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The second time’s the charm for the Porsche Design Acer Book RS, a slim, light, and Porsche-branded laptop that lacks the flash of its predecessor but nails it in the performance department. While 2017’s Porsche Design Book One, the first laptop with a detachable display and a 360-degree hinge, took a shock-and-awe approach in terms of its form factor, the elegant but much more traditional Porsche Design Acer Book RS keeps the fireworks under the hood.
Packing an 11th-gen Intel Tiger Lake CPU, this new Porsche absolutely tears it up when it comes to multicore CPU performance, all without compromising battery life or portability. The peppy integrated Iris Xe graphics should keep content creators busy. Even better, the Porsche Design Acer Book RS is priced more like a Honda (well, one of the nicer ones, anyway) than a Porsche 911.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.
Let’s dive into the specifications of our Porsche Design Acer Book RS review unit (with the poetic model name AP714-51T-59ZV), which is available for $1,400 from Acer:
CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor
Memory: Dual-channel 8GB LPDDR4X RAM
Graphics: Integrated Intel Iris Xe
Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
Display: 14-inch, 1920×1080 IPS touchscreen
Connectivity: Thunderbolt 4, two SuperSpeed (5Gbps) USB Type-A ports, HDMI 2.0, combo audio jack
A second version (AP714-51GT-716C, $1,700 from AcerRemove non-product link) steps up to a Core i7-1165G7 processor with discrete GeForce MX350 graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. Both are moderately steep price tags, but they’re much more reasonable that the $2,495 premium that 2017’s Porsche Design Book One commanded.
A third SKU, the Porsche Design Acer Premium Collection (AP714-51GT-76L3, $2,000 from AcerRemove non-product link) bundles the pricier laptop with the Porsche Design Acer Travelpack RS, an accessory pack (available separately for $330 from AcerRemove non-product link) that includes a snazzy, angular Bluetooth mouse (with an aluminum-framed left button that looks like a gas pedal), a polyester laptop sleeve, and a leather pouch and mousepad. The sleeve, pouch, and mousepad all snap together with hidden magnets, making for a handsome—if pricey—way to tote the Porsche Design laptop. (The leather smells great, too.)
At first blush, our test unit is an impressive configuration. Intel’s new, 10nm Core i5 Tiger Lake processor promises a substantial jump in performance over 10th-gen Ice Lake CPUs (stay tuned for our benchmarks). Iris Xe delivers gangbuster graphics performance for an integrated GPU, although (as we’ll see) it’s more oriented toward content creation than gaming. The 8GB of RAM is adequate for most uses, while the 512GB SSD is roomy enough for Office and a modest media library. The fingerprint reader will let you unlock Windows with a fingertip swipe—although for this much money, we would have liked to see IR facial recognition, too. Wi-Fi 6 networking means the Porsche will play nice with cutting-edge routers. The state-of-the-art Thunderbolt 4 (newly supported by Intel’s Tiger Lake chips) will drive a pair of external 4K displays and support longer cable runs.
When I think of the Porsche brand, I imagine sleek, understated elegance (or at least that’s how I remember my uncle’s Porsche, back when I was an awe-struck kid). The Porsche Design Acer Book RS certainly delivers that aesthetic.
The laptop’s aluminum unibody frame comes with chamfered front and rear edges. The CNC-machined, 3K carbon fiber lid features a subtle striped design that’s matched on the mouse in the optional accessories kit. The Porsche Design logo is etched onto the front edge of the top cover, and it’s also stamped on the chassis just above the keyboard. The design even carries over to the display’s default striped Porsche Design wallpaper.
Besides its sophisticated looks, the Porsche Design Acer Book RS is pleasingly light, weighing in at just 2.6 pounds. It comes with two AC adapters: a compact, six-ounce model with a traditional barrel-shaped tip, and a larger, USB-C tipped model weighing in at 10 ounces.
Encased in scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass, the Porsche Design Acer Book RS’s 14-inch display is both sharp and bright. Rated at 340 nits, the touchscreen easily tops our low-water mark of 250 nits when it comes to indoor brightness, even if it can’t hold a candle to the brightest gaming laptops. The display also boasts wide viewing angles thanks to its IPS (in-plane switching) panel.
The display falls a bit behind the times in one key area: its shape. The 16:9 aspect ratio is going out of style as vendors go back to a taller, narrower 4:3 ratio, which is better suited for productivity mavens working with long documents or spreadsheets. Of course, mobile content creators might prefer the more video-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio, so your opinion will depend on your use case.
