Intel already gave us a heads up that several touch-enabled Ultrabooks were in store for 2012, and here they are, becoming real before our eyes. Here at Computex 2012, Acer just announced the Aspire S7 series, which includes a 13.3-inch model and an 11.6-incher, the first in the company's Ultrabook lineup. The S7 series will no doubt be the first of many touch-enabled Ultrabooks we see in Taipei this week, and these in particular have screens that fold back 180 degrees, allowing the system to lie flat. Unlike the original S3, which caught flack for its chintzy design, these two are made of 12.5mm-thick unibody aluminum and sport backlit keyboards and "full HD" displays, making these the most premium Ultrabooks Acer has attempted so far. In the case of the 13-inch version, too, you'll get a glass lid -- something previously seen only on the HP Envy 14 Spectre.
Unfortunately, Acer isn't sharing any details about specs right now, though we do know the 11-inch model is rated for up to nine hours of battery life, while the larger promises up to 12. With these systems, Acer is also introducing its so-called Twin Air cooling system (not that overheating was much of a problem on the original S3). In terms of pricing and availability, Acer has a long history of revealing those details separately, with a different announcement for each region. Besides, Acer has been clear that these will run Windows 8, so you won't be able to get your hands on one of these for a good four months yet. For now, though, stay tuned because Acer has the S7 laptops on display here and we'll be back shortly bringing you first-hand photos and video.
On paper (and judging from those glossy press shots), it would seem the S7 marks a departure from previous Acer Ultrabooks. In fact, though, this latest generation clearly shares some genes with the older S3 and S5. Though the chassis and bottom are each made of metal, the keys are still constructed from plastic, and generally have the same layout and shallow pitch as Acer's older models. With the S7, at least, the clickpad felt easy to press, which bodes well since this is an early-stage model we were handling.
We'll of course wait until we can test out a final, production-grade model, but for now it's fair to say Acer will face stiff competition from the likes of Apple and ASUS, whose new Zenbook Primes come with 1080p IPS displays, backlit keys and are made of metal from top to bottom, even on the keys. ASUS' new systems don't have touchscreens, of course, but our point stands: Acer needs more than just a modest boost in quality to compete effectively in this market.
As for that touchscreen, it was impossible to actually immerse ourselves in Windows 8, what with the hundreds of shoving journalists lined up behind us, but in our brief-hands on we found the display responded well to our various taps and swipes. Naturally, we expect to linger quite a bit on touchscreen performance once we finally review one of these.
Moving onto the lid, you'll be treated to different colors and textures depending on which size you choose. The 13-inch version is the showstopper, with a glass lid that has a subtle sheen to it. It's definitely not as reflective as your run-of-the-mill plastic lid. At the same time, because it's white, it manages not to look like a blatant copy of the HP Spectre's glass cover. On the flip side, the 11-inch model has a metal lid with thin lines crossing over each other. While the engraving feels fine, the pattern is bold enough that you can see it from a few feet away.
Again, given how crowded Acer's press event was and how difficult it was to even lay a pinkie on one of these things, we didn't get to spend much time with the S7 series. We expect to revisit this guy once it's released to the public, presumably in the fall when Windows 8 is expected to ship. For now, though, enjoy our hands-on photos and stay tuned for a pair of walk-through videos.
Zach Honig and Myriam Joire contributed to this report.
Iconic design for the thinnest and smallest Ultrabook™ devices
TAIPEI, TAIWAN (June 4, 2012) – Acer today introduces its newest premium Windows® 8 Ultrabook™ devices - the Aspire S7 Series - at Computex Taipei. Available in two sizes, 13.3-inch and 11.6-inch, these are the thinnest and smallest, respectively, Full HD touch Ultrabooks™. Both feature a sleek aluminum metallic unibody design and provide a more engrossing computing experience. The larger model additionally sports a glossy, sculpted glass cover, delivering a trendy and elegant appearance.
With the aluminum unibody design, the S7 Ultrabooks™ are exceptionally slim and light, yet durable enough to handle the rigors of everyday use. The 13.3-inch model offers up to 12 hours of battery life, while the 11.6-inch model can run for up to 9 hours, to ensure a full day of on-demand productivity and media consumption from a single charge. To make the best of the powerful performance components, Acer designed its innovative Acer Twin Air cooling system to produce efficient cooling and deliver the best thermal comfort.
Acer's S7 Series also features a light-sensing keyboard, which automatically detects changes in lighting conditions and adjusts the keyboard backlight brightness.
The new S7 range are singular ultra-mobile devices that blend performance, aesthetics and user-friendliness, giving modern day explorers the most complete and satisfying computing experience.