Review Acer Aspire S7 391 Ultrabook

Sebastian Jentsch (translated by Peter Krastev), 10/31/2012

12 millimeter bullet. How many notebooks can fit in a height of twelve millimeters? With its high-end ultrabook, Acer presents this question. SSD-Raid, Intel Core-i7 ULV CPU, IPS Full HD touch screen and unibody style - any other questions?

Acer S7-391-73514G25aws - the 13.3-incher takes a new path: IPS panel and an unrivaled thin case.
Acer S7-391-73514G25aws - the 13.3-incher takes a new path: IPS panel and an unrivaled thin case.

The S7 is Acer's ultrabook F1 car. This applies not only to the 13.3-inch form factor, but also to the hardware. On the outside - a gem made of solid magnesium and Gorilla Glass 2. On the inside - Core i7, 256 GB RAID SSD, and a Full HD IPS panel. That's right: outstanding viewing angles and vibrant colors in an Acer notebook. This is something that has not happened before. Even the sister model S5-391, a high-end ultrabook with similar hardware (i7, RAID) only had an HD panel with meager contrast and viewing angles of an ordinary laptop. 

Another rarity: the Aspire S7 is our first test candidate running Windows 8. With a 1300 to 1700 Euros price tag (our test unit, ~$1684 to $2202), the luxury model does not cost petty cash. But if it delivers the promised display, performance, and workmanship, then the price is competitive. You can read all that you need to know about the 14-inch Aspire S7 in our detailed review. 

The rivals are: Asus Zenbook UX31A (FHD IPS), Samsung Series 9 900X3C and Apple MacBook Air 13 (Unibody).

Case

The chassis is completely flat (magnesium).
The chassis is completely flat (magnesium).
The rubber strip lines the whole frame.
The rubber strip lines the whole frame.
The lid sits recessed in the base unit.
The lid sits recessed in the base unit.
Lid reinforcement of Gorilla Glass II.
Lid reinforcement of Gorilla Glass II.

Acer has really put an effort into making the case stable, despite its thinness (maximum height of 12 mm plus 1.5 mm for the feet). We are pleasantly surprised: the base unit is almost stiff as a board; the chassis cannot be bent either lengthwise, or diagonally.

During prolonged typing on the train, we noticed a drawback: the front and side raised edges of the working space are pretty sharp. The edgy look has its visual appeal, but also its downsides in everyday use. The raised side edges have two functions according to Acer: they stabilize the base unit and allow for a deeper immersion of the display lid (reduced height).

The lid consists of an aluminum frame, in which a Gorilla Glass II is used on the outside as a stiffening surface. This does attract fingerprints, but also adds strength. The lid can be twisted only to a limited extent. 

The working space is not entirely flat - the keys lie in a slight groove. This serves to even the edges of the keys with the rest of the surface. This is an important detail, since the display panel lies flush with the work surface. To prevent the display from being scratched or dented by the keys, the bezel has a small rubber strip. But it does not protrude out. Can this function properly? 

We noticed that when the lid is closed, the aluminum TFT frame and the magnesium work space come in direct contact. This might lead to abrasions after some time. We advise users to always transport the device with the polishing cloth placed on the keyboard. Given that Acer has manufactured it precisely to a tenth of a millimeter, the gap between the panel and the keys is extremely small. Even the touch typing markings could come in contact with the display. 

Such a flat notebook raises the question of efficient cooling. Acer claims to have solved this problem via the dual fans. One fan draws cool air in (small opening) and the other one blows the hot air out through the radiator (large opening). The processor is, per usual, connected to the radiator via a copper heat pipe. In the Emissions section we'll discuss whether this helps with the noise and heating.

The S7 has no maintenance covers; the battery is integrated. There isn't much to upgrade or exchange. The two SSDs (RAID 0) are small modules connected to the SATA ports (no 2.5- and 1.8-inch SSD). The system memory (4 GB) is soldered.

Connectivity

The S7 does not have a lot of room for interfaces; VGA and Ethernet are out of the question because of their height. Two USB 3.0 ports as well as a micro HDMI and a card reader remain. In order to cater for users with external monitors, Acer has supplied a micro-HDMI to VGA adapter. Ethernet fans also receive a USB to RJ45 dongle. It only supports fast Ethernet.

Left side: AC jack, second battery power jack, micro-HDMI, audio combo, On/Off button
Left side: AC jack, second battery power jack, micro-HDMI, audio combo, On/Off button
Left side: card reader, 2x USB 3.0, Kensington
Left side: card reader, 2x USB 3.0, Kensington

Communication

The above mentioned interfaces are supplemented by DraftN WLAN and Bluetooth 4.0. But these are also found in low-cost devices, such as the Lenovo IdeaPad S206. The 1.3 MP webcam delivers a decent picture in low light, though not very good. As long as the subject doesn't move, the contours are sharp and the blurred areas are limited. The colors have a high contrast. The status LED in the upper TFT bezel indicates operation. 