At any rate, the Book RS’s display does benefit from a 100-percent sRGB gamut (take note, content creators), while the screen’s slim side bezels (they’re a tad chunkier on the top and bottom) give the laptop a generous 90-percent screen-to-body ratio.
Keyboard, touchpad, speakers, webcam
The Porsche Design Acer Book RS’s backlit keyboard delivers a pleasant typing experience, combining solid travel distance with satisfying feedback, while keeping your keystrokes reasonably quiet.
There aren’t any dedicated media playback keys, nor is there an Airplane mode key, but you do get function-level hotkeys for sleep, display brightness, display project, screen on/off, keyboard backlighting (there’s only one backlighting step, unfortunately), and volume.
My main complaint focuses on the page up/down keys, which I frequently hit by accident because they reside directly above the left/right arrow keys. I’d normally be nervous about the location of the power button right above the backspace key, but this one was designed to be dummy-proof. You must press it and hold it for several seconds to shut down the laptop, and even then you must swipe down on the display to confirm.
The Book RS’s touchpad has a glass coating that makes it feel soft to the touch, and it was generally responsive. The cursor did occasionally jump across the screen when my palms brushed against the trackpad by accident. I’ve experienced much worse, but still, there were a few instances when I found myself suddenly typing in the wrong paragraph because of a false input on the trackpad.
While its down-firing stereo speakers are augmented by DTS processing and Acer’s TrueHarmony audio technology, the Porsche Design Acer Book RS’s sound quality was decidedly wan. Streaming Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising from my Plex media server, “Lonesome Day” sounded clean but almost entirely free of bass, while Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” sounded mushy and empty. Now, we usually don’t get too worked up about laptop speakers (as a rule, they’re pretty cruddy), but the Porsche Design brand naturally inspired dreams of a high-end stereo in the dash. Unfortunately, if you want a Blaupunkt in this Porsche, you’ll have to supply your own, in the form of a nice pair of cans or souped-up Bluetooth speakers.
Back on the plus side, the Book RS’s 720p webcam captures reasonably sharp video. There’s still plenty of noise, mind you, but the camera opts for a sharper rather than blotchy look, which should translate pretty well on a Zoom or Skype call.
The Porsche Design Acer Book RS’s array of ports includes a single Thunderbolt 4 connector on the right side of the laptop.
While it offers the same 40Gbps bandwidth of Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4 comes with a series of more stringent standards. For example, a single Thunderbolt 4 port must be able to drive two 4K displays or a single 8K display, and it must support docks with up to four Thunderbolt 4 ports. The new Thunderbolt standard will also support longer cables, including upcoming 50-meter optical cables.
The Book RS also features a pair of SuperSpeed USB 5Gbps Type-A ports (one on each side) for legacy USB devices, along with an HDMI 2.0 port on the left and a combo audio jack on the right. A barrel-shaped power port sits on the left side of the laptop.
That’s a pretty solid selection of ports, and we’re pleased that Porsche Design brings both new (Thunderbolt 4) and older (USB-A) interfaces to the table. There’s no media card reader, however, which will be disappointing for content creators looking for an easy way to transfer photo or video files from an SD or microSD memory card. (That’s where a USB-C hub or Thunderbolt 4 hub could come in handy.)
The Porsche Design Acer Book RS looks sleek on the outside, but wait until you see what’s under the hood. We’re talking smooth single-core performance, scorchingly fast multicore speeds, quick starts out of the gate, and impressive graphics performance for content creators. Oh, and the Porsche’s battery mileage is surprisingly good, too.
PCMark 8 Work 2.0 Professional
First comes our standard PCMark 8 Work 2.0 benchmark, which measures how a laptop handles such day-to-day tasks as web browsing, word processing, tinkering in spreadsheets, social networking, online shopping, and video chat. Because all of the tasks simulated in PCMark 8 demand only a single processor core, laptops with quad-core or better CPUs won’t necessarily have an advantage over dual-core systems. Any score over 2,000 means you can expect butter-smooth Office performance.
Unsurprisingly, the Porsche Design Acer Book RS aces the PCMark 8 benchmark, landing in the top three and clearing our 2,000 standard by a mile. Of course, all the laptops in our roundup handled PCMark 8 without breaking a sweat, including the Lenovo Yoga C640 and its humble dual-core Comet Lake CPU.
