Porsche Design Acer Book RS review: Racing pedigree?


(Pocket-lint) – When a piece of tech has Porsche Design stamped on it, you can be sure of one thing: it’s going to cost a lot. Oh, and there’ll probably be a load of carbon fibre splattered across it. 

The Porsche Design Acer Book RS is one of the better “Porsche” gadgets to date, though. It’s not a lazy rebrand of an existing model, and is a fine laptop in its own right.  

It’s light, it lasts a long time between charges, build quality is good, and it can even play a game or two when you’re done working/flashing its carbon fibre lid at everyone in the coffee shop. 

There are a few issues. Value isn’t that great (no surprise there), the ultra-shiny magnesium casing doesn’t look all that classy to our eyes, and the screen’s pixels are slovenly enough to cause obvious motion blur in high-contrast objects. Other than that, it’s a cracker. 

Design

  • Diamond-cut CNC machined 3k carbon fibre cover and silver-colour all-metal chassis
  • Dimensions: 318.7 x 209.2 x 15.99mm / Weight: 1.25kg

Porsche Design products have a few things in common: a high price being number one; but the designers also have a thing for carbon fibre.

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The Porsche Design Acer Book RS’s lid is decked out in the stuff, and it makes a nice change from metal or glass. This lid is where the Porsche Design side is shown off most, which makes sense when it’s what other people will see. 

What is a Porsche Design laptop or phone if not a status symbol?

The rest of the Porsche Design Acer Book RS shell is mix of magnesium and aluminium alloys. This keeps weight at a low 1.192kg according to our scales, and this particular magnesium blend holds onto the feel of metal well. Some magnesium laptops almost feel like plastic.

However, the Porsche Design Acer Book RS is arguably a little too shiny. We’ve seen this before in Acer aluminium and magnesium laptops. The metal finish catches the light a lot more than a Microsoft Surface Laptop or Apple MacBook, and seems ever-so-slightly gaudy as a result.  It’s simply not as classy as a fine satin finish. 

The inside of the Porsche Design Acer Book RS is quite plain, with none of the “look at me” theatrics of the lid. There are some other design choices to note, mind. The lid and base are more squared-off than the average top-end Windows laptop, which may be an effort to co-opt some Apple-like style. Its MacBook Pro line doesn’t go for extreme tapered sides, which make a laptop seem slimmer than it is. 

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The Porsche Design Acer Book RS is 16mm thick, so not the slimmest laptop in town. Its build quality is mostly excellent, though. The lid and screen housing is extremely stiff, so there’s no flex to the keyboard. 

You don’t get the same density as a MacBook though. There’s a certain hollowness to the resonance as you tap away on the keyboard, but that comes with territory of a low-weight laptop with pretty serious internals. 

Screen

  • 14-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS touchscreen
  • 90% screen-to-body ratio, 400 nit brightness

The Porsche Design Acer Book RS does not have as advanced a screen as you might expect for the cash. This is a 14-inch 1080p LCD.

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There’s no HDR (high dynamic range), no ultra-wide colour gamut, no 4K resolution, no OLED panel. It’s a pretty ordinary-sounding screen, although the 400-nit brightness will be welcome if you end up using the Porsche Design Acer Book RS outdoors. This is a bright display. 

Colour is satisfying too, even if it is only geared to satisfy the bog-standard sRGB colour gamut. Which it does near perfectly, by the way. Contrast is also very good at around 1660:1. And it’s a toucshscreen. So the basics are here, but there’s nothing too advanced to shout about. 

You can get more feature-packed displays in laptops this expensive, and much sharper ones too. The good colour and great contrast still make it look great, like a true high-end display. 

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However, there’s a separate problem: the Porsche Design Acer Book RS has one of the “slowest” high-end laptop screens we’ve seen in a while. Its pixels seem to take a while to turn from, say, bright white to black, meaning you’ll see trails in high-contrast objects panning across the screen. It can be pretty obvious when you play games or watch films.