Accessories

The high-quality packaging includes as standard a slim case, which is optimal for the 12-millimeter notebook. Then we have the two afore-mentioned adapters (Ethernet, VGA). Those who want to use a standard HDMI will need another one. There is no disk with the Windows 8 Pro (64 Bit) or the drivers. The user is prompted to burn a recovery backup via the Recovery Manager

Software

We see less in terms of software features. While Sony and Samsung bundle all the tools under one roof (Vaio Care), Acer seems to have a different tool for everything. This might be an exaggeration, but tools like "Power Button Function" make us doubtful. There are no full versions of commercial software. CyberLink's Media Espresso is pre-installed as a free version.

Warranty

24 months of Collect & Return (will be picked up) is the standard warranty for Acer's high-priced notebooks. The devices under 1000 Euros (~$1290) come with only 12 months of Bring-In service. This can extend up to three years for 90 Euros (~$116); for 100 Euros (~$129), Acer sells the Notebook accident and breakdown cover. Its duration is one year and covers, for example, theft and burglary (including in a car) and breaks or damages caused by liquids.

Adapter (VGA, RJ45) and Bluetooth mouse
Adapter (VGA, RJ45) and Bluetooth mouse
Warranty and quick start leaflet
Warranty and quick start leaflet
Sturdy bag (standard accessory)
Sturdy bag (standard accessory)
Acer Cloud Docs
Acer Cloud Docs
Power Button Function
Power Button Function
CyberLink Media Espresso Lite
CyberLink Media Espresso Lite
Recovery Manager
Recovery Manager
USB Charge
USB Charge
Webcam photo 320x240
Webcam photo 320x240
Webcam photo 640x480
Webcam photo 640x480
Webcam photo 1280x720
Webcam photo 1280x720
high-contrast & bright
high-contrast & bright

Input Devices

Keyboard

The low height of the notebook naturally reduces the key drop. This is also true here. The firm stop (the keys are fixed well) at least ensures a proper feedback. The pressure point is sufficiently clear, but not crisp, which is expected given the short drop. The competitors do not offer clear key drop either.

The layout is typical for an Aspire, but shows some changes. The F and Fn key rows are gone and are instead assigned as a second function of the numbers row and the top row of letters. This leaves more space for the input. Wasted? Not at all. On one hand, the processor and the cooling system are underneath; these are the tallest hardware parts. On the other hand, users can rest their hands while using the touch screen.

Touchpad

The Elan SmartPad does not have separate buttons. The touchpad functions like a rocker, where the mouse buttons are located underneath the bottom right and left. For cursor movement, the relatively smooth surface is sensitive up to the edges. The vertical and horizontal scroll bars are not adjustable. The usual multi touch gestures are fully supported. The SmartPad has a sufficient stroke and clicks quietly.

Keyboard with a solid construction
Keyboard with a solid construction
Keys with multi level lighting
Keys with multi level lighting
Elan SmartPad with medium key drop
Elan SmartPad with medium key drop

Touchscreen

Matching to the Windows 8 system, the S7 has a multi-touch panel for input via the fingers. The lid can be opened to more than 180 degrees. When the S7 lies on the table for presentations, the screen image can be rotated in all four directions via the Fn + screen rotation buttons. Thus we can show the person opposite us the screen content, without turning the notebook.

The second aid for the touch input: the hinges tighten after 100 degrees opening angle (dual torque hinges). Thus you won't push it back with your fingers. Up until that position, the lid can be easily opened using one hand. 

The Full HD panel has a homogeneous edge-to-edge surface. Just as with a tablet PC, there is no gap between the bezel and the sensitive area. The surface mounted rubber strip does not hinder finger movement either. It is a relatively tough LCD surface, although the pressure resistance is not as good as that of a good tablet computer. Medium pressure on the panel leaves the typical for a notebook pressure points. Moreover, these occur under moderate pressure on the Gorilla Glass on the back cover. 

There are no problems with the fluid operation of Windows 8. The fast SSD RAID 0 provides quick program start-up. The 180 degrees opening angle is ideal for train use (tight space) and for presenting/playing on the table.

The lid can be opened to more than 180 degrees. At around 100 degrees the second torque kicks in and the display hinges become tighter.
The lid can be opened to more than 180 degrees. At around 100 degrees, the second torque kicks in, and the display hinges become tighter.

Display

The 13.3-inch panel of the S7 has a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels (Full HD). In addition we have the multi-touch functionality, which should go perfectly with Windows 8. The so called Acer ComfyView panel comes from the manufacturer AUO (B133HAN03, IPS) and is not matte. In contrast to the infamous TN panels of all Acer laptops so far (all price categories), for the first time we have an IPS panel with wide viewing angles and proper contrast. In terms of contrast ratio we measured almost 500:1.

The color quality and side viewing angles are comparable to a good tablet screen. Similarly good displays we find among the competitors Asus Zenbook UX31A (FHD, IPS) and Samsung Series 9 900X3C (1600x900, PLS). The Apple MacBook Air 13 (1440x900, TN) has the qualitatively worse panel in this comparison.

