Ports and Buttons
Now let’s have a look at the ports before we open the lid – don’t worry, it won’t take long. On the left hand side we’ve got just two – a tiny AC input near the rear, a USB 3.0 port just in front of that and then a power button. It’s a layout I like – the laptop turns on automatically when you raise the lid, so keeping the power button out of the way here is no bad thing.
On the opposite side (that’s the right, for those of you keeping score), we’ve got a further three ports, similarly at the rear. We’ve got another USB 3.0 port at the back, a headphone socket (which supports mobile-style headphone + mic combinations) and a micro SD card slot.
Finally, on the back of the Aspire S7 we’ve got a micro HDMI port, flanked by a number of exhaust ports.
Opening the lid, we see a fairly monochrome arrangement with silver chassis and silver keys. The display has a fairly small bezel, with a small 1.3 megapixel webcam at the top and an Acer logo at the bottom.
Our review unit had an 11.6″ 1366 x 768 display, but having just spent a few weeks from with the W700 which comes with the same 11.6″ display as the retail version of the Aspire S7 you should expect great things. Colour reproduction, viewing angles and overall image quality in both text and videos was top notch on that display, although brightness could be improved. With Acer providing this kind of display, it’s hard to ever accept another 1366 x 768 panel.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Turning our attention to the keyboard and the touchpad now, it’s again a very nice looking affair with little ornamentation – just three elements exist outside the trackpad and keyboard, a Dolby Home Theater notice on the upper left, a Professionally Tuned tagline on the upper right, and the Aspire S7 logo on the bottom right. All are fairly subtle and don’t detract from the look of the laptop.
The chiclet keys have a good amount of space between them, although the key travel is a bit more shallow than I would have preferred. I suppose that’s the price you pay for an ultra-thin laptop! Even with the small amount of travel, I didn’t find typing on the S7 to be difficult, and indeed I penned many an article upon it.
The layout is fairly standard – with the Fn key between Ctrl and Windows, where it belongs – but two of the keys are somewhat unusual. These are the Caps Lock and Backspace keys, which have been split in two to allow for more keys than usual in the same amount of space. It’s an efficient system, but it’ll definitely take you some time to get used to the new location. I never really agreed with the combined Backspace and Delete key (as I found it a bit hard to hit Backspace reliably) but the tiny Caps Lock key makes perfect sense. Of course, you could theoretically remap these keys to act only as one or another, so it’s not a deal-breaker by any means.
The touchpad is also rather good; I think the best I’ve seen on a Windows laptop. While I had a few issues with the touchpad (I kept accidentally triggering the zoom gesture) it’s quite configurable and very comfortable to use despite the laptop’s small size.
All in all, the design of the Aspire S7 is impressive. It’s just so thin – look at how it compares to my 2008 Dell ‘Ultraportable’ Latitude D430 – it’s about a third of the size, with the entire S7 taking up the same space as the display section of the Dell machine.
It’s almost precisely the same height as a DVD case. Absolute madness.
But how well does it perform? That’s the question we’ll be answering in our next section – testing.