Acer Aspire Switch 10 review
Processor: Quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3745
Weight: Tablet: 0.585kg; With keyboard 1.104kg
Screen size: 10.1in
Screen resolution: 1,366x768
Total storage: 32GB SSD
Operating system: Windows 8.1
It may have received much criticism, but there are reasons to like Microsoft's controversial, touch-oriented Windows 8 operating system; it just takes the right form factor to appreciate them. The Asus Transformer Book T100 is one convertible laptop that proved Windows 8 can work on a touchscreen, and that you don’t have to pay much for the privilege. The new Acer Aspire Switch 10 has adopted the same format, taking a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard and combining it with an Intel Atom processor.
With the tablet’s brushed aluminium-style back, flat edges and rounded corners, its design is pleasing if not groundbreaking. At 585 grams, it's not too heavy, and our arms didn’t become tired when we held it for protracted periods. Add the keyboard section and the weight increases to 1.1kg. When using the tablet and keyboard together on an uneven surface, such as a lap, we did find that the Aspire Switch 10 had a tendency to topple backwards, which meant we had to use a wrist to keep it steady.
Magnets are used to connect the keyboard dock to the tablet, and we found the process of connecting the two to be fiddly, and we sometimes ended up with a misaligned screen. This meant we had to detach the two and try again.
As for connection ports, there's just one full-size USB port, which is located on the keyboard, while a Micro USB port is present on the tablet portion. This isn't ideal, as you'll need an adaptor or a USB hub to connect more USB peripherals to the Switch 10. The Aspire Switch 10’s front-facing speakers are a nice touch, though, and while movies and music don't sound brilliant, they do at least sound clear and aren't muffled or pointing in the wrong direction.
The keyboard is a little cramped and the keys are rather spongy and don't give good feedback. They are at least responsive and never failed to register a press, but we did become tired of it after long periods of typing.
The Switch 10’s 10.1-inch 1,366x768-pixel IPS touch screen is excellent, and by far the device's strongest suit. Viewing angles are extremely wide and the colours in our test images were deep and vibrant. The capacitive touch layer is very responsive, making the tablet section perfect for navigating Windows 8.1's Modern user interface and taking advantage of full screen media applications such as Netflix.
However, we did find that normal-sized text Desktop mode appeared small and a little difficult to read, and while this is a natural side effect of having such a small screen, we did find it annoying. This problem is by no means unique to the Switch 10, but is nonetheless worth mentioning. You should also turn off the Adaptive Brightness feature, which alters the screen's brightness based on what's on screen. We found it slow, distracting and unhelpful.
There are various ways in which Acer suggests you use the Switch 10, but the two conventional ways, as a standalone tablet or as a touch-screen netbook, are the ones you'll find yourself using the most. There's also “tent” mode, which involves attaching the screen backwards and turning the device upside down so that the screen is facing you with the keyboard section acting as a stand. This mode is fairly useful on a flight or a train journey and you have limited tray table space to watch your own movies.
The Aspire Switch 10 is powered by a quad-core Bay Trail Intel Atom Z3745 and 2GB of RAM, and it scored 17 overall in our challenging multimedia benchmark tests. It's far from the slowest device we've ever tested, and the score is similar to that of the Asus T100, which scored 22 overall, but we did encounter infrequent stuttering and jerkiness when scrolling through websites. For watching Netflix movies, YouTube videos and playing basic 3D games such as Reckless Racing Ultimate, though, the Switch 10 is easily powerful enough. We also had no problem using desktop applications such as LibreOffice. As long as you don't have your heart set on intensive photo and video editing or gaming, you’ll be happy with the Aspire Switch 10.
In our battery longevity test, the Switch 10 lasted a little over six hours. This means you're unlikely to get a full day's work out of it on battery power alone. Annoyingly, the Switch 10's also slow to charge thanks to the fairly low-wattage power supply.
The Acer Switch 10 is a reasonable alternative to the Asus Transformer Book T100, but because the two are so similar in price and specification, we’d buy the T100 simply because it has a slight performance edge and a better keyboard. It's a very close run thing, though, and if you're in the market for an adaptable netbook/tablet hybrid, the Switch 10 will serve you well.