

Over in the screen area, Acer has improved on one side, but also stayed very much the same, and this is an area that generally gets us hot and bothered.

Acer is a little all over shop in the screen department, usually including either mediocre screens with mediocre resolutions or great screens with great resolutions, and the choice is usually dependent on how much you want to spend.

In the Aspire R 14, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, with a great resolution and a mediocre screen.

The screen is very reflective, something our light tent demonstrates.

The screen is very reflective, something our light tent demonstrates.

That is to say you’re given a Full HD 1920×1080 resolution on a 14 inch machine — something we applaud — with a Twisted Nematic display that forces you to hunt for the right viewing angle by shifting your head in various positions, or by forcing the screen into that specific position.

Yes, it’s that type of screen where shifting in your seat means you will change the colour, and it’s a little problematic if you decide to use the Acer R 14 as a tablet.

Ignore the fact that the nearly two kilogram weight means the R 14 will be a very heavy tablet — just forget about that for the moment — because when you fold that screen over, you suddenly realise that the poor viewing angles of the R 14 make for a pretty weak tablet, forcing you to contort yourself in a variety of positions just to use this as a tablet.

With this in mind, we’d say to skip using the Aspire R 14 as a tablet, and if you want to use it in the other various form factor, the display and tent positions are probably your best bets.

Or just use the Acer Aspire R 14 as a laptop, because with this style of screen, it is the best way to use the thing. Without doubt.

Viewing angles just aren't the best. We probably wouldn't use this as a tablet. Just saying.

Viewing angles just aren’t the best. We probably wouldn’t use this as a tablet. Just saying.

Keyboard and mouse

At least the keyboard isn’t bad, though it could do with a little bit of refinement.

On the positive side, the 14 inch body allow you to have a fairly large and spacious set of keys, with the island-key keyboard providing enough room to get your typing done on a keyboard that is more or less the same size as it should be. There are no extra keys here, and overall, it’s just so easy to get into.

The downside, however, is the travel can be a little too short and you might miss some keystrokes, which we did in typing this review.

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Overall, it’s an acceptable keyboard, but you kind of want it to be improved just a little in the next generation. Firmer travel, more solid keys, and that general feeling that the keyboard could be used for longer periods.

At least you don’t have to press down too hard, which is at least nice.

The mouse, though, could definitely do with some work, and we found that while it’s relatively spacious — sitting at a greater width than the space bar — and while it is quite responsive for multi-touch gestures, the clicking feels cheap thanks to a very plastic button.

Acer’s trackpad button doesn’t always feel like it connects, either resulting in click selections that sometimes freeze up.

Fortunately, you have a touchscreen here, so this mediocre mouse isn’t your only way to select items on your computer, but as the primary way, it falls a little short.

Battery

Over to battery life, and Acer’s inclusion of a sixth-generation Intel Core chip has done wonders for battery life in the R 14 because it can pull the hours if need be.

We’re not sure this technically qualifies as an Ultrabook or even if Intel has that specification anymore, but the specs in the R 14 appear to be married to a capable battery to offer as much as eight to ten hours of battery life.

That’s not bad at all, especially given there’s a 14 inch touchscreen display here, though that battery life is pretty much achieved by keeping things minimal, and by that, we mean sticking to light productivity such as office work, writing, web surfing, emails, and so on.

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What needs work

Now there are some obvious downsides to the machine, such as the display needing better viewing angles and the mouse requiring a better button, but most of the quibbles come from what Acer hasn’t included.

Take the USB Type C port, which is a solid inclusion and one that will be fantastically useful this year when more devices support this relatively future-proof port. Phones will be compatible, and tablets and video cables and hard drives and so on.

We’re delighted to see the USB Type C port in the Acer Aspire R 14, but it is, sadly, not being used to its full potential, and by that we mean that you cannot charge the laptop from this port. A shame that, as it would have cut down on another connector.

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We’d also like to have seen support for Intel’s RealSense here, an inclusion that would have granted facial recognition to the laptop and let you log in without the help of a passcode or PIN.

You might see this as unnecessary, but when Windows Hello is advertised as one of the key features of Windows 10 and Acer packs in a bunch of other neato features like the USB Type C port and a fairly large SSD (256GB), a camera with that 3D depth tracking technology would have definitely been welcome.

So what needs work on the Acer Aspire R 14? Quite simply, Acer needs to finish the all-round package, not just stop half way there.

Tent mode from the Acer press images. You can use the Aspire R 14 this way, though we're not sure why you would.

Tent mode from the Acer press images. You can use the Aspire R 14 this way, though we’re not sure why you would.

Conclusion

While its $1119 starting price won’t exactly make waves, Acer’s R14 is a half decent machine for anyone keen to get a taste of USB Type C in a computer with a respectable battery life.

There are certainly things Acer could fix, such as the overly reflective screen with obvious colour washout and the trackpad button which makes us want to use a touchscreen, as well as that USB Type C port which should be used to charge the R 14 but for some reason isn’t.

And yes, Acer’s Aspire R 14 still proves itself as a decent little halfway point for people not convinced that 13 inch laptops are big enough and yet have realised that most 15 inch computers are rubbish.

At that point, the Acer Aspire R 14 serves a decent option, because you get the guts of a 13 inch in the body of something a little larger, with a battery to match. If the battery is the big deal and you tend to do a lot of work, Acer’s R 14 is definitely worth a look, provided you can deal with that screen.

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