Update: We've refreshed our take on the Acer Aspire S7 with a video review. See that electroluminescent keyboard backlighting in action below!
The Aspire S7 didn't need much of an upgrade. Acer came close to a Windows 8 dream machine last year, with design both gorgeous and slim. Now the attractive S7 has been given this season's most fashionable upgrade, a 2560 x 1440 IPS touchscreen.
While the merits of such a sharp screen are suspect - and more readily visible if you're keeping up with the optometrist - it's definite future-proofing, and good defense against pixel envy from the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.
Acer isn't just bumping up specs, it's working on the overall Aspire experience. Just 0.3mm of extra keyboard travel of overall last year's model may not sound like much, but let me assure you that means an excellent typing experience.
Look out, Apple: For typing and easy transportation, the Acer Aspire S7 is getting dangerously close to your 13-inch MacBook Air. And it's even punchier than what's on offer from the Dell XPS 13. Now, if only it could squeeze as much battery life out of its Haswell processor, and I wouldn't mind if it centered up that touchpad, either.
The changes to the Aspire S7 are hardly skin deep, and for good reason. It had a gorgeous design to begin with, and Acer has stuck with it. This is the same aluminum frame wrapping a pearly white plastic and Gorilla Glass encasement. There's the same aluminum keyboard deck with silver plastic keys, and the laptop's underside is coated in soft touch plastic, just like it was last year.
Subtle adjustments have been made, like the larger power button near the hinge. It's more prominently placed near the power port – rather than next to the audio jack on the side of last year's S7 – making it much easier to find. The S7 still maintains a clean, MacBook-like look, with a lot of space between the function keys and hinges.
Before we start getting into internals, I should mention that Acer has revisited its cooling solution for the Aspire S7. It's kept the dual fans just above the keyboard, but reduced the amount of fan blades and is now running them at 10,000 rpm. Fan noise was a common complaint with last year's model, that it sounded like a jumbo jet when streaming Netflix or a little Photoshop.
These fans suck less power, and while you may not see it on your electric bill, they do make for an incredibly cool and quiet computing experience, which is rare get from an Ultrabook.
Welcome to Tweak Town
The overarching theme with the new Aspire S7 is tweaks, changes that don't mess with what has already earned Acer acclaim from critics. Moving power buttons, adjusting fan speeds and increasing key travel aren't back of the box, bullet point-type changes, but together, they make a for an improved computing experience.
There wasn't much more that Acer needed to do to keep pace with the competition (or even earn our "Recommended" Award). But the vendor managed to make an already-premium system look and feel even more so than before. Just as importantly, Acer didn't cut anything critics loved last time, either.
You've gotta love the sci-fi electroluminescent backlighting on the Aspire keyboard. Not only does it set the S7 aesthetic apart, it's easier on the eyes in low light than many Windows 8.1 notebook keyboards.
The edge-to-edge glass screen – which can bend back 180 degrees and lay flat – on the Aspire S7 is also a fantastic touch. This makes gestures feel seamless as you draw your index finger in from the right edge of the panel to summon the Charms menu.
Of course, there's plenty more that Acer tweaked, like introducing the Aspire S7 to Intel's latest mobile chips, the fourth generation Core i series. But how does it stack up to some of the existing holders of Haswell?