Touchpad and keyboard

  • Textured glass touchpad with fingerprint scanner
  • Unibody hinge elevates keyboard upon opening
  • Backlit keyboard

There’s one poor aspect about the Porsche Design Acer Book RS’s touchpad: it is “floaty”, bobbing up and down by a sliver of a millimetre before you reach the clicker. A great touchpad is firm. There’s motion when you actually press the pad, but not as you scroll lightly across it, as seen here. 

But the actual materials used are first-rate. The smooth textured glass pad has a built-in fingerprint scanner too. We think these scanners look better when, well, they aren’t visible at all. Other laptops bake them into F-keys or power buttons. But we assume this was a choice of Porsche Design’s, so we’ll have to shrug it off and lets your eyes judge. 

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There are no similar issues with the Porsche Design Acer Book RS keyboard. Well-defined actuation feedback makes the most of the limited key travel on offer. It’s very comfortable to type away on, and this isn’t a keyboard with ultra-shallow keys. Result. 

A backlight sits behind these keys, but there’s only one brightness level. Lots of laptops at this price have a bunch of intensity levels. But, hey, at least Porsche Design didn’t go overboard and use red LEDs. 

Performance

  • Up to 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor (i7-1165G7), up to 16GB RAM (LPDDR4X)
  • Intel Iris Xe graphics, Optional Nvidia GeForce MX350 (as reviewed)
  • Dual copper heat pipes cooling system

The Porsche Design Acer Book RS’s performance is a pleasant surprise. If you’d asked us what we would expect, without having seen the thing, we’d likely say a high-end low voltage AMD or Intel processor. And that’s it. 

But the Porsche Design Acer Book RS also has an Nvidia MX350 graphics chipset. This is no hardcore gamer’s card, but you can still have a lot of fun with it. It’s arguably somewhat wasted on this particular spec, as the RS has a good baked-in graphics chipset of its own, the Intel Xe. Sure, it plays Skyrim at around 35fps rather than the MX350’s 60fps, but it is still far better than last-gen integrated graphics.

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Subnautica plays well at 1080p Medium graphics. Skyrim spends most of its time racing away at 60fps even at Ultra graphics. And you can play The Witcher 3 at around 40fps using the Low presets, or around 30fps at Medium. That’s at native 1080p, and the Witcher 3 even holds onto around 30fps at Low graphics when unplugged. No, it’s no PS5, but if you’re happy to dig into the past a bit the Porsche Design Acer Book RS can handle plenty of classics. 

The CPU is an Intel Core i7-1165G7, a brand new processor at the time of the Porsche Design Acer Book RS’s launch. General performance is excellent, buoyed by the fairly fast (2000MB/s fast) SSD storage. And that processor being matched with 16GB RAM means you can truly slob it up, opening stacks of browser windows and leaving apps sitting open and idle without feeling the difference too much.  

A year ago we might have compared the Porsche Design Acer Book RS to a similarly-specced MacBook Pro to see what sort of value it really represents. But we can’t do so in good faith any more given Apple’s M1 processors just turned the world upside down with performance to beat anything an Intel laptop CPU can churn out. 

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Still, spec up a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a similar amount of storage and RAM and you’ll pay a like-for-like price. A similar spec Dell XPS 13 would cost a smidge less with 16GB RAM and 1TB storage – that also nets you a fancy 4K screen, but you don’t get Nvidia’s MX350 graphics card. There’s no way around it: the Porsche Design Acer Book RS is a lot more fun than a Dell XPS 13. Sure, it costs a little more too, but probably less than you’d imagine. 

We’re happy with how the Porsche Design Acer Book RS sounds under pressure too. After running about and bashing a few monsters in The Witcher 3, the laptop’s fans give off an inoffensive whirr. No “airplanes taking off” here. However, after some strain the Porsche Design Acer Book RS does take a while to dissipate the heat and let the fans spin idly, so their noise isn’t noticeable. No surprise here: it doesn’t have a gaming laptop-grade cooling system. 

Battery life

  • 15 hour claimed battery life
  • 65W charging

Acer says the Porsche Design Book RS battery lasts up to 15 hours. Most laptop battery claims are a Tolkien-grade fantasy, so we left the laptop to stream video from YouTube at 50 per cent brightness to get a generous view of how long it might actually last in the real world. 