373
cd/m²
364
cd/m²
358
cd/m²
367
cd/m²
365
cd/m²
353
cd/m²
372
cd/m²
351
cd/m²
352
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1 Pro 2
Maximum: 373 cd/m²
Average: 361.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 94 %
Center on Battery: 165 cd/m²
Black: 0.734 cd/m²
Contrast: 497:1

The color space reproduction is important for graphics and demanding image editing. The sRGB and the AdobeRGB color spaces were not fully covered. Of the three high-end ultrabooks, only the Asus Zenbook UX31A manages that. Its color space is significantly larger, as the direct comparison in the picture shows. But the S7 wins against the sister model Aspire S5-391, with a disappointing TN panel (image 3).

Acer AS S7-391 vs. sRGB (t)
Acer AS S7-391 vs. sRGB (t)
Acer AS S7-391 vs. AdobeRGB (t)
Acer AS S7-391 vs. AdobeRGB (t)
Acer AS S7-391 vs. Acer AS S5-391 TN (t)
Acer AS S7-391 vs. Acer AS S5-391 TN (t)
Acer AS S7-391 vs. Asus UX31A FHD IPS (t)
Acer AS S7-391 vs. Asus UX31A FHD IPS (t)

The high brightness is one option for the summer. But wait, what is that? Brightness on battery: 165 cd/m². The LCD fades from the almost gigantic 373 cd/m² on power supply to this scarce luminance (cannot be disabled even in BIOS). The result is a too dark image in daylight. Only in the shadow is the desktop still legible. When we add reflections, everything is gone. 

The brightness sensor on the upper LCD frame did not alter our measurement, since the result was the same even in direct light. On AC power, we could observe how the sensor ensures an adaptive control of the screen brightness and the keyboard lighting. In terms of outdoor use, Samsung and Asus are vastly superior to the Acer S7 (anti-glare, high brightness). The MacBook is reflective, but significantly brighter (on battery power, otherwise not).

Aspire S7: side view, sunny
Aspire S7: side view, sunny
Aspire S7: frontal view, sunny
Aspire S7: frontal view, sunny
Aspire S7: side view, shadows
Aspire S7: side view, shadows

The viewing angles of the display thrill us. Horizontally and vertically they are about 85 degrees. This is in accordance with an IPS panel (In Plane Switching). Regular TN panels (Twisted Nematic; for example Aspire S5-391) do not exceed 45 degrees horizontally and 15 degrees vertically. Within the comparison group, there are exceptions with wider horizontal angles (MacBook Air 13). But vertically, the TN competitors always have a clearly worse image. UX31A and Samsung 900X3C do not exceed these viewing angles.

Viewing angles Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
Viewing angles Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws

Performance

The Intel Core i7-3517U (2 x 1.9 GHz) is an ultra-low voltage processor with a TDP (thermal design power) of 17 W. According to Acer there will be an S7 model with Core i5-3317U. The frequency can be increased via Turbo Boost 2.0 up to 3.0 GHz (single-core load). We must take into account the temperature (performance drops when too hot), which we will clarify in the processor section. 

The Ivy Bridge i7 has a memory controller for DDR3 RAM and an Intel HD 4000 on board. In our test system the 4096 MB is permanently installed and thus not expandable. The storage consists of two mSATA modules, each with 128 GB capacity. The Lite-On CMT-128L3M modules in RAID 0 array (striping – acceleration without redundancy) have already provided for a very high performance in the Aspire S5-391.

Systeminfo CPUZ CPU
Systeminfo CPUZ Cache
Systeminfo CPUZ Mainboard
Systeminfo CPUZ RAM
Systeminfo GPUZ HD 4000
Systeminfo HWinfo
DPC Latenzen Idle OK
DPC Latenzen WLAN On/Off knappe Verzögerungen
System information Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws

Processor

CPU load: Cinebench R11.5 Multi @2.8 GHz
CPU load: Cinebench R11.5 Multi @2.8 GHz
CPU load: Prime95 Solo (Multi) 2.7-2.8 GHz
CPU load: Prime95 Solo (Multi) 2.7-2.8 GHz

The Aspire S7 with the i7 costs 1700 Euros (~$2202). Does a cheaper i5 version suffice? We think so, since the Cinebench tests show this: the maximum performance difference is 15%. The R11.5 graph confirms: the TwinAir cooling system aids the Turbo Boost surprisingly well. The Samsung 900X3C and Aspire S5-391 with the same processor are 6-10% slower. 

Let us take a closer look: the frequency during CPU multi tests is constantly at 2.8 GHz. Only the stress test scenario with Prime95 on all cores dropped the Turbo temporarily down to 2.7 GHz. This is good news to everybody who feared throttling problems because of the 12 mm chassis.

What the R11.5 test identifies is not proven by Wprime (S5-191 +17%), Super Pi, and Cinebench R10 Single/Multi (+/- 0%). In the "worst" case, the i7 of the Aspire S7 is on an equal level. On battery power one does not have to give up performance. The R11.5 Tests (also OpenGL via GPU) showed identical results.

Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
4145
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
8590
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
6010
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
5170 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
10529 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
6053 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.24 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
2.8 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
15.69 fps
Help
Cinebench R11.5
OpenGL 64Bit
Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
15.69 fps ∼14%
Samsung 900X3C-A04DE
16.01 fps ∼15% +2%
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A
17.09 fps ∼16% +9%
Acer Aspire S5-391-73514G25akk
14.73 fps ∼13% -6%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
14.3 fps ∼13% -9%
CPU Multi 64Bit
Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
2.8 Points ∼16%
Samsung 900X3C-A04DE
2.64 Points ∼15% -6%
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A
2.61 Points ∼15% -7%
Acer Aspire S5-391-73514G25akk
2.51 Points ∼14% -10%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
2.38 Points ∼14% -15%
Legend
      Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws Intel Core i7-3517U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 2x Lite-On CMT-128L3M (RAID 0)
      Samsung 900X3C-A04DE Intel Core i7-3517U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Lite-On LMT-256M3M
      Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A Intel Core i5-3427U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Apple SSD TS128E (Toshiba)
      Acer Aspire S5-391-73514G25akk Intel Core i7-3517U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 2x Lite-On CMT-128L3M (RAID 0)
      Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Intel Core i5-3317U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, ADATA XM11

System Performance

PCMark 7 Scores
PCMark 7 Scores

The PCMark 7 evaluates application performance as a whole (PC Mark Vantage failed to complete). With 5020 points, the result is well ahead of the direct competitors (see the graph). Except for the MacBook Air 13, the SSD, be it RAID 0 or not, doesn't make a whole lot of difference. This System Storage Score illustrates this.

5.5
Windows 8 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
8.4
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
6.4
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
5.5
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
5.9
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
7.1
PCMark 7
Score
Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
5020 Points ∼76%
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A
4179 Points ∼63% -17%
Samsung 900X3C-A04DE
4549 Points ∼69% -9%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
5155 Points ∼78% +3%
Acer Aspire S5-391-73514G25akk
5949 Points ∼90% +19%
System Storage
Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
5428 Points ∼76%
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A
4159 Points ∼58% -23%
Samsung 900X3C-A04DE
5323 Points ∼75% -2%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
5245 Points ∼74% -3%
Acer Aspire S5-391-73514G25akk
5391 Points ∼76% -1%

Storage Devices

The reason for the good PCMark 7 score is the RAID 0 SSD array by Lite-On (CMT-128L3M). The enormous read rate can be misleading: when reading small, scattered data (4K tests), the ADATA XM11 (UX31A) and Lite-On LMT-256M3M (900X3C) are faster. This is why the System Storage Score is not better than the competitors.

ASSSD: 921 MB/s (Sequential Read)
ASSSD: 921 MB/s (Sequential Read)
Crystal Disk Mark: 922 MB/s (Seq. R.)
Crystal Disk Mark: 922 MB/s (Seq. R.)
HD-Tune: 934 MB/s (Seq. R.)
HD-Tune: 934 MB/s (Seq. R.)
CrystalDiskMark 3.0
Read Seq
Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
922.5 MB/s ∼63%
Samsung 900X3C-A04DE
479.2 MB/s ∼33% -48%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
476.3 MB/s ∼32% -48%
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A
450.2 MB/s ∼31% -51%
Read 4k
Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
18.64 MB/s ∼43%
Samsung 900X3C-A04DE
21.56 MB/s ∼50% +16%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
28.31 MB/s ∼65% +52%
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A
18.62 MB/s ∼43% 0%
2x Lite-On CMT-128L3M (RAID 0)
Transfer Rate Minimum: 370 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 1044.8 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 933.9 MB/s
Access Time: 0.1 ms
Burst Rate: 1808 MB/s
CPU Usage: 23.8 %

Graphics Card

Cineb. R11.5 OpenGL: 950 up to 1050 MHz
Cineb. R11.5 OpenGL: 950 up to 1050 MHz

The performance of the HD 4000 graphics chip has been proven in countless notebooks and subnotebooks. It is considerably faster than the HD 3000 predecessor, although there are large fluctuations among individual units. Refer to our Performance and Scaling Overview of Intel HD Graphics 4000.

In short, there are two performance factors: The GPU clock frequency (for example 650-1350 MHz) and the capabilities of the cooling system. Our Core i7 3517U allows the HD 4000 to clock up to 1150 MHz (theoretically), this is the same as a Standard Voltage Core i5. But is the cooling efficient enough to keep this frequency constant? Apparently not, because during the R11.5 OpenGL test it varies between 950 and 1050 MHz.

The benchmarks show varying results, when compared to an HD 4000 in a Standard Voltage dual-core processor (+18 but also -15%; MacBook Pro 13 and T430 respectively). However, it is only fair to make the comparison with HD 4000 in other Low Voltage Core i5 and i7 notebooks. The 3DMark 06 resulted in 4953 points. Here our Aspire S7 is sometimes faster (UX31A, S5-391), the same as (900X3C) or even  slower (Air 13). The processor graphics of an i5-3317U is up to 33% slower (IdeaPad U310). This varies depending on the efficiency of the cooling system, up to a tie (for example Zenbook UX32VD). 

