It's getting harder to tell the difference between laptops and tablets as more hybrid devices hit the market, but nobody is having more difficulty making this distinction than Acer. The company is marketing its TravelMate X313-M as a business Ultrabook, even though it consists of an 11.6-inch tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard case. No matter how you label it, this $908 Windows 8 system isn't worth the money, combining mediocre specs with short battery life and an uncomfortable keyboard.
While most 2-in-1 laptops either have permanently attached keyboards or detachable docks, the Acer TravelMate X313-M is a standalone slate that comes with the kind of foldable faux leather Bluetooth keyboard case we usually see on the accessory market. With its silver, brushed aluminum body, the X313-M is reasonably attractive, though its 0.35-inch thick body is a bit chunky in comparison to the 0.29-inch thick iPad Air. The faux leather case and silver-colored keyboard also look fairly professional.
On its own, the 11.6-inch brushed aluminum tablet measures 11.6 x 7.5 x 0.35 inches and weighs 1.8 pounds, which makes it bigger but lighter than the 2-pound, 10.8 x 6.8 x 0.5-inch Microsoft Surface Pro 2, which has a 10.6-inch screen.
When snapped into the keyboard case, the X313-M becomes only 0.15 inches thicker but weighs 3.1 pounds, significantly more than the Surface Pro 2 with its 0.55-pound Type Cover attached, as well as many full-fledged 11.6-inch notebooks, including the Macbook Air 11 (2.8 pounds) and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11s (3 pounds). The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, which combines a detachable tablet with a solid hardware keyboard dock, weighs 3.8 pounds when attached and 1.8 pounds as a slate only.
To place the device in clamshell mode, we simply had to flip open the case and tilt the tablet portion so that it slid into a small groove at the top of the keyboard. Unfortunately, there's nothing to lock the tablet in place on top of the keyboard so we found that it often slipped out, particularly when we had the TravelMate X313-M on our lap and moved our legs in the wrong direction. We would only recommend using this product on a flat surface.
Where the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablet offers full HD resolution for the same starting price, the Acer TravelMate X313-M provides only a 1366 x 768 resolution display. Though most content looked relatively crisp, we saw more grain and visual noise in trailers for "The Avengers" and "Spider-Man 2" than on tablets with higher pixel densities.
Colors such as the red in Spider-Man's costume or the blue in Captain America's suit seemed a bit dull because the X313-M was able to display only 46.2 percent of the sRGB gamut on our color test, significantly less than the 65 percent ultraportable notebook category average and 91 percent tablet average. Color reproduction was fairly accurate with a Delta-E score of 5.8 (0 is perfectly accurate). That score is better than the 7.9 ultraportable category average but slightly behind the 4.95 tablet average.
At 399 lux (375 nits) on our light meter, the X313-M outshined the Yoga 11s (320), the MacBook Air (281) and, by a small margin, the Surface Pro 2 (389) and Lenovo ThinkPad Helix (374). Because of the strong brightness, colors stayed true at extremely wide viewing angles, only washing out slightly at 90 degrees to the left or right.
The 10-point touch screen was highly responsive as we pinched, zoomed, swiped and dragged items around the UI. We were even able to draw with all of our fingers at once in Windows Paint.
Audio quality was surprisingly good for a tablet. With its top-mounted speaker and Dolby Home Theater v4 audio enhancement software, the TravelMate X313-M delivered accurate, deep tones both on Patrice Rushen's bass-heavy "Forget Me Nots" and Def Leppard's guitar and drums-centric "Rock of Ages." The sound was loud enough for our immediate vicinity but, at 80 decibels on our audio meter, the Acer TravelMate X313-M is a bit quieter than the 84 dB ultraportable notebook average. The bundled Dolby application provides fine control over audio output, letting you adjust the graphic equalizer or switch between profiles for movies, music and games.
Keyboard and Stylus
Entering text on the Acer TravelMate X313-M's shallow Bluetooth keyboard feels more like poking at a rock than typing on a laptop. Because the keys have just 1mm of vertical travel, when a typical laptop keyboard has 1.5 to 2mm, we found ourselves hitting the bottom of each key space with a great deal of force, which made our fingers sore. There was so little feedback that we often didn't realize when our strokes didn't register.
The keyboard also lacks a palmrest to support your wrists, which is annoying when typing on a flat surface, but extremely uncomfortable when trying to type with the system on your lap. However, we wouldn't recommend using X313-M on your lap, as the tablet frequently toppled off the keyboard when we moved our legs. The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is a much better system for lap use, because its kickstand helps stabilize it and its keyboard attaches via a magnetic connector.
With a keyboard this uncomfortable, it's no surprise we got one of our worst scores ever on the Ten Thumbs Typing test, managing just 68 words per minute with an embarrassing 6 percent error rate. That's very far from our typical 86 wpm, 1 percent error rate performance.
Unfortunately, the TravelMate X313-M has no touchpad at all, which means we had to pick up our hands and reach across the keyboard every time we wanted to navigate, a huge hassle. Tapping icons and widgets in Windows 8's desktop mode is much more difficult with touch than with a dedicated pointing device. Selecting text is also a chore.
We're glad the X313-M includes Acer's Accufinger utility, which puts a large pointer on the screen that you can drag around to better target small objects. Its multi-select function also gives you the option of selecting several objects at once (the equivalent of CTRL+Click on a keyboard and mouse).
The TravelMate X313-M also comes with a large capacitive stylus that has an awkward plastic sphere where you would expect a pen tip. Trying to draw or target objects with this strange-feeling pen was much less accurate than using our finger.
