The latest Acer Aspire R 14 ($699.99 as tested), a midrange convertible-hybrid laptop, has been updated with new features that push it from average to the top of the class. Last year’s $770 Acer Aspire R 14 (R3-471T-77HT) was one of the first reasonably priced, large-screen laptops with a multimode form factor. At the time, we dinged it for having a low 1,366-by-768-resolution screen and no support for 5GHz Wi-Fi, since many midrange laptops were coming out with higher-resolution displays and dual-band Wi-Fi. Acer rectifies those shortcomings with the latest Aspire R 14. The system has been upgraded with a 1080p HD screen and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and adds a USB-C port; and at $699.99 (as tested), it costs $70 less. All that, along with all-day battery life and improved 3D gaming performance, help the latest Aspire R 14 earn our Editors’ Choice for midrange convertible-hybrid laptops.
Design and Features
The dark-silver Aspire R 14 measures 0.73 by 13.5 by 9.6 inches (HWD), and weighs 4.07 pounds. That’s pretty slim for a laptop with a 14-inch screen, and it is both thinner and lighter than the previous version, as well as the Toshiba Satellite Radius 14 E45W-C4200X. It’s a bit thicker and heavier than the Lenovo Yoga 3 14, but still easily transportable. If you really need portability, the HP Spectre x360 13t (13-4003) measures 0.63 by 12.79 by 8.6 inches (HWD), and weighs 3.26 pounds, while the 12-inch Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 (P20W-CST3N01) measures 0.61 by 11.8 by 8.2 inches and weighs 2.9 pounds, but its keyboard is less comfortable to use, and it costs $100 more.
Thanks to its convertible design, you can use the Aspire R 14 like a traditional laptop in Notebook mode, or flip the screen around to use it in Tablet mode (formerly known as Pad mode), fold the keyboard back and face down, with the screen facing toward you (Display mode), or stand the system upside down in Tent mode for movie viewing. Because of its screen size, it can get a little uncomfortable when you have to hold the system in the crook of your arm in Tablet mode for an extended period of time. The hinges have a bit more friction once you tilt the screen back beyond 120 degrees. That makes the system more stable when you’re using the touch display.
The 14-inch, 1,920-by-1,080-resolution IPS touch screen shows accurate colors when you view the display from various angles. Both the touch screen and the touchpad work well, with no lag. The backlit, chiclet-style keyboard is easy to type on.
Connectivity is much improved over the last iteration. There’s a USB-C port on the left side, which you can use with the latest speedy external hard drives and solid-state drives (SSDs). Also on the left are a headset jack, an HDMI port, a Kensington lock port, and two USB 3.0 ports (the previous Acer Aspire R 14 has just one). On the right, you’ll find a jack for the AC adapter, the Power button, an SD card slot, a USB 2.0 port, and the volume control. Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth handle wireless connections. That’s an improvement over the last model, which has 2.4GHz Wi-Fi only.
The sound system detects the screen’s position, and directs the audio output from the left and right speakers accordingly. Many new Acer laptops have a blue-light-reduction mode called Bluelight Shield. The company claims that it helps reduce eyestrain, particularly if you like to use your laptop in a dimly lit room.
The 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD are excellent for a sub-$700 system, and should certainly be enough for multitasking. I had dozens of browser tabs open during testing, without any perceptible slowdown. There are a several extra programs and utilities, preloaded on the system, including Amazon, Flipbook, Foxit Phantom PDF viewer, Kindle, Netflix, and Wild Tangent games, all of which are removable. The laptop is covered by a one-year warranty.
The Aspire R 14 comes with a powerful 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U processor with Intel HD Graphics 520. The system made short work of the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test. Its score of 2,780 points is only slightly behind last year’s Intel Core i7-equipped Acer Aspire R 14 (2,896) and the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 (2,921). And it fared better than the HP Spectre x360 13t (2,707).
Multimedia performance is equally good. The Aspire R 14 was our second-place performer on the Handbrake test, with a time of 2 minutes 31 seconds, just behind the Toshiba Satellite 12 (2:30). That’s slightly more than a minute faster than the Toshiba Satellite Radius 14 (3:34). Its results on the Cinebench (286 points) and Photoshop (4:33) tests were also near the top of the mark, though the previous Acer Aspire R 14, with its Intel Core i7 CPU, was a smidge faster on both Cinebench (302) and Photoshop (4:01). This laptop is speedy enough for complex multimedia editing sessions if you’re a photo and video hobbyist.
The Aspire R 14 puts in a good showing for 3D gaming performance, nabbing first place on the 3DMark Cloud Gate (5,482 points) and 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme (370) tests. Its frame rates on Heaven (20 frames per second or fps) and Valley (24fps) at Medium-quality settings aren’t what we consider smoothly playable, but they still are better than the single-digit and low-teen frame rates the competition returned on the same tests. You should have no problem playing games like Minecraft and Diablo III on the Aspire R 14 at Medium-quality settings.
Battery life was excellent. The system lasted 9 hours 37 minutes in our rundown test, which is almost an hour longer than the HP Spectre x360 (8:45). Last year’s Acer Aspire R 14 lasted 9 hours 35 minutes, due to the extra drain from the Intel Core i7 processor balancing the power savings from the 1,366-by-768-resolution screen. The Toshiba Satellite Radius 14 lasted just 6:47, and the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 lasted a longer 7:45, but the latter also has a smaller display. The battery leader in the category is the Acer Aspire R 13 (R7-371T-50ZE), which, with its smaller screen and slower processor, lasted 10:57.
The latest Acer Aspire R 14 is a reasonably priced convertible-hybrid laptop with a lot going for it. Its improvements over its last iteration include a large 1080p HD touch screen, forward-looking technology like a USB-C port, dual-band Wi-Fi, a powerful sixth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, and strong battery life, all at a really good price for a midrange laptop. It has a larger screen, better battery life, and better 3D performance than the HP Spectre x360 13t (13-4003), our former Editors’ Choice, for $300 less. True, the Aspire R 14 is slightly larger and heavier than the HP Spectre x360, but not prohibitively so. As such, the Aspire R 14 is our Editors’ Choice for midrange convertible-hybrid laptops.