This is one of those articles I hate to write. But I am sure I am not the first it has happened to – nor certainly will I be the last. But you get so attracted to the gorgeous lines and a smooth exterior that you throw caution and experience to the wind.
I am talking of course about my latest computer purchase which today I returned. I bought the Acer Aspire S7 – a machine with great specs: a fast I7 processor, 256GB SSD, full 1080P display, Gorilla glass touchscreen, and lightweight. These are what sold me on the machine and are the features I will most miss.
Having tested Windows 8 before, I knew the new touch interface wasn’t for me. Hiding settings behind the odd corners and sides is not useful to those of us that want an intuitive interface. However with Start8, I was able to jump back to my comfortable desktop and have a fully functional start menu. First problem solved.
The next gotcha that hit me with this machine was strictly an issue from Microsoft’s integration of Skype. I use Skype for both personal and business contacts and do not want to link my work e-mail into it, but Skype on Windows 8 forces you to link your digital IDs. Apparently lots of other people have had this issue too. And once you link accounts, there is no going back. I avoided this hassle by re-firing up my Trillian instant messenger account which supports Skype.
I could go on significantly about why I don’t like the new Windows, but after paying $25 for these two pieces of shareware, I had dealt with the majority of my issues with the OS.
I was ultimately let down by the S7 in the one place that I didn’t expect it…the hardware. Acer focused on making this machine beautiful, but they forgot about the human interface – the keyboard and track pad.
The keyboard in the S7 has the worst case of key bounce I have ever experienced. Over the course of a month, I could not make this machine avoid double typing keys. I tried different styles of typing, adjusted settings, all to no avail. Adding to my keyboard woes, Acer choose to eliminate the function key row, replacing it with a function key operating like the control key with the numbers. I found that I depend upon having function keys immediately available as shortcuts: F1 for help, F3 for searching, and lots more. These have become so ingrained into my habits, that holding an additional key to access their functionality was distracting. The odd thing was that the computer had plenty of space for a Function key row.
The next problem I encountered was the S7’s sharp lip on either side of the keyboard. With my over-sized hands, I would often find a cutting impression on my hands after using the computer for any period of time, which would make it very uncomfortable to work. Other laptops put this edge on the screen or eliminate it entirely.
The S7 also suffers from Apple-itis with its implementation of the “Uni-pad”. As many good ideas as Steve Jobs had, eschewing buttons and specifically the right mouse button is just plain stupidity for the sake of meeting aesthetic goals. The beauty in buttons, both virtual and real, is that it is intuitively clear that they are meant to be pressed. Where, how, and with what number of fingers to touch the pad with to access context menus is about as unclear as it was to figure out how to close a program started from the Windows 8 Start Screen.
Owning the Acer S7 was like owning a gorgeous new sports car, only to find that the accelerator would sometime stick, the seat was uncomfortable, and you had no visibility. It obviously would not work in the long run, but from a street view, it certainly looked pretty.
Our blog is often about improving productivity. I hope my experiences with this product might allow others save time and to make informed decisions, both on Windows 8 and the Acer S7. My recommendation on these fronts follow:
- If Acer fixes the issues with the keyboard, track pad and the sharp laptop edge, this will be a wonderful machine. I wanted to like this machine, but these flaws affected my day to day work so significantly, I had to return it.
- If you use your computer for work at an office – you probably don’t need a touchscreen.
- The next Microsoft Windows is not far off. Wait for it. If you can’t, shareware can fill the gaps quickly and cheaply.