Ports, Cradle and Webcam
For a device that's part of Acer's TravelMate line of business systems, the X313-M offers very few ports on its chassis. On its left side, you'll find a single USB 3.0 port for attaching peripherals, along with one mini HDMI-out port and a proprietary charging port. The right side houses a 3.5mm audio jack, along with the power button and volume rocker.
However, the device comes with a charging cradle that holds the tablet up at an angle and adds three USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI out, VGA out and Ethernet. To put it in the cradle, you must pull the X313-M out of its keyboard case, which makes it feel even less like a laptop. However, you can still use the keyboard while in the cradle because it's connected by Bluetooth.
Both the 720p webcam and 5-MP rear shooter provided mediocre, noisy images in our tests. An image of our face taken in low light was relatively bright but extremely pixelated. Another shot taken in strong indoor light was brighter and sharper but still full of noise. The shots we took of a room full of children's toys with the rear camera were washed out and pixelated.
The Acer TravelMate X313-M stayed pleasantly cool throughout our testing. After 15 minutes of streaming video, the back was a chilly 84 degrees while the keyboard was just 76 degrees Fahrenheit. We consider temperatures below 95 degrees comfortable and those below 90 degrees imperceptible.
The Acer TravelMate X313-M felt reasonably snappy as we navigated the OS, surfed the Web, watched videos and launched apps. However, its combination of a third-generation 1.4-GHz Core i3-3229Y CPU, Intel HD 4000 graphics, 120GB Intel SSD and 4GB of RAM isn't as advanced as some of its competitors' specs. On PCMark7, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the TravelMate X313-M scored a modest 3,026, well below the 3,985 ultraportable notebook average and miles behind Core i5-4200U-powered Surface Pro 2 (4,918), the Intel Core i5-3337U-powered ThinkPad Helix (4,447) and the Core i5-3339Y-powered IdeaPad Yoga 11S (3,896).
The X313-M's 120GB Intel SSD booted Windows 8 in a respectable 10 seconds, quite a bit faster than the 15-second ultraportable category average. The drive took 1 minute and 3 seconds to complete the Laptop Mag File Transfer Test, which involves copying 4.97GB of mixed media files. That's a rate of 80.8 MBps, well below the 114.6 MBps category average, the Microsoft Surface Pro 2's score of 154.2 MBps , the ThinkPad Helix's rate of 170 MBps and the IdeaPad Yoga 11s' mark of 141.3 MBps.
Acer's tablet took a full 12 minutes and 38 seconds to complete the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, which matches 20,000 names with their addresses. That time is nearly double the 6:48 category average, and far behind the IdeaPad Yoga 11s (7:24), ThinkPad Helix (5:23) and Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (5:50).
Graphics and Gaming
You can watch movies on the Acer TravelMate X313-M, but don't even think about using it for gaming. The X313-M scored 174 on the 3DMark Firestorm Extreme graphics test, a bit below the 219.6 category average.
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This hybrid could not play "World of Warcraft," a very undemanding game, providing a slideshow-like frame rate of 17.5 fps on autodetect settings, which shrank to just 10 fps with the special effects turned up. Those rates compare unfavorably to the 32 and 15 fps category average, the Yoga 11s' rates of 30 / 11 fps, the ThinkPad Helix's score of 28 and 10 fps and the Surface Pro 2's 46 and 24 fps marks.
The Acer TravelMate X313-M lasted an awful 4 hours and 51 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. That runtime is nearly two hours below the ultraportable laptop average of 6 hours and 47 minutes, an hour less than the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11s (5:54), more than 3 hours less than the Surface Pro 2 (8:02) and 4 hours behind the Apple MacBook Air (8:53). The ThinkPad Helix lasted 5 hours and 48 minutes, an hour longer, without its dock and 8 hours and 10 minutes when attached. If you're going to carry the TravelMate X313-M, bring the charger.
Though you can get Windows 8.1 as a free download, the TravelMate X313-M still comes with Windows 8. Acer preloads the tablet with a handful of useful utilities. Acer Touch Tools puts a small floating toolbar at the top of the desktop mode, which provides a few helpful features. There's AccuFinger, a large pointer you can use for clicking small objects, a multi-select mode you can use with one finger and an Esc key button. Acer Power Management shows which applications or external devices are sucking up a lot of power. Dolby Home Theater v4 enhances your audio output while giving you fine control over your sound settings.
Because the X313-M is marketed as a business computer, Acer includes its ProShield security software, which provides file encryption, pre-boot authentication and secure erase features. There's also a link to download Acer's Office Manager software, which allows your IT department to remotely manage all the Acer computers in the office.
Fortunately, the TravelMate X313-M is light on bloatware. In addition to its Skype video chat client, Evernote note-taking app and Skitch drawing program, the tablet comes with free trials of McAfee Internet Security Suite and Norton Online Backup.
Whether you consider it a laptop or a tablet with bundled keyboard, the Acer TravelMate X313-M is hard to recommend. With its low-res screen, mediocre processor, short battery life and uncomfortable keyboard, the device would be a poor choice for anyone. This hybrid seems particularly ill-advised for its target audience of business users, who need productivity and endurance the most.
If you're looking for a high-end Windows tablet with a keyboard, splurge for the Microsoft Surface Pro 2, which starts at $899 and costs $1,129 with a keyboard and 128GB of storage, but has a much better typing experience, a colorful full HD display, a faster processor and 8-plus hours of endurance. If you want a better 11-inch hybrid laptop, consider the $1,499, business-oriented ThinkPad Helix or the $1,099 consumer-targeted IdeaPad Yoga 11s.