Various positions of the Acer Aspire R13 hybrid computer which is a Windows 8.1 notebook and tablet.Source: Supplied
Why do some manufacturers make notebook screens that perform contortions like the great Harry Houdini?
Whether he was buried alive or trapped underwater in a straitjacket, the illusionist twisted and turned his way to safety, just as modern hybrid screens twist and turn between form factors.
Lenovo has its Yoga hybrid, Asus certain Transformer models and Dell the occasional hybrid model too.
But the Acer Aspire R13 seeks to outdo rival hybrids by metamorphosing between six user modes instead of the usual four.
Various positions of the Acer Aspire R13 hybrid computer which is a Windows 8.1 notebook and tablet. Source: Supplied
Its display is attached to what Acer calls its Ezel Aero Hinge on either side, and the whole assembly opens and closes like a regular laptop screen.
That allows for the following combinations: regular notebook mode, an ezel mode with the bottom hinge at 45 degrees and the screen tilted upwards, a stand mode with the assembly brought fully forward, along with tablet, tent and display modes.
Why the market goes for such hybrids is a puzzle. Frankly, I’d be happy if the Aspire R13 was simply a well made notebook without the other five modes, but there must be a significant body of people who like these multi-mode devices.
Acer’s proprietary hinge lets you move between modes in a smooth, well engineered way. You don’t feel you are tearing the device apart when transforming it.
However, quality comes at a cost and in Australia you’ll pay $1999 for the one variant of the R13. That model — the R7-371T-7009 has high-end specs such an Intel Core i7 5500U processor, but not the highest specs available overseas.
Overseas you can buy an R13 with a QuadHD screen and enjoy 2K movie playback. Here, the sole configuration sold by Harvey Norman is a 1080p, 13.3-inch high definition screen.
The locally available R13 has a 256 Gigabyte solid state drive, 8GB of DDR3 memory, Intel HD Graphics 4400, 2 USB 3.0 ports with one also a charging port, 1 USB 2.0 port and HDMI. Acer throws in an HDMI to VGA dongle and a stylus for drawing on the screen. It runs Windows 8.1.
I used the stylus and the Fresh Paint app to doodle away in stand mode.
The R13 has a solid, sturdy build, a glass top, and a pleasant-to-use backlit keyboard, although the arrow keys at right are small and took getting used to. Weight wise, its heavier than a 13-inch Macbook Air but just light enough Dolby Digital Plus offers clear audio and a solid tone despite the speakers being positioned underneath the keyboard.
The only pity is the lack of other configurations of the R13 in Australia — both cheaper and more expensive. Overseas, you can opt for a Core i5 processor and various SSD sizes up to 1 Terabyte with entry level configurations under $US1000.
Here there is one choice — just as there was one Houdini all those years ago. (Less known is that Houdini was among the first to fly a powered aircraft in Australia in 1910.)
Nevertheless, the R13 has the feel and specs of a classy, well made Windows 8.1 notebook, with multiple display modes a bonus.
This story was first published in The Australian