With the deluge of Windows 8 tablets, convertibles, and touchscreen desktops on the horizon, you might think the world's forgotten all about the regular old laptop. But Acer hasn't. Persisting with its ultrathin Aspire S line, the company has brought the Aspire S7 to IFA 2012 and my first encounter with it has been nothing short of a revelation. The S7 is slim to the extreme yet still has a rigid build thanks to a mix of aluminum and magnesium construction. It also includes the requisite capacitive touchscreen to make the most of Windows 8, but most importantly, it's the prettiest laptop I've come across since first laying eyes on Apple's 2010 MacBook Air redesign.
The prettiest laptop I've come across since Apple's 2010 MacBook Air redesign
To appreciate how much of a departure from normality this is for Acer, you have to go back to last year's IFA. That's when Acer's W4 Windows Phone handset ended up on the receiving end of the most withering assessment Paul Miller has ever delivered on The Verge. To go, in the span of one year, from producing drably generic mass market junk to a cutting-edge design is, in my judgment, a great leap in the right direction for Acer. The Aspire S7 looks like something you'd expect the ultra-talented design minds at Nokia or Apple to produce, not the usually budget-minded crew from Taiwan. Of course, the S7 isn't quite perfect, as I found it rather unwieldy to open due to the rather stiff hinge (usually a good thing) and weirdly cut incision at the front of its top lid for opening. Beyond that and the slightly tepid 1366 x 768 resolution, the 11-inch Aspire S7 is close to an ideal ultraportable.
I've never cared much for Intel's ultrabook branding, which has grown increasingly diluted and expanded with ever larger and less portable machines. The Aspire S7, however, is an ultrabook. Kudos, Acer. In the midst of a maelstrom of novelty that's liable to make even the most jaded journalist a little starry-eyed, your understated aesthetic and sharp design language have whispered rather than screamed, but they haven't gone unheeded.
Update: Good news! Acer has gotten in touch to say that the Aspire S7 I played with was a prototype unit and that the final retail laptop will offer a full 1920 x 1080 HD resolution. So now it's even harder to find any glaring faults with it.