Competition in the 15+ inch Windows 8 convertible space is beginning to heat up with the release of Acer's Aspire R7 refresh.

The Core i5-equipped model R7-572-6423 is sold exclusively at Best Buy for $900. This includes 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB of storage and a 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 display with N-Trig active digitizer support.

The closest size competitor is Sony's VAIO Flip 15A which retails for $1250 at Best Buy. That extra $350 nets you an i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M graphics vs. the Acer's Intel 4400.

You can get a comparably priced Sony at Best Buy by going with the Flip 14A.

Below are unboxing shots with first impressions.

On the box sleeve, the Aspire resembles the Starship Enterprise. This is a little deceptive because the screen is not meant to work at this angle.

The box itself is an elegant black carrying case very reminiscent of Apple packaging.

Inside the box is the Acer with prominent silver Ezel hinge, a keyboard palm rest, power supply and cord, cleaning cloth and manual.

I was surprised by the included palm rest until I inspected the keyboard. For some odd reason, the touchpad sits above the keys and bottom row of keys sits very close to the bottom edge of the device. You will definitely need that palm rest in order to type comfortably on the R7.

UPDATE: In my rush to post the unboxing pics with my first impressions, I totally blew my assessment of the Aspire R7's Ezel mode. The trackpad placement allows you to position the touchscreen closer to you, theoretically replacing the need for a touchpad. Although there's a little bit of flex, the screen remains surprisingly stable at this position. I wouldn't draw at this angle, but perhaps traditional painters may find this orientation useful. Swiping and tapping while browsing is definitely easier than standard laptop mode, but desktop touch targets will force you to reach for your stylus or a bluetooth mouse.

UPDATE: Less chance of needing Gorilla arms to reach out and touch the display in Ezel mode. In this browsing, consumption mode, the lack of room to rest your palms at the bottom of the keyboard may be less of a problem. Or you can just use the padded palm rest that's included in the box.

UPDATE: Kiosk mode is also surprisingly stable, though I don't see myself ever using the device like this.

Another surprise is that the screen doesn't lie entirely flat in tablet mode. The angle is a nice pitch for drawing but it's not as thin as you would like for a drawing slate. UPDATE: This angle also results in a significant amount of screen flex. See the video below.

In this shot, the wedge shaped VAIO Flip 15A is in the foreground. You can see how much taller the R7's screen is in the tablet position.

The Acer Aspire R7 side by side with the Sony VAIO Flip 15A. The Acer screen is 1/10 of an inch larger, but it's very difficult to tell. Image quality on both devices is very good, but I'd give a slight nod to the Sony. I much prefer the fit and finish of the VAIO.


If you can live with the N-Trig digitizer (no Photoshop, Painter or other Wintab program pressure sensitivity), the Acer is a decent option.

It's a pleasure to draw on a 15+ inch display though it comes at the cost of extra weight. The R7 weighs 5.3 lbs so you'll definitely want to keep this on your desk or lap as you work. Don't think about holding it in one hand.

The keyboard keys have a bit more travel than the Sony's and feel a little squishier. A lot of users have complained about keyboard flex in the Sonys, but it doesn't bother me too much. I also prefer the Flip's brushed aluminum finish, although I like the rubberized bottom of the Acer vs. the plastic bottom of the VAIO.

The keyboard and trackpad placement is terrible for standard laptop use, but it's secondary if you want to use this primarily as a drawing tool or in Ezel mode.  The omission of a pen is odd, but it doesn't ship standard with the Sony either. The pen costs $50 direct from Acer vs. $30 for the Sony pen.

Opening, closing and transitioning between laptop, easel,  tablet and display modes is very easy compared to the Sony. However, it's not possible to lock the screen in place, which could be an issue for some.

UPDATE: I've run into an issue with the R7 that may force me to take it back before I'm able to do much more testing. The screen is intermittently shutting itself off in tablet mode. This unit may have a defective or loose connection.

Acer ships with a lot of custom apps that seem redundant with Skydrive and other Microsoft standards.

In my brief tests of the pen, accuracy seems very good and perfectly in line with what I've seen on the Sony. If you're a Manga Studio artist, be assured that you can work very comfortably with 256 levels of pressure.

UPDATE: In tablet mode, the R7 has quite a bit of flex on the screen which some may find distracting. See the video below for a demonstration.

Despite the superiority of Wacom tech, these lower cost N-Trig entrants will surely put downward price pressure on the Surface Pro and others.

UPDATE: The $350 price difference (Best Buy configurations only) is not insignificant, and either convertible will work for Manga Studio, ArtRage or Sketchbook Pro artists. But in my estimation, the Flip is the better way to go for those wanting the largest possible Windows 8 portable art solution.

AuthorRick Rodriguez