While Acer is presenting this as new, it reminds me very much of the 20-inch HP HDX laptop, a short-lived system with a floating hinge from 2007. Unlike the HDX, the screen on the R7 is a touch screen, and more importantly, it flips around to become a large-scale tablet, and can also turn all the way over to face out from the base of the system.
The standard clamshell laptop mode felt like the most obvious use, while the mode with the screen hinged forward to be closer to the user was also useful. Flipping the screen all the way over is what we sometimes call a kiosk mode, and a few other recent laptops have had similar modes, including the Lenovo Yoga 13 and the Asus Taichi (although they accomplish this in different ways).The most perplexing mode of the Aspire R7 was with its screen folded down into a big 15-inch tablet. Because of the curved hinge, the screen doesn't lie down completely flat. It's instead propped up a bit on the top edge, which actually makes for a more comfortable on-lap typing and navigation experience, but kills the clean lines and makes it hard to carry as a tablet.
Another very odd feature of the Aspire R7 is the system's touch pad. Instead of sitting below the keyboard in the system's interior, it's located in a large, blank expanse above the keyboard. That allows you to hinge the screen closer to your eyes, but at the same time, it's very nontraditional, and we have yet to see a laptop that played with touch-pad placement in a successful way. I suspect many people will find it counterintuitive.The Aspire R7 has a full HD display and Dolby Home Theater v4 speakers, which positions it as a home entertainment PC, more than a highly portable laptop. Interestingly, the stereo orientation of the speakers can swap automatically when you switch modes, keeping the correct sound channel on each side.
Components in the single model Acer has announced so far are standard: an Intel Core i5 processor, 6GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive with an extra 24GB SSD storage, and a backlit keyboard. Ports and connections include HDMI, and SD card reader, audio jacks, three USB ports, WiFi, Bluetooth and an adapter port for VGA and Ethernet.
Acer says retailer Best Buy is its exclusive retail partner, and the Aspire R7 will be available online and in stores May 17, for a very reasonable-sounding $999.