3DMark 06 - 1280x1024 Standard AA:0x AF:0x
Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
4953 Points ∼17%
Lenovo IdeaPad U310
3332 Points ∼11% -33%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
4077 Points ∼14% -18%
Lenovo ThinkPad T430 (N1T4ZPB)
4219 Points ∼14% -15%
Acer Aspire S5-391-73514G25akk
4238 Points ∼14% -14%
Samsung 900X3C-A04DE
5096 Points ∼17% +3%
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A
5819 Points ∼19% +17%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 Mid 2012
5846 Points ∼20% +18%
3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
4953 points
3DMark Vantage3080 points
Help

Gaming Performance

We tested with Anno 2070 and Risen, whether the good synthetic scores translate into real game performance. Overall, the HD 4000 system performs worse when compared to an entry-level GPU, such as the GeForce GT 620M (Asus UX32VD, +90%). The other ultrabooks do not perform better, even the Air 13 with its above-average 3DMarks 06. Thus the user must do with lower resolution and deactivated anti-aliasing (lower details). Only undemanding modern games like FIFA 13 can be played smoothly on medium settings (IdeaPad S400). 

Anno 2070 - 1366x768 Medium Preset AA:on
Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
22 fps ∼9%
Acer Aspire V5-571G-53314G50Makk
38 fps ∼16% +73%
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A
22 fps ∼9% 0%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
18.78 fps ∼8% -15%
Acer Aspire V5-171-53314G50ass
16.6 fps ∼7% -25%
Acer Aspire V5-431-887B4G50Mauu
8 fps ∼3% -64%
Legend
      Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws Intel Core i7-3517U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 2x Lite-On CMT-128L3M (RAID 0)
      Acer Aspire V5-571G-53314G50Makk Intel Core i5-3317U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 620M, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380
      Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A Intel Core i5-3427U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Apple SSD TS128E (Toshiba)
      Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Intel Core i5-3317U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, ADATA XM11
      Acer Aspire V5-171-53314G50ass Intel Core i5-3317U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380
      Acer Aspire V5-431-887B4G50Mauu Intel Celeron 887, Intel HD Graphics (Sandy Bridge), Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD5000LPVT
low med.high ultra
Risen (2009) 29.618.114.510fps
Anno 2070 (2011) 432213.66.6fps

Emissions

System Noise

Air outlet (wide), intake (narrow)
Air outlet (wide), intake (narrow)

In terms of noise level, the 13.3-inch remains comfortable in idle and under low load, but the fan never turns off. Under low load it constantly spins with 32.6 dB(A). We can describe the fan controller behavior as cautious and slowly rising. Thus there are no abrupt increases in the noise level. 

When we tested under high performance, the noise reached 47.5 dB(A). Here it does not matter whether we stress test only the CPU with Prime95 or if we load the GPU with Furmark at the same time (classic stress test). This noise level is quite disturbing. In reality, the S7 should not be louder than 43.6 dB(A). This is the level we measured during 3DMark 2006 and gaming.

Noise Level

Idle 30.7 / 32.6 / 32.6 dB(A)
Load 43.6 / 47.1 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Stress test: constant 1.9 GHz (Standard frequency without Turbo Boost)
Stress test: constant 1.9 GHz (Standard frequency without Turbo Boost)

In idle the ultrabook remains cool in the areas of the keyboard and the palm rest. At the top and bottom, the temperatures are more or less around 30 oC. During office use, under low load and mostly idle state, the temperature rises only by a couple of degrees. So use on the lap is possible. 

Under load the temperature rises significantly (up to 48 oC), mostly in the rear area, where the processor and the cooling system are. However, below and above the keyboard, we measured temperatures of well below 40 oC. Thus the cooling fans works well. Our stress test is an extreme scenario, designed to test the effectiveness of the cooling system. 

During the stress test on the CPU and graphics for several hours, we noticed no CPU throttling with the S7. The Turbo Boost did not clock the processor up to 2.7 or 2.8 GHz, as with the Prime95 solo test. The 1.9 GHz is the standard frequency. Only a fall below that would indicate CPU throttling. HWinfo showed CPU temperatures at a maximum of 85 oC for the processor.

Max. Load
 41.3 °C47 °C41.7 °C 
 32.2 °C37.5 °C35.2 °C 
 30.8 °C29.7 °C31.7 °C 
Maximum: 47 °C
Average: 36.3 °C
35.4 °C48 °C37 °C
33.6 °C36.8 °C33 °C
32 °C32.2 °C31.5 °C
Maximum: 48 °C
Average: 35.5 °C
Power Supply (max.)  46.5 °C | Room Temperature 24.1 °C | Voltcraft IR-360

Speakers

Dolby Profile
Dolby Profile
Speaker
Speaker

The Aspire S7 has two stereo speakers. These are located beneath the palm rests and direct the sound towards the table. In order to leave enough space for the sound waves, the front feet are located directly next to the speakers. This is necessary, because without a table the sound becomes thin and washed out. 

