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New Acer Aspire R7 laptop causes stir with innovative design

Personal computing design continues to evolve, and Acer has unveiled a few new laptops that hinge on the idea of progressive design. All of the new laptops and tablets — including the Aspire R7, Aspire P3 Ultrabook, Aspire V Series touch notebooks, and Acer Iconia Android tablets — put the focus on what Acer called the "duality" of how we compute, in this case, by touching or typing.

Chief among them was the Acer Aspire R7, a 15.6in laptop with a new hinge design, and — what? It has the keyboard below the trackpad?

With the Acer Aspire R7, the company decided to rethink how people use their PCs. One of the innovations of this laptop is its Ezel hinge design. The Ezel hinge is a flexible strip anchoring the display, and allows the display to sit vertically on the base, lie flat over it, or be flipped 180 degrees to float over the keyboard in "Ezel" mode. It certainly seemed sturdy enough when I flipped the display, though it's hard to tell how long the hinge will hold up to continuous use. The laptop also features an auto-reverse audio interface that moves the sound in whatever way the screen is oriented. The screen itself is an IPS (In-Plane Switching) display with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and 10-finger touch functionality.

Another big change is the orientation of the keyboard and trackpad. Instead of the traditional setup, wherein the trackpad sits right below the keyboard on the base, the R7 has the trackpad situated where the keyboard traditionally sits and the keyboard situated right below it. This makes for a confusing setup at first glance; one can be forgiven for thinking that the laptop is upside down.

However, the new orientation of the keyboard/mouse appears to be necessitated by the hinge design. When the screen sits on the base, a traditional keyboard/trackpad setup would have the keyboard abutting the screen way too closely, and make typing difficult. Conversely, when the screen is facing the opposite direction, having the touchpad up top allows for additional navigation if needed. It's definitely an eye-catching design, but whether it turns into a game changer remains to be seen.

The Aspire R7 measures 14.83 by 10.02 by 1.12in (HWD) and weighs 2.4kg. Its components are what you would expect. It comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, 6GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive, a 24GB SSD, and a full-size backlit keyboard. The laptop features an HDMI port, SD card reader, audio jacks, one USB 2.0 port, and two USB 3.0 ports. It supports 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The R7 hits stores around the world on May 17, but us Brits will have to wait for a mid-June release, when the device will be available for £899.