In two hours it lost 23 per cent charge, suggesting it will last around nine hours. We used the “best battery life” power profile. This is not a class-leading result, but is perfectly solid for a laptop with an Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia MX350 graphics card.

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Hunt down a laptop with a Snapdragon processor, or one of Apple’s new M1 MacBooks, for truly killer battery life. But both limit the apps you can run, particularly those Snapdragon laptops.  

The Porsche Design Acer Book RS can be charged either using a cylindrical adapter plug or a USB-C. And, unusually, you get both adapters in the box. Sheer luxury, right?

Each is a 65W charger so there’s no major difference in charging speed, but the USB-C adapter is a bit smaller. You get one for the home, another to keep in your bag. Using the classic adapter also means the USB-C port isn’t blocked. 

Connections & Peripherals

  • 1x USB-C (Thunderbolt 4), 2x USB-A (3.2), 1x HDMI, 3.5mm jack
  • Dual-band Intel Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+)
  • Optional accessories 

You can really see the influence of both Acer and Porsche Design in this laptop. And our nerdy side really appreciates the Acer parts, evident in the Porsche Design Acer Book RS’s connections. 

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When we picture a style laptop, an image of a computer with barely any connections pops up. But the Porsche Design Acer Book RS has two full-size USB ports as well as a full-size HDMI and brand-spanking new Thunderbolt 4.0 socket.  

Many of us have a new-found respect for HDMI ports in laptops in 2020, spending time working from home between the sofa and a cobbled together home office.  

You can buy the Porsche Design Acer Book RS with or without some accessories. For an extra sum you get a mouse, a laptop sleeve, a pouch for the power adapter, and mouse and a mini mouse mat. 

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Our first reaction was that this travel pack isn’t worth the cash. However, it does add an extra layer of that all-important Porsche Design branding and there are some smart design touches here. 

Magnets in the laptop sleeve keep the pad and accessories pouch connected together. You won’t get that sort of elegance with a laptop sleeve you picked up for a tenner off eBay. 

Verdict

The Porsche Design Acer Book RS is one of the best Porsche Design products to date. It’s less of a shallow rebrand than some of design studio’s Huawei phones, and is not as bad a deal as you might guess. 

Yes, you pay for the name. But the laptop has a Core i7 CPU, a huge 1TB SSD and 16GB RAM. Tot up the cost of those upgrades in a Dell XPS 13 or MacBook Pro 13 and you may be surprised by how close those prices get. 

There are only two real disappointments: the touchpad is “floaty” and the screen’s relatively slow pixel response results in occasional blur in fast-moving objects.

We also love the little extras that make the Porsche Design Acer Book RS more versatile or fun out in the real world. Generation-spanning connectors mean you don’t need to carry around USB adapters, while the Nvidia MX350 graphics card makes this laptop a little like a portable console.

The Porsche Design Acer Book RS is a genuine pedigree rather than an existing laptop with an unnecessary body kit lobbed on top for good measure. 

Also consider

MacBook Pro 13

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Apple just upturned the laptop world by releasing MacBooks with Apple-made CPUs similar to those it uses in its phones. And, they’re…. awesome! You even get better gaming performance than the Porsche Design’s Nvidia MX350 graphics card. Apple’s touchpad, battery life and display are superior too. But don’t discount the flexibility of the Porsche Design Acer Book RS’s USB ports and ability to run apps and games years and years old that MacOS has consigned to the past. 

Dell XPS 13

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Add the upgrades to make the XPS 13 match the Porsche Design Acer Book RS and the price difference is much less than you’d imagine. The Dell gets you a better touchpad and sharper screen, but it doesn’t have a discrete graphics card so won’t be as good at playing games. 

HP Envy 13

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OK, so here’s where you can really save big by dropping the branding and going for a more mid-range model. The HP Envy 13 has very similar specs to the RS, including 16GB RAM, a 1TB SSD and MX350 graphics card. It has an all-aluminium shell too. The current model has a 10th Generation CPU rather than an 11th Gen one, but the Envy 13 is clearly a more sensible buy for several hundred less.

Writing by Andrew Williams. Editing by Mike Lowe.





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