The Dolby logo on the case refers to the Dolby Advanced Audio Codec (Surround), which significantly enhances the sound depending on the profile and settings. The user should not expect too much of it, since the effect is most notable with headphones or external speakers. The tiny speakers with low height are what they are: weak speakers with no volume. The sound is clear and without distortion even at high levels, although there are no distinct highs or lows.

Battery Life

The Power Manager indicates USB devices and applications that use a lot of energy.
The Power Manager indicates USB devices and applications that use a lot of energy.

Power Consumption

The Low Voltage system uses a bit more energy in idle than the 13.3-inch ultrabook competition. We measured 7.2 up to 11.6 W, which is easily more than the rivals: Zenbook Prime UX31A (4.4 to 10.3 W), Aspire S5-391 with the same hardware (4.5 to 6.5 W) and Samsung 900X3C (5.2 to 10 W). These values represent the minimum and maximum energy consumption in idle state. 

During the stress test (CPU+GPU) the power consumption rose to 35 W. When just the processor stress test was running (Prime95 Multi), the S7 consumed 32 W. The UX31A and Samsung 900X3C need more energy (~37 W @ peak load). An i5-3317U would hardly be more energy efficient here. Most of the 13-inch notebooks with this CPU consume about 36 W in the stress test (for example Envy Spectre XT 13-2000eg).

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.1 / 0.2 Watt
Idle 7.2 / 9.5 / 11.6 Watt
Load 34.5 / 34.7 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 960

Battery Life

WLAN browsing: 226 Min.
WLAN browsing: 226 Min.
Don't forget the power supply!
Don't forget the power supply!

The battery (4680 mAh) is inferior in terms of capacity when compared to the competition: Samsung 900X3C (5880 mAh), MacBook Air 13 (6700 mAh) and Zenbook UX31A (6840 mAh). This reduces battery life, even though the system is no energy waster itself. The WLAN test ended after 3:29 hours. The Air 13 (6:03 h), Series 9 900X3C (6:47 h) and UX31A (4:42 h) are significantly better.

In idle state the S7 managed 6:39 hours. The idle run time is not practically feasible, since it is done with minimal brightness, deactivated wireless modules, and idle CPU. The WLAN test comes closer to reality: here the brightness is set at about 150 cd/m² and a script reloads web pages every 40 seconds (some with video content). In order to help out customers, Acer offers a second battery, which can be mounted on the bottom (also 4680 mAh). It is connected to the notebook via a jack (on the left).

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
6h 39min
WiFi Surfing
3h 29min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 05min

Verdict

Without question Acer delivers an interesting and high-quality 13-inch ultrabook. It's the better S5-391, because the S7 has by far the higher quality display panel. The Full HD screen competes with the Samsung's Series 9 900X3C-A04DE (HD+) and the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A (FHD) and can also be operated with fingers. Strictly speaking, the Zenbook has the ultimate IPS panel. 

In terms of the design, Acer surpasses its rivals in dimensions (12 mm). Zenbook (18 mm), Series 9 900X3C (13 mm) and MacBook Air 13 (17 mm) are all thicker. The weight of 1.27 kg is very good and even better than the MacBook Air 13: Zenbook (1.41 kg), Series 9 900X3C (1.186 kg) and MacBook Air 13 (1.35 kg).

The case, made of magnesium, aluminum and Gorilla Glass II, sets new standards: it is not quite as solid and strong as those of the Zenbook or Air 13 (alu-unibody), but it is lighter and thinner. This puts into perspective the standard. We consider the construction to be overall on par with the competition - even without proper unibody.

The performance should not suffer because of the thin case. Acer's idea of the two fans (TwinAir) is a good one. The i7 performs on the expected level, but the mobility suffers. On one hand the 4680 mAh suffices for only 3:29 hours (WLAN test), on the other the brightness dims down to 165 cd/m² on battery power (AC - 361 cd/m²). The panel is then too dark for outdoor use and the reflection of the glare type is really disruptive. Because of this we lowered the display rating by five points. As soon as Acer fixes this flaw with a BIOS update, we will inform you.

It seems a law of nature that high temperatures and noise go together. This is not exactly the case here. Let's look again at our synthetic stress test. During normal use, the two fans gently slow down and speed up their rotation, thus causing no disturbance. The S7 becomes noisy only when playing games or under continuous load. 

Who needs a touch screen? We found the constant switching between the tiles of Windows 8 (Metro) and the classic desktop tiresome. In the latter, we preferred using mouse and touchpad, because of the high resolution. The touch screen is great for web browsing, as long as we reduced the resolution to 1600x900 pixels. The buttons are then simply easier to use.

The alternative input methods, keyboard and touchpad, both have a good feedback, but the user will need to get used to the short key drop

Has Acer managed to surpass the competition? In some parts - yes, but overall - no. In terms of workmanship, every high-end device, including the S7, is very good. But the Zenbook UX31A (1400 Euros, ~$1811) offers the better mobility (brightness, matte, battery life). The Series 9 900X3C (1520 Euros, ~$1966) is in the same category, has an excellent PLS display, but "only" a 1600x900 resolution. The MacBook Air 13 (1350 Euros, ~$1746) has even longer battery life, but also a glare type screen.

