In the competitive world of top-notch ultraportables, the Porsche Design Acer Book RS ($1,399.99) brings a well-known name to the party—technically, a second one, apart from Acer’s. Porsche’s design arm (which works on more than just automotive projects) collaborated with the big PC maker to create this lightweight ultraportable with a carbon-fiber lid inlay. That’s the standout look-and-feel feature of this laptop, but everything else is well-executed, too, including long battery life and a robust selection of ports. You may yearn for 16GB of memory at this price, but a 512GB SSD is also nice, and performance was no slouch in our testing. Our favorite 13-inch ultraportables (the Dell XPS 13, the Razer Book 13, and the Apple MacBook Air) still take top honors, but we found little to quibble with in this slick machine, and the one-of-a-kind styling may be what grabs you.
The Porsche Design Influence: A Classic, Luxe Look
It’s immediately clear where the design most takes on an automotive bent: the lid. The chassis of the laptop is silver, but the lid is black with a carbon-fiber pattern, meant to mirror a carbon car hood.
I was somewhat surprised that this surface is not textured in some way. There’s a smooth finish over the material, so the pattern is essentially inlaid within the borders of the lid. I suppose this is down to preference, but it would’ve felt a bit more special (though perhaps prone to wear and tear) if you could feel the uncommon texture. But this design choice likely protects the material long-term. It’s eye-catching, too, and it definitely gets the spirit of the design across at a glance.
Outside of the lid, though, there’s not much else that says “Porsche” to me. No other especially interesting lines, contours, or colors—just a plain, squared-off silver laptop. It still looks nice, but it also looks like many other laptops; it doesn’t exactly match, say, the recognizable Porsche Cayman silhouette in concept. There’s a classic simplicity to the design, but aside from the lid, it could blend in with many competitors.
It does, at least, live up to the mobility of Porsche in its own portability. The laptop weighs just 2.65 pounds and measures 0.63 by 12.55 by 8.24 inches (HWD), firmly in the ultraportable category. Some of the super-slim 13-inch machines have it beat (the Apple MacBook Air, the Dell XPS 13), but only by slim margins. Among other 14-inch laptops, it stacks up fairly well: A mainstream device like the Dell Inspiron 14 7000 (7490) is a touch larger, while machines like the Asus ExpertBook B9450 and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 are the slimmest around.
Due in part to its size, the Porsche Design Acer Book RS qualifies as an Intel Evo system. Evo is the replacement for Intel’s Project Athena, and qualifying for Evo status means meeting a list of requirements for thin-and-light laptops that ensure portability and peak usability with the new generation of Intel processors. As a result, it bears an Evo sticker on the keyboard deck. (Read more about the promises and requirements of Intel Evo here.)
The 14-inch screen is one of the highlights, as well. In addition to offering a bit more real estate than its smaller counterparts, the thin bezels and shiny glass surface for touch technology make for a smart-looking display. There isn’t much special here—it’s a touch screen with full HD (1080p) resolution—but the panel quality is good, and it fits the laptop nicely. This isn’t a convertible 2-in-1 system, so you won’t be able to wind the screen around its hinge 360 degrees into tablet mode, but it’s nice to have the option to poke and tap at it when you feel inclined.
The keyboard and touchpad fall more on the unremarkable side, but they are satisfying enough to use. The keys have a substantial feel to them when pressed, far from mushy, which makes for a nice bounce while typing at speed. You get white backlighting, though no number pad. A few small laptops, like the Asus ExpertBook, get around the size limitations with an LED number pad built into the touchpad that can be toggled on and off, but that is not present here.
The touchpad may not have that hidden function, but it does pan smoothly. Also, it includes a fingerprint scanner in the top-left corner. If I were to nitpick, the touchpad is on the small side even for this type of laptop, but it’s really plenty functional.
Finally, we come to the ports. This is a positive area for the Porsche Design Acer Book RS, since it, like the Razer Book 13 and the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3, includes both USB Type-A and USB Type-C connections. These mandate a sacrifice of a slight bit of thinness, but the hundredths of an inch difference it makes in overall laptop height is worth the convenience, for me. The left side of the laptop includes the USB-C port with Thunderbolt 4 support (also used for charging), a USB 3.1 port, and an HDMI connection…
The right flank, meanwhile, holds one more USB 3.1 port and the headphone jack, along with a security-cable locking notch…
Including both types of USB (and a full-size HDMI output, to boot) dodges the need for carrying around easy-to-lose, clumsy adapters, and it makes using your peripherals less of a hassle. That’s a definite upside to this machine.
Testing the Acer Book RS: Hold That Tiger
Acer offers just two models of the Porsche Design Acer Book RS, so that keeps the component rundown pretty simple.
For $1,399.99, Acer sells our review unit with a Core i5-1135G7 (11th Generation “Tiger Lake”) processor with integrated Iris Xe graphics, 8GB of memory, and a 512GB SSD. The other model is more expensive at $1,699.99, which nets you a Core i7-1165G7 processor, an Nvidia GeForce MX 350 GPU, 16GB of memory, and a 1TB SSD. The 8GB of memory for our unit is pushing the acceptable limits at this price (though the 512GB SSD, as opposed to 256GB, raises the cost). The performance doesn’t suffer much, but some users know they’ll want or need more.
