Even though the new Windows 8 operating system is all about placing a tablet interface on your computer, it's a pretty sure bet that not every Windows 8 computer will have a touchscreen. In fact, the Acer Aspire V5-571-6891 is probably typical of the new laptops that most people will buy over the next few months.
This 15-inch laptop weighs 4.9 pounds; it uses a less-expensive Intel Core i3 processor, has a standard 500GB hard drive instead of a more-costly solid-state drive, and uses 6GB of memory. It
's will be available now from Costco, for $500.
Most notably, instead of a touchscreen, this Aspire has an enhanced touchpad that recognizes a number of new finger gestures for Windows 8. The result: You won't get the full Windows 8 treatment, where you move seamlessly from display to keyboard to touchpad and back. But the touchpad adds enough to make the Windows 8 experience adequate.
For example, swipe the touchpad from the left with one finger to scroll through open apps, or use four fingers to "pull down" from the top of the touchpad, and you'll move between the tiled interface and the traditional desktop. Relevant gestures also worked in any of the apps we tried, and presumably that will be the case with all Windows 8 apps.
A big selling point for Windows 8, according to Microsoft, is how quickly it resumes from sleep. We timed that on this Acer laptop and found that it did indeed resume faster than two similarly configured Windows 7 laptops. But take that with a grain of salt—the older laptops resumed in 2 seconds, the Acer in 1 second. In the same informal tests, we found that the Acer's shutdown took 15 seconds, compared to 11.
Microsoft removed the Start button in Windows 8, replacing it with the tile interface of the Start screen, where you'll find tiles representing your programs and apps. It also hid the Power button in a Settings menu that requires several steps before you can turn your computer off. If that bugs you, don't worry: Acer added its own "power" button to the Desktop screen. It lets you lock the computer, turn it off, restart, or put it in sleep or hibernate mode.
We'll be putting more Windows 8 machines through their paces, so check back soon. And see our free laptop buying guide at ConsumerReports.org.
Windows 8 brings tablet features to PCs, but it's not for everybody