Is our S7 overpriced in the high-end configuration at 1700 Euros (~$2202)? Not really, since the competition offers no RAID SSD and no touch panel. If the price goes down a bit (~1500 Euros, ~$1940), Acer's S7 will be absolutely competitive. Depending on the configuration (i5, 128 GB SSD), the customers already have the option of purchasing it for 1300 Euros (~$1684). The high-quality touch panel is on board in any case.

Acer S7-391-73514G25aws: flat, high resolution, and fast. The S7 is a high-quality high-end ultrabook.
Acer S7-391-73514G25aws: flat, high resolution, and fast. The S7 is a high-quality high-end ultrabook.

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In Review: Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
In Review: Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws

Specifications

Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM77 (Panther Point)
:: Memory
4096 MB, 1 x 4096 Dual Channel
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
13.3 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, Multi-Touch, AUO B133HAN03, IPS, Acer ComfyView, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
2x Lite-On CMT-128L3M (RAID 0), 256 GB 2x 128 GB, zirka 190 GB nutzbar
:: Soundcard
HD Audio
:: Connections
2 USB 3.0, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: Microphone/headphones combo, Card Reader: SD, MMC, Sensors: Ambient light for luminosity, Spare battery input
:: Networking
ASIX AX88772B USB2.0 to Fast Ethernet (10/100MBit), Atheros AR5BMD222 Wireless Network Adapter (a b g n ), 4.0+HS Bluetooth
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 12 x 323 x 233
:: Weight
1.268 kg Power Supply: 0.328 kg
:: Battery
47 Wh Lithium-Ion, 4680 mAh
:: Price
1700 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8 Pro 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: HD 1280x720, Speakers: Stereo, Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, USB 2.0 to Fast Ethernet Adapter, Micro HDMI to VGA Adapter, BT mouse, power supply and cable in white, Acer Cloud, Acer Ring with Device Control Lite, clear.fi, Backup Manager, ePower Management, Recovery, Theft Shield, McAfee Internet Security Suite Trial, Norton Online Backup, Cyberlink MediaEspresso, 24 Months Warranty

 

Acer usually aims at the lower and middle price range.
Acer usually aims at the lower and middle price range.
so the keyboard has a multi-level backlighting.
so the keyboard has a multi-level backlighting.
The viewing angles, stable in all directions, of the IPS panel are very pleasant.
The viewing angles, stable in all directions, of the IPS panel are very pleasant.
It has a good contrast ratio of 500:1.
It has a good contrast ratio of 500:1.
In addition to the perfect fit bag,
In addition to the perfect fit bag,
we find a micro-HDMI to VGA and USB to Ethernet adapter in the box.
we find a micro-HDMI to VGA and USB to Ethernet adapter in the box.
The Bluetooth mouse, as well as the rest of the accessories, comes in white.
The Bluetooth mouse, as well as the rest of the accessories, comes in white.
This creates a harmonious composition.
This creates a harmonious composition.
The power supply and the cable are also in the same color!
The power supply and the cable are also in the same color!
Because of the low height, the keyboard has a short stroke,
Because of the low height, the keyboard has a short stroke,
but a firm stop. The whole is well fixed, nothing wobbles.
but a firm stop. The whole is well fixed, nothing wobbles.
The same goes for the ClickPad (short stroke).
The same goes for the ClickPad (short stroke).
Good to know: "How do I turn my computer off." This is a small challenge with Windows 8.
Good to know: "How do I turn my computer off." This is a small challenge with Windows 8.
In terms of height, the USB 3.0 ports have barely managed to fit.
In terms of height, the USB 3.0 ports have barely managed to fit.
But HDMI is shrunk down to micro-HDMI.
But HDMI is shrunk down to micro-HDMI.
The webcam has a resolution of 1280x720 pixels and takes relatively good pictures even in low light.
The webcam has a resolution of 1280x720 pixels and takes relatively good pictures even in low light.
Acer S7-391: a successful high-end debut and, thanks to the very good IPS panel, better than the S5-391 (also 13.3-inches).
Acer S7-391: a successful high-end debut and, thanks to the very good IPS panel, better than the S5-391 (also 13.3-inches).
Acer S7-391: 12 mm, only the S7 is so thin among the 13-inch ultabooks.
Acer S7-391: 12 mm, only the S7 is so thin among the 13-inch ultabooks.
This does not help when typing,
This does not help when typing,
The Acer logo on the lid is illuminated via LED backlight.
The Acer logo on the lid is illuminated via LED backlight.
The ultrabook S7 is a step in a different direction.
The ultrabook S7 is a step in a different direction.
It is a 13.3-inch premium subnotebook that will strike fear into the competition.
It is a 13.3-inch premium subnotebook that will strike fear into the competition.
In addition, Acer has installed for the first time a high-quality IPS panel with Full HD resolution (touch screen).
In addition, Acer has installed for the first time a high-quality IPS panel with Full HD resolution (touch screen).
The case sets new standards in terms of engineering.
The case sets new standards in terms of engineering.
The surface of the display lid is made of Corning Gorilla Glass II.
The surface of the display lid is made of Corning Gorilla Glass II.
The touch panel is relatively stable,
The touch panel is relatively stable,
but it is not made of Gorilla Glass.
but it is not made of Gorilla Glass.
The chassis is only 12 mm thick.
The chassis is only 12 mm thick.
Unfortunately the feet add 1.5 mm.
Unfortunately the feet add 1.5 mm.
Denial is common among manufacturer information,
Denial is common among manufacturer information,
therefore we cannot blame Acer.
therefore we cannot blame Acer.
Intel's 20 mm reference is significantly surpassed with 12 mm.
Intel's 20 mm reference is significantly surpassed with 12 mm.
The competition does not offer such a thin ultrabook.
The competition does not offer such a thin ultrabook.
The Samsung Series 9 900X3C (13 mm) comes closest.
The Samsung Series 9 900X3C (13 mm) comes closest.
The stability of the device is excellent relative to the thinness.
The stability of the device is excellent relative to the thinness.
In absolute terms, the unibody MacBook Air 13 and Asus Zenbook UX31A are better.
In absolute terms, the unibody MacBook Air 13 and Asus Zenbook UX31A are better.
The base unit (upper and lower) are made of light magnesium.
The base unit (upper and lower) are made of light magnesium.
Acer S7-391: in view of the slim case, the stability is very good.
Acer S7-391: in view of the slim case, the stability is very good.

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Links

  • Manufacturer's information

Price Comparison

Amazon.com

$220.30 Acer ASPIRE S7-391-73514G25AWS 13.3" LCD LED Screen Display Panel Assembly Touch (White)

$91.25 Acer ASPIRE S7-391-73514G25AWS 13.3" Panel IPS WUXGA Full HD SLIM LCD LED Display Screen

Acer AC adapter 65 Watt original for Acer Aspire S7-391-73514G25AWS
» 22.99 GBP (lowest price)
22.99 GBP Amazon Marketplace UK

Nerd Herd® Premium Laptop Charger for Acer Aspire E1-531-B968G75Mnks E1-571-33114G50MN S7 S7-391 S7-191 S7-391-9886 S7-391-53314G S7-391-73514G S7-391-73514G25AWS S7-391-53314G12AWS S7-191-53314G12ASS S7-191-73514G25ASS AS5250
» 17.99 GBP (lowest price)
17.99 GBP Amazon Marketplace UK

Nerd Herd® Premium Laptop Charger for Acer Aspire S7-391-73514G S7-391-73514G25AWS S7-391-53314G12AWS S7-191-53314G12ASS S7-191-73514G25ASS AS5250 AS5250-E304G50Mikk AS5733 AS5733-383G32Mnkk AS5733-388G75Mnkk AS5733Z AS5749 AS5749-2334G75Mikk AS5749-2356
» 16.99 GBP (lowest price)
16.99 GBP Amazon Marketplace UK

Laptop-Power Laptop Charger for Acer Aspire S7-391-73514G S7-391-73514G25AWS S7-391-73514G25AWS S7-391-73534 S7-391-9427 Compatible Replacement Notebook Adapter Adaptor Power Supply - Laptop Power (TM) Branded (UK Powercord and 12 Month Warranty)
» 24.99 GBP (lowest price)
24.99 GBP Amazon Marketplace UK

The displayed prices can be up to one day old.

Pro

+Good workmanship
+Extremely thin case
+Lighter than MB Air 13
+Full HD Display
+Multi-touch panel
+Very good viewing angles (IPS)
+TFT opening angle of 180 degrees
+Extremely fast RAID 0 SSD
+High performance
+Cool under normal operation
+Accessories: second battery
+VGA and Ethernet via an adapter
 

Cons

-Glossy display
-Low brightness on battery use
-Almost no maintenance and upgrade options
-Few interfaces
-Short battery life
-Sharp-edged chassis.

Shortcut

What we like

The IPS panel with bright colors and wide viewing angles. Rigid base unit, despite the height of only 8 mm. The Gorilla Glass lid provides a fresh look and added strength.

What we'd like to see

Higher brightness on battery power. But then the battery life would be even shorter. 

What surprises us

Core i7 in a slim chassis without throttling and with acceptable heating and noise. 

The competition

Asus Zenbook UX31A (FHD IPS, Alu-Unibody), Samsung Series 9 900X3C (PLS), Apple MacBook Air 13 (Alu-Unibody).

Rating

Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
10/25/2012 v3
Sebastian Jentsch

Chassis
92%
Keyboard
86%
Pointing Device
88%
Connectivity
67%
Weight
93%
Battery
79%
Display
79%
Games Performance
70%
Application Performance
97%
Temperature
78%
Noise
79%
Add Points
88%
Average
83%
85%
Subnotebook *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Acer Aspire S7 391 Ultrabook
Author: Sebastian Jentsch, 2012-10-31 (Update: 2013-06- 6)