Next up, we put our unit to the test with our usual suite of benchmark tests. To judge its performance, we compared its results with those of competing laptops in the same category that cost around the same amount. You can see their names and specs in the table below…
Productivity, Storage, and Media Tests
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s boot drive. Both tests yield a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better. (See more about how we test laptops.)
Note that if the MacBook Air is absent from a chart, it’s because the benchmark is Windows-based and won’t run on macOS. Additionally, the Apple ultraportable’s results in our CPU tests are obtained through emulation, since the software hasn’t yet been developed to run natively on the new M1 chip. (You can read more about this in our MacBook Air review and this deeper dive on whether it’s a good fit for you.) The loss in performance between native and emulation mode can be fairly significant, but the MacBook Air still manages to hold its own.
The Acer Book RS’s PCMark 10 score shows aptitude for churning through daily tasks, even if it’s not one of the highest scores we see on this test. Anything over 4,000 points denotes a very competent multitasking laptop for everyday use, so regardless of where exactly it falls versus the others, it will get you through the day with no problem. As for PCMark 8, all of these slim laptops boast speedy SSDs for quick boot and load times, which is part of qualifying for the Intel Evo requirements, as well.
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video (the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel) to a 1080p MP4 file. It’s a timed test, and lower results are better.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image, timing each operation and adding up the total. As with Handbrake, lower times are better here.
Much like on PCMark 10, the Porsche Design Acer Book RS acquits itself well, even without leading the pack. This is a competent enough media-editing machine, able to run a few Photoshop filters or encode video in a pinch or as a hobby without making you wait too long. If you plan to do that kind of thing with any regularity, especially professionally, a beefier media machine or mobile workstation is recommended.
On to 3DMark, which measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is compatible with integrated graphics and more suited to midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario for a second opinion on each laptop’s graphical prowess.
This class of laptops is meant neither for gaming nor 3D-based creation tasks, so there’s not too much to say here. Intel Iris Xe graphics are certainly better than the previous Intel HD Graphics solution, but the power is still well short of a discrete GPU. Simple gaming is possible, whether a less-straining 3D title on low settings or a lower-complexity 2D title, but not much beyond that. If gaming is a priority, check out our favorite gaming laptops. (Basic models start at around $700 to $800, well less than either of the Acer Book RS configurations.)
Battery Rundown Test
After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn off Wi-Fi, putting the laptop in airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the same Tears of Steel short we use in our Handbrake test—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system quits.
The battery life is excellent, at just under 18 hours. To meet Intel’s Evo requirements, the battery must run for “at least nine hours in full HD,” which it does easily, so we can confirm their testing. This doesn’t quite match the marathon near-30-hour battery life of the latest MacBook Air, but it comfortably qualifies as all-day battery life and will keep you going at home and through your travels.
Is a Spiffy Lid Enough to Rev You Up?
The ultraportable field is very competitive here at the end of 2020, and the Porsche Design Acer Book RS is yet another fine entry in the category. The lid is its most distinctive feature, but even if the remainder of the design and feature set doesn’t really stand out, it also doesn’t have many flaws. The price is fair (there is not much of a premium on the components, despite the luxury-connotation Porsche name), the build is lightweight, performance is solid, the laptop includes both USB-C and USB-A ports, and the battery life is long. That makes for an appealing ultraportable all around, but again, this is a very competitive category, and that list of good stuff is more or less table stakes at this price point.
The Porsche name may be alluring to some, or you may just like the look, but it’s also difficult to point to one thing that would make you choose this machine definitively over the other top options. The lid is indeed unique, but it doesn’t feel elite-level premium, so that alone won’t separate it from the pack for most, and the rest of the machine is a bit plain. The super-compact and premium designs of the Editors’ Choice-winning Dell XPS 13, Razer Book 13, and Apple MacBook Air are very attractive at the 13-inch screen size, and the 14-inch Lenovo Yoga 9i offers convertibility. Still, if you personally prefer the look of the Porsche Design Acer Book RS, go for it: We can endorse it as a good alternative in a very tough field.
Porsche Design Acer Book RS
The Bottom Line
The Porsche Design Acer Book RS is a lightweight ultraportable boasting snappy performance and a feature set in line with the price, with a carbon-fiber lid as its marquee flourish.
Porsche Design Acer Book RS Specs
|Processor||Intel Core i5-1135G7|
|Processor Speed||2.4 GHz|
|RAM (as Tested)||8 GB|
|Boot Drive Type||SSD|
|Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested)||512 GB|
|Screen Size||14 inches|
|Native Display Resolution||1920 by 1080|
|Variable Refresh Support||None|
|Screen Refresh Rate||60 Hz|
|Graphics Processor||Intel Iris Xe Graphics|
|Wireless Networking||Bluetooth, 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6)|
|Dimensions (HWD)||0.63 by 12.55 by 8.24 inches|
|Operating System||Windows 10|
|Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes)||17:45|