Our next benchmark is much more of a challenge. Using the free HandBrake video encoding tool, we convert a 30GB MKV file into a format suitable for Android tablets, a lengthy (often an hour-plus) and CPU-intensive task that never fails to turn up the heat. Because video encoding requires multiple processor cores, our HandBrake test favors laptops with more cores.
And, vroom! The Porsche Design Acer Book RS absolutely crushes it with HandBrake, easily outpacing two laptops with more powerful Core i7 Tiger Lake processors, the Acer Swift 5 and Dell XPS 13. It also made mincemeat of several Comet Lake and Ice Lake systems, while more than halving the score of that dual-core Lenovo Yoga C640 (remember, lower scores are better for HandBrake).
So, how did the Book RS blow away its competitors so convincingly? The HandBrake test is all about beating the heat, and Acer souped up the laptop’s cooling capacity with dual copper heat pipes. A lifted-hinge design also props up the chassis, enhancing airflow around the vents. That thermal design helped the quad-core Tiger Lake CPU in the Book RS stay cranked north of 2.5GHz (spiking to 2.8GHz and higher) for the majority of the HandBrake test, rather than dialing down to the 2.1GHz range as many other laptops do.
If our HandBrake benchmark is a marathon, our Cinebench test is more of a sprint. Rather than encoding a lengthy video file, Cinebench involves rendering a 3D image in real time, a task that takes mere minutes to complete instead of an hour or more. Here, CPUs with the fastest boost clocks will get a leg up, so look for Core i7-powered laptops to take the lead.
And there it is: The beefier Core i7 Tiger Lake-packing Acer Swift 5 and Dell XPS 13 land in first and second place, respectively, while the Porsche Design Acer Book RS and its i5 Tiger Lake chip settles for a close and hardly embarrassing third place.
We are a little concerned about the Book RS’s lackluster single-thread Cinebench score, which is sixth place to the multi-thread result’s third place. We are reassured by the Porsche’s strong PCMark 8 showing, however, and anecdotally, I didn’t notice any hiccups while performing everyday tasks on the laptop. So for now, we’ll let it slide.
3DMark Sky Diver 1.0
Acer isn’t positioning the Porsche Design Acer Book RS as a gaming laptop, given that it packs merely Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics core (not to be confused with the company’s Iris Xe Max discrete mobile graphics). That said, Acer is touting it as a workhorse for content creators, so we were eager to check out its graphics performance using the 3D Mark Sky Diver 1.0 benchmark.
Again, the Book RS lands more or less where we expected, right in the mix with two of the three Core i7 Tiger Lake laptops in our roundup. Designed to match or surpass such discrete graphics cards as the GeForce MX350, the Intel Xe integrated graphics core should pay dividends for content creators performing on-the-go Adobe Premiere chores.
Just don’t expect it to crank out buttery gaming visuals. We were able to squeeze only 30 fps out of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor at the “Ultra” graphics preset, while its lack of support for multi-GPU rendering rules out more modern games like Destiny 2 (which crashed every time I tried to play it).
Acer went with a middle-of-the-road 56 Watt-hour battery for the Porsche Design Acer Book RS, essentially splitting the difference between portability and battery life. Based on our battery test results, that was a wise choice.
We test battery life by looping a 4K video using the stock Windows Movies and TV app, with screen brightness set to roughly 250 nits and with volume set to 50 percent, headphones on.
Yes, it’s another solid third-place result for the Book RS, behind the i7 Tiger Lake-powered Dell XPS 13 and the dual-core Lenovo Yoga C640, which sports a larger 60-Watt-hour battery. Notably, the Book RS outperforms a few other laptops in our roundup with bigger battery capacities, including the Asus ZenBook Flip S (which has a hefty 68-Watt-hour battery) and the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7, all while keeping its weight near the 2.5-pound sweet spot.
While the Book RS managed to chug for more than 13 hours in our battery drain test, keep in mind that its battery will drain much more quickly during CPU-intensive activities, such as content authoring or video encoding.
We have our quibbles about the new Porsche Design Acer Book RS: The screen ratio is starting to look outdated, the speakers are so-so, and the touchpad occasionally goes glitchy. But the Book RS has it where it counts when it comes to speed, design, portability and price, making it one of the most attractive laptops now available at this price point.
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Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.