Nestling squarely into the hybrid laptop category, the new Aspire R11 is the first device we’ve tested that’s shipped with Windows 10 — and it couldn’t be a better fit.
The R11 is part tablet, part laptop and Windows’ new OS allows the device to automatically flick between the optimal mode for each.
Wrapped in a fairly durable-feeling blue plastic with a coarse pattern, this fixed hinged laptop allows the screen to swivel a full 360 degrees and rest on the underside of the keyboard. The screen doesn’t detach, but the lightweight plastic casing makes the 1.6kg unit an acceptable weight for tablet use on the lap.
In fact, the overall hardware design is quite good: the trackpad is centered just below the keyboard and is a good size, the keys are a black-textured plastic that are spaced nicely (it’s better for typing than some of the budget laptop keyboards we’ve tested) and the 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768-pixel LCD touch screen is quite passable for the price.
As with all budget laptops, there are a few caveats to this model however. While that plastic shell might look tough, it actually marks quite easily and the Aspire R11 is so lightweight that, on a wooden desk, when you try and click-and-drag you’re equally as likely to slide the whole computer across the table instead.
We found the security software suite that was bundled-in had a habit of absorbing precious processing power at inconvenient times — like when running on battery — and could make tasks like web browsing less responsive.
Despite having twice the RAM of Microsoft’s similarly-priced Surface 3, the R11’s overall performance was merely on par with the latter in many of our benchmarks. The R11 outpaced the Surface 3 slightly in terms of typical work and home computing tasks, but lagged, by about the same margin, when it came to graphics processing.
This makes sense on Acer’s behalf and in theory aligns with the task set required by the Aspire R11, but with a poorer quality screen and inferior graphics it feels more like an entry level device.
Then again if you plan to add the $180 keyboard to the Surface 3, then the R11 and its built-in Ethernet, HDMI, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports starts to make more sense as an affordable device erring on the laptop side of the hybrid divide.
Though the R11 only has a 1,366 x 768-pixel screen (for comparison, the Surface 3’s 1080p) its colour reproduction was surprisingly good and thanks to Zero Air Gap technology between the touchscreen and the inner display panel, the amount of reflected light is notably reduced.
The R11 also has a solid battery life, pushing the 3220mAh li-polymer battery to last over 7 hours under normal work conditions. There’s even a decent set of speakers that will flip based on screen orientation.
In short, there’re definitely some intriguing aspects here for a budget laptop.
Verdict: A decent budget laptop that throws in a ton of tablet and alternative display features.