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Acer Switch Alpha 12 review - hands on with Acer's liquid-cooled Surface Pro 4 competitor

Katharine Byrne
21 Apr 2016
Acer Switch Alpha 12
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The Switch Alpha 12 is the world's first hybrid to have liquid cooling and an Intel Core i processor, but can it stand the heat?

Acer's no stranger to two-in-one devices, but its newly announced Switch Alpha 12 might just be one of its most innovative hybrids yet. Launched alongside the Aspire S 13 at Acer's global press conference in New York, the Switch Alpha 12 is the world's first two-in-one notebook to have a completely fanless design while also being powered one of Intel's 6th gen Skylake Core i processors, giving it a significant boost in power compared to your typical hybrid.

Acer's managed to pull this off by introducing a brand-new cooling method dubbed LiquidLoop. This heat pipe cooling system uses liquid to help keep the system at a stable temperature, transferring the heat generated by the processor to the heat pipe via a thermal conductor. The heat pipe then generates the flow of liquid, which is then dissipated around the system, allowing it to run silently and efficiently without the need for a dedicated ventilation system.

Acer Switch Alpha 12 cooling

Admittedly, it still feels pretty warm to the touch round the back, but we'll have to wait and see whether it's got the chops to compete with Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 once we get one in for review and put it through our suite of benchmarks.

Available in a range of specifications, the entry level model will have a Skylake Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM, but there will also be models with Core i5 and Core i7 processors available with 8GB of RAM. You'll also have plenty of storage options, too, as you'll be able to choose from either a 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD.

The Switch Alpha 12 might have some impressive innards, then, but on a surface level, it definitely loses out to its Microsoft rival. The various breaks in its aluminium chassis, such as the additional lines around the rear of the tablet and the top of the screen, means it never looks quite as elegant and seamless as the Surface Pro 4, and its combined thickness of 15.9mm makes it feel quite chunky by comparison, too. Still, when the Switch Alpha 12's price is set to start from just $599 (around £490), you could probably forgive its slightly lacklustre design.

The only other thing the Switch Alpha 12 is rather short on is ports. You'll be pleased to hear it has a full-suzed USB3 port, but apart from that all you'll get is a microSD card slot, a headphone jack and a USB-C port, the latter of which is also used to power the system.

Acer Switch Alpha 12 ports

A choice of two keyboards will be available, but the only real difference is that one of them has a backlight. Otherwise, both of them can snap onto the bottom of the display to provide a raised typing angle – much like Microsoft's TouchCover keyboards for the Surface Pro 4 – and they both have full-sized keys. Typing flat isn't too uncomfortable, but you'll probably want to snap it to the display if you can, as this makes the whole keyboard feel a lot more stable when you're hammering away on its keys.

The keys have a decent amount of travel, so you shouldn't have too many problems typing at speed on the Switch Alpha 12, but the tiny touchpad doesn't provide much room for large swipe gestures. Still, it's a small complaint overall, and isn't really that surprising given the compact size of the device.

Acer Switch Alpha 12 keyboard

The 12in IPS display looks great, and its 2,160x1,440 resolution means everything looks razor sharp. Again, it's not quite as high as the Surface Pro 4, but you'd probably be hard-pushed to notice any difference in overall screen clarity.

It's glossy, too, which helps colours pop, but isn't great for looking at under bright lights. That said, this shouldn't be too much of a problem given how its kickstand has a maximum viewing angle of 165 degrees, giving it almost as much flexibility as the Surface Pro 4.

Acer Switch Alpha 12 side

Due to launch in May, the Switch Alpha 12 certainly looks like a compelling two-in-one laptop, but we'll have to wait and see whether its LiquidLoop cooling system is really up to the task of coping with challenging desktop work when we get one in for testing. Official UK pricing has yet to be confirmed, but if it's anywhere near £500, then it might well be the budget Surface Pro rival we've been waiting for.