Acer's Aspire R 15 is a versatile work companion that delivers excellent bang for your buck. The 15.6-inch laptop packs a flexible 2-in-1 design, a sharp HD display and a comfy keyboard into a sturdy system that feels like it should cost more than its affordable $650 price tag. Its hard drive is a bit sluggish, and it doesn't last quite long enough on a charge, but budget-minded workers on the hunt for a big-screen 2-in-1 won't find a better value than the Aspire R 15.
Weighing in at 4.8 lbs., the Aspire R 15 is about as heavy as the average 15-inch mainstream laptop. There are lighter 15-inch hybrids out there, like the 4.6-lb. Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1. And there are heftier options, too, like the 5.2-lb. Toshiba Satellite L55T. Overall, the Aspire R 15 is reasonably portable for its size, which makes it a decent pick for workers who need to lug their work laptop back and forth between home and the office.
The R 15 isn't a standard 15-inch laptop, though. What sets it apart is its rotating hinge, which lets you fold back the display a full 360 degrees to use the device like a huge tablet. I wouldn't expect to carry it around like an iPad though, since its size and heft can make it feel more than a bit unwieldy as a tablet.
For the sake of productivity, I prefer the intermediate modes, which let you use the keyboard deck as a stand to prop up the touch display. That's handy for showing off presentations to a small group, or using for using touchscreen apps — particularly in cramped quarters such as on an airplane tray table.
A decent selection of ports are available here. The left edge has an HDMI video out port, two USB 3.0 ports and one USB-C port, which will come in handy for connecting newer accessories.
The right edge, meanwhile, adds an extra USB 2.0 port and an SD card reader for expanding the system's already generous 1TB of internal storage.
The Aspire R 15's big, 15.6-inch display is roomy enough for serious work. Screen-intensive tasks like viewing large spreadsheets are comfortable, and so is split-screen multitasking.
The 1920 x 1080-pixel panel looks great, cranking out sharp text and vibrant colors. It's nice and bright, too, topping out at 310 nits of brightness, beating the 245-nit average. That makes the screen easier to view outdoors or in direct light.
On the other hand, the R 15's glossy display is probably too reflective for outdoor use. On a work machine I'd prefer a matte display to ward off distracting reflections from windows and overhead office lights.
Security and durability
The Aspire R 15 is a consumer laptop, so you don't get any extra security or durability features. If you want Trusted Platform Module-based encryption, a fingerprint reader, or extra protection against drops and dings, you'll need to consider pricier business-class systems like Lenovo's ThinkPad Yoga, which starts at $1,099.
Working on the Aspire R 15 is a pleasure, thanks to its exceedingly comfortable keyboard. The layout offers about 1.5 millimeters of key travel, which is pretty good for a slim system like this. Plus, the keys offer snappy tactile feedback with each stroke, making for a very pleasant overall typing experience.
You get a 10-key number pad to the right of the standard QWERTY layout, which is perfect for crunching numbers. Meanwhile, backlighting for the entire keyboard is good for typing in low-light conditions.
Frequent travelers will be disappointed by the Aspire R 15's anemic battery life. The system ran for just 5 hours and 20 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's not terrible, but it is about a half hour shorter than the mainstream laptop average. Then again, the R 15's closest rival — the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 — only lasted about 15 minutes longer. Toshiba's Satellite L55T was the shortest-lived of the bunch, running out of juice after 5 hours and 5 minutes.
The Acer Aspire R 15 provides speedy performance for typical work tasks, and solid multitasking capabilities. My review unit came equipped with an Intel Core i5-6200U processor with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive. That configuration let the system zip along while I typed up this review and switched between tasks without a hitch.
Rival systems are faster, though. The Aspire R 15 scored a relatively mediocre 5,318 on the synthetic Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That lags behind scores put up by the Dell Inspiron 15 (5,768) and the Core i7-equiped Toshiba Satellite L55T (6,888.)
The Aspire R 15 fared about equally well on our real-world spreadsheet test, matching 20,000 names to their addresses in just 4 minutes and 59 seconds. That's only a little slower than the times put up by the Inspiron 15 (4:43) and Satellite L55t (4:08).
Unfortunately, the R 15's sluggish, 5,400-rpm hard drive holds the system back a bit. It copied 4.97GB of multimedia files in about 2 minutes and 50 seconds, which is comparable to the Satellite L55T, but the solid state drive-equipped Inspiron 15 was four times as fast.
Acer sells the Aspire R 15 in a couple of hardware configurations. The base model featured in this review came equipped with a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive for $649.
A higher-end model is also available with a Core i7 processor and 12GB of RAM for $849, but those specs are overkill for the vast majority of workers.
A comfortable keyboard, solid performance and a sharp display — that's what you get from Acer's Aspire R 15, all for a super-affordable $649. Plus, its versatile folding design is genuinely useful. Frequent travelers will wish it lasted longer on a charge, but then again, its closest rivals don't last that much longer.
Dell's Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 is the best alternative, offering faster performance thanks to the inclusion of a zippy SSD, but it costs $100 more than the Aspire R 15 and isn't nearly as nice to type on. Overall, the Aspire R 15 is well-rounded work companion, and easily the best big-screen 2-in-1 available in its price range.