Acer refreshes Aspire line with 5th-gen Intel CPUs and RealSense imaging technology

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Acer may be the big name in Chromebooks today and its former CEO may be known for saber-rattling, but the company still wuv’s you, Windows. On the Saturday just before this year’s Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in Las Vegas, the company has announced a stable of Wintel boxes (yup, no AMD here). None of the systems is completely new, but their specs have been refreshed in a few key ways. Prices remain a mystery for now.

First up is the company’s well recognized, super-thin Aspire S7 laptop. Weighing 2.87 lbs, the S7 may not be the lightest anymore, but it’s still plenty sexy with its Corning Gorilla Glass 2 touch display and aluminum uni-body design.

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Acer’s Aspire S7 folds flat and comes with a Gorilla-Glass-2-covered screen.

You can tell how happy Acer is with its Aspire S7 design, because this Ultrabook is actually back for its third tour of duty. The S7 debuted more than two years ago with a third-gen Ivy Bridge chip, and then it was “refreshed” with a fourth-gen Haswell CPU. This time the S7 comes back with a so-called ‘5th-generation’ Intel chip, which is what we’re supposed to call the long-awaited Broadwell CPU until Intel makes its official announcement (expected soon).  

Some might criticize Acer for using essentially the same aluminum unibody shell for three generations of CPUs now, but would that nit-picking be fair when other companies have been known to reuse the same aluminum shells for far longer and get away with it?

We can ask why other parts haven’t changed, though. All models come with 8GB of RAM, and you get a choice of either a 2560x1440 or 1920x1080 display. Storage options are also sadly unchanged at 128GB or 256GB of SSD in RAID 0 using a rather fascinating but odd combo mSATA device that though fas seems to be holding back its max capacity. At least you do get 802.11ac over 802.11n.

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Acer’s Aspire V 17 Nitro gets equipped with a RealSense camera this year.

RealSlick technology

The company has also added Intel’s slick RealSense 3D cameras to its Windows lineup, including the V 17 Nitro updated as of this announcement. RealSense uses a regular visible-light camera, infrared camera and infrared laser projector to sense depth. Besides being able to use your hands to interact with your PC by waving your hands in front of it or zooming by pinching in the air, a camera that can sense depth can also be used to, say, scan an object in 3D for output to a 3D printer. 

The rest of the specs of the V 17 Nitro remain about the same. It will still top out with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M (but with an option for 4GB of RAM), SSD and hard drive options, and up to 16GB of DDR3L RAM. The 17.3-inch screen will continue to max out at 1920x1080. Even the CPU won’t change: Rather than the 5th-generation CPU the S7 gets, the Nitro sticks with a quad-core Core i7 4710HQ CPU. The only other apparent change is an upgrade from the 802.11n Wi-Fi of the previous version to 802.11ac.

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Acer’s Aspire Switch 12 gets updated with a Core M chip aka Broadwell.

Two in one? That’s for pikers!

Acer’s Aspire Switch 12, first introduced last year, is no mere 2-in-1. No, the Switch functions as a laptop, pad, display, tent, and even “desktop” with its magnetic detachable keyboard. OK, maybe that’s reaching, but the Switch 12 does get a nice polish in the form of a 5th-generation Core M CPU—the low-power version of Intel’s Broadwell, which made its debut late last year.

Unlike the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, the Switch 12 will be truly fanless. Other aspects don’t change: There’s a 1920x1080 IPS panel protected by Gorilla Glass, and an anti-fingerprint coating.

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It’s like an Intel debutante ball and everyone gets a 5th-gen CPU! Even Acer’s R13.

The last Acer Wintel box getting an upgrade is the Switch R13, which was released last year with a 4th-gen Haswell CPU inside. The Switch R13 will refresh with a 5th-gen part and is otherwise essentially the same as before, with up to six different “modes” including laptop, easel, stand, pad, tent and display. It’s a frame-type design, but more versatile than models of years past.

It still has a 13.3-inch IPS panel offered in either 2560x1440 or 1920x1080 and protected with Gorilla Glass 3. The R13 is less than an inch thick and weighs 3 pounds. Storage is definitely beefier than the aging S7's, with up to 1TB of SSD in RAID 0. Battery life is rated at 10 hours for the 1920x1080 model.

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