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Acer Aspire Switch 10 E review – hands on

A multi-colour makeover and revised hinge gives Acer's Aspire Switch 10 E hybrid a new lease of life

Hybrid laptops have proven incredibly succesful for Acer, with the company announcing today that it was the worldwide leader for 2-in-one devices in 2014. The company is looking to continue that trend this year with a range of new devices, led by the entry-level Aspire Switch 10 E. We got the chance to try one out earlier today to see whