Review: Acer Aspire R13

Introduction and design

Like other PC manufacturers, Acer has been experimenting with the convertible Ultrabook form factor. That journey started with last year’s Aspire R7, a multimodal laptop with an easel stand and a 15-inch display that makes it look and feel more like a transforming all-in-one desktop than a convertible notebook. This year’s Aspire R13 shows Acer has been listening to user feedback in slimming its multimodal design.

Starting at just $899 (£610, AU$1,170) with the latest Intel Broadwell processors and a 13-inch touchscreen display, the Acer Aspire R13 challenges convertibles including the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro ($1,249, £850, AU$1,625), HP Spectre x360 ($1,149, £780, AU$1,495), and detachable 2-in-1s like the Surface Pro 3 ($799, £545, AU$1,040) and the Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 series ($749, £510, AU$975).

These convertibles offer users the flexibility of using at least two different form factors – tablet or notebook – and the 360-degree swiveling hinges of the Spectre x360 and Yoga 3 Pro allow these hybrids to offer additional usage modes that compete with the swiveling screen on the Aspire R13.

However, given its Ultrabook heritage, the Acer Aspire R13 also competes in the traditional thin and powerful laptop category. Some strong competitors in this space include the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air, Dell XPS 13, and Asus Zenbook UX305.


Like the more traditional Aspire S7, Acer uses a glass lid on the Aspire R13, giving it a more premium design. The glass lid design was originally pioneered by HP to give a nice sheen to premium Ultrabooks and an alternative to aluminum-clad offerings. Like the Envy 14 Spectre from early 2012, the drawback is that the black glass top is a fingerprint magnet on the Aspire R13 and could make the laptop more fragile than an aluminum or plastic lid design.

With the lid closed, the Aspire R13 looks unfinished with missing parts. That’s because the frame that houses the swiveling screen only covers the bottom half of the screen, leaving the top part open, unlike the full frame used on Dell’s XPS 12’s swiveling screen.

Acer Aspire R13 review

It’s this unique hinged screen design that gives the Aspire R13 a larger footprint than traditional 13-inch laptops. For comparison, measuring 13.54 x 9.07 x 0.71 inches (34.39 x 23.04 x 1.80cm), the Aspire R13 is wider and longer, but slimmer, than the 14-inch Lenovo ThinkPad T450s, which comes in at 13.03 x 8.90 x 0.83 inches (33.10 x 22.61 x 2.11cm). Even though the Aspire R13 is the same thickness as the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, it takes up more desk space than the 12.35 x 8.62-inch (31.37 x 21.89cm) base dimensions of Apple’s laptop.

Coming in at 3.31 pounds (1.50kg), the Aspire R13’s weight is heavier than some consumer Ultrabooks. Apple’s MacBook Air with a similar screen size weighs only 2.97 pounds (1.35kg) while the MacBook Pro with Retina display comes in at 3.48 pounds (1.58kg), but has a more solid unibody aluminum construction. Dell’s sleek XPS 13 is 2.8 pounds (1.27kg) with a touchscreen.

Acer Aspire R13 review

Another downside to the unique Ezel hinge is that the lid is difficult to open because there isn’t much surface to grip with the open top design. Once the lid is open, you’ll find the screen can be positioned in up to six different modes – two more modes than on the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro.

You can use the Aspire R13 in Notebook, Ezel, Stand, Pad (tablet), Tent, or Display modes. Despite the number of multi-modes for the screen, it’s doubtful that users will regularly use all the modes available. For example, unless I am using the optional stylus, Ezel mode is very similar to notebook mode, and I found myself mainly using the traditional notebook form factor after the novelty of the swiveling display ran out.

All the usage modes highlight the bright IPS display, which presents images with good saturation, vivid colors, and wide viewing angles.

For those who prefer typing, the Notebook mode will offer a traditional Ultrabook experience. The matte, dark grey plastic keyboard deck houses full-sized chicklet keys.

Acer Aspire R13 review

I found that the keyboard backlight emits an odd aqua-green hue, and it isn’t bright so you’ll likely find it useful only in the darkest of workspaces. Additionally, key travel is shallow, so typing doesn’t feel too comfortable, despite the keys being responsive and springy.

Given the large footprint of the Aspire R13 compared to Ultrabooks with a similar display size, Acer hasn’t made the most of the space available. There isn’t a dedicated row of function keys, which isn’t too big of a deal. The problem is that Acer moved a few of the lesser used symbol keys around on the keyboard, leading to extremely shrunken Caps Lock and Esc keys.

Although the keyboard could be improved to offer more key travel, I found the wide, clickable trackpad comfortable to use. The trackpad is sensitive and accurate, offering great cursor tracking precision.

The left side of the Aspire R13 houses two USB ports along with a full-size HDMI port, while the right side houses the memory card slot and a third USB port.

Acer Aspire R13 review

The Aspire R13 has stereo bottom-firing speakers on the undercarriage, which itself is made up of soft-touch plastic. Advertised with what Acer dubs as “cinematic surround sound,” the built-in Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater speakers are crisp, even at high volumes, but lack bass, an understandable compromise given the slim body of the notebook.

Specifications and usage modes

If you’re looking for a stylish Ultrabook that will grow with you, the base $899 (£610, AU$1,170) configuration for the Aspire R13 probably represents the best value. At that price, the Aspire R13 will compete with notebooks with a traditional clamshell form factor, like the $1,299 (£885, AU$1,690) configuration of the Dell XPS 13 with its bezel-less infinity display, $1,149 (£780, AU$1,495) Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, and the $999 (£680, AU$1,300) Apple MacBook Air with a 13-inch display.

The main difference between the Aspire R13 and more traditional notebooks is that it can readily convert into a tablet – among other form factors – so you don’t need to travel with both a laptop and a tablet.

Here’s how the unit sent to TechRadar for review was configured:

Spec sheet

  • Processor: 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-5500U
  • Graphics: Intel HD 5000 with shared memory
  • Memory: 8GB RAM (DDR3L, 1,600Mhz)
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Screen: 13.3-inch WQHD, 2,560 x 1,440 touchscreen
  • Camera: 720p webcam
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0; 802.11ac (B/G/N), dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Ports: HDMI, 2x USB 3.0 (one always-on charging port), 1x USB 2.0, memory card reader, 3.5mm combo jack
  • Battery: Four-cell
  • OS: Windows 8.1

As configured, our review unit has a suggested retail price of $1,299 (£885, AU$1,690). Upgrading the solid state drive to a 512GB capacity will give you the priciest configuration for the Aspire R13 series, bringing the cost to $1,499 (£1,020, AU$1,950). The entry-level configuration ships with a dual-core Broadwell Core i5 processor with integrated Intel HD 5500 graphics, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, and a 13.3-inch full HD resolution touchscreen.

Usage modes

With six usage modes, the Aspire R13 also improves on the design of the Aspire R7. Rather than having the touchpad above the keyboard deck, the Aspire R13 reverts to a more traditional design with the trackpad below the keyboard deck. Not only is this more familiar, but with the screen tilted and angled in “Ezel,” or easel, mode, the display no longer covers the touchpad.

Acer Aspire R13 review

In the more traditional notebook mode, I found that the Aspire R13 is comfortable to use, despite its larger footprint than a traditional notebook with the same screen size. The WQHD resolution display is a joy to use.

In notebook mode, just tilting the screen using the side hinges will engage the Ezel mode. The result is similar to an artist’s ease. This mode still provides access to the keyboard and touchpad, but brings the screen closer to the user.

Acer Aspire R13 review

Stand mode is similar to Ezel mode, but gives the screen a lower profile. This mode is similar to opening the kickstand to its wider settings on the Surface Pro 3, and provides for an angled canvas, similar to what digital artists have with a Wacom Cintiq tablet. When used with the optional Active Stylus, stand mode provides for a comfortable position to sketch and draw.

I prefer the hinge mechanism on the Surface Pro 3 over the Ezel hinge on the Aspire R13 when using either the Ezel mode or stand mode. The Surface Pro 3 has a stiffer hinge that makes it harder to accidentally tilt the screen when pressure is applied, a trait that’s useful when resting my hand or palm on the screen when using a digital stylus for inking or drawing.

Acer Aspire R13 review

Pad mode converts the notebook into a tablet. Given the heavier 3.31-pound weight of the Aspire R13 over the 1.75-pound (0.79kg) Surface Pro 3 without the keyboard or a 0.96-pound (0.44kg) iPad Air 2, I found myself not using pad mode all too often.

In the kitchen, when cooking, I prefer using the Epicurious Windows app and tent mode. This mode keeps the keyboard away from the hazards of the kitchen – like splashes of water, liquids and flour.

The last mode, display mode, will probably be used most by students and business professionals. For students, it brings the screen forward and hides the keyboard, giving a clear view for movies, photos, and media. For business users, the mode is great for small, casual presentations.

Performance and benchmarks

Equipped with Intel’s latest Broadwell processors and integrated graphics, the performance of the Aspire R13 is consistent with the Ultrabook category, posting similar results to the Dell XPS 13 and the Zenbook UX305.


  • PCMark 8: Home: 2,258; Work: 2,190
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hour and fifteen minutes (50% screen brightness)
  • 3DMark: Fire Strike: 656; Cloud Gate: 3,716; Sky Diver: 2,248
  • Cinebench: GPU: 26.22 fps; CPU: 207


Although within range, the results show that in many of the categories, the Aspire R13 fared slightly worse than the Ultrabook average. The higher WQHD resolution display, compared to a standard full HD display on standard Ultrabook, may be a culprit of the slightly degraded performance numbers.

Despite having a weaker Intel Core i5 processor and the same Intel HD 5500 integrated graphics, the Dell XPS 13 with QHD+ display fared better than the Aspire 13 in graphics tests.

Dell’s XPS 13 posted better performance in all three 3DMark benchmarks than the Aspire R13, scoring 4,935, 2,745 and 739 for the Cloud Gate, Sky Diver and Fire Strike tests respectively. The Aspire R13 performed better in the PCMark Home test, posting a score of 2,258, compared to the 2,104 on the XPS 13. Processor performance using the Cinebench tool is also higher on the XPS 13, with a score of 258 compared to the 207 on the Aspire R13.

Acer Aspire R13 review

Similarly, despite an even weaker Intel Core M processor on our Asus Zenbook UX305 review and lesser HD 5300 graphics, the performance difference compared to the Aspire R13 is negligible. It’s unclear why the Aspire R13 didn’t post stronger numbers given its Broadwell Core i7 processor.

The Zenbook UX305 posted similar CPU scores to the Aspire R13 with the Cinebench test, but the GPU performance is weaker with a score of 21.28 fps compared to the 26.22 fps on the Aspire R13.

In my real-world usage, despite degraded numbers, the Aspire R13 had no issues opening multiple apps, running multiple Chrome tabs, working with Adobe Photoshop and basic video editing with Adobe Premiere.

Acer Aspire R13 review

The problem I had with the Aspire R13 is that the Ultrabook runs warmer than competitors like the MacBook Air and the ThinkPad T450s. With heat output being high, though not overly hot that the Aspire R13 couldn’t be used on a lap, the fan would kick in, and fan noise became an issue.

Another issue with noise is that unless the Aspire R13 is fully shut down, I found that my review unit emitted a high pitch buzz when it is put to sleep. Unless you have sensitive ears, most users likely wouldn’t notice this high pitch buzz.

Battery life is commendable, but not great. The Aspire R13 managed just under seven hours of continuous usage with screen brightness set to 50% performing various tasks as occasional photo cropping in Photoshop, streaming YouTube videos, browsing the internet on multiple Chrome windows and running the Pidgin messaging client in the background.

Digital inking

Unlike the Surface Pro 3, digital inking is more of a bonus afterthought on the Aspire R13. The Acer Active Stylus is an optional $50 (£35, AU$65) accessory, and one that is usable, but lacks the sensitivity and precision of the Surface Pen.

Despite Acer’s claim of 255 levels of pressure sensitivity, I found that pressure sensitivity is not as precise as the pens for the Surface Pro 2 or Surface Pro 3, when used for drawing and painting. Additionally, palm rejection is a mixed bag on the Aspire R13. For taking notes, I found that the unit would sometimes not recognize and reject my palm when I am using the pen, resulting in my hand registering errant inputs on the screen.

Acer Aspire R13 review

The pen seems more suited for casual use than for creative professionals and digital artists. It’s fine to mark up a PDF for edits and comments, sign digital documents, or the occasional sketches, but creative professionals likely may want to look at other options for more precise work.


As an Ultrabook, Acer has delivered a solid, if not slightly larger, offering in the Aspire R13. Acer’s transforming convertible is more affordably priced than many traditional Ultrabooks, yet delivers more form factors and usage modes for consumers to interact with, consume, and create content. Solid, if not average, specs and performance make this a great choice for those needing a touchscreen convertible.

We liked

The converting Ezel hinge makes for a versatile computing experience with six usage modes, highlighting a great IPS display. At its base configuration, this device offers a great value for its performance.

Solid build quality and a unique design also give the Aspire R13 plenty of desk appeal, but at this time it’s unclear how well the glass lid will hold up over time.

We disliked

Given that most people wouldn’t use all of the modes enabled by the Ezel hinge, it can sometimes feel like you’re paying for unnecessary features. In my review of the Aspire R13, I find myself using only a few modes – tent mode in bed watching videos, display mode on my desk showcasing pictures and previewing presentations, notebook mode in my lap for a more traditional computing experience, and pad mode when reviewing documents for edits.

In fact, these commonly used modes are already found on Acer’s competitors, like the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 and the HP Spectre x360, making Ezel and stand mode seem like superfluous additions on the Aspire R13.

The major pitfall with the Aspire R13 is that despite its weaker benchmarked performance compared to systems with similar specifications, the unit runs warm and the fan is almost constantly on, leading to a rather distracting computing experience if you’re hoping to use the Aspire R13 in a library or quiet room.

Final verdict

It’s hard not to like Acer’s interpretation of convertible notebooks. The Aspire R13 packs in a whopping six usage modes with a unique Ezel hinge, a design that as an Ultrabook makes the Aspire R13 feel unfinished with a partial frame. Even though real-world performance is on par with most Ultrabooks, the Aspire R13’s benchmark scores were considerably lower than the business-class Lenovo ThinkPad T450s with a lesser processor.

While the base configuration delivers great price to performance value, what makes the Aspire R13 unique is its multimodal design. With more expensive configurations of the Aspire R13 – unless you need the multimodal computing experience Acer is selling – you may find better value in a fully configured Dell XPS 13 or Surface Pro 3, the former offering a more compact frame while the latter delivers a lighter body for use as a tablet with an optional keyboard to transform it into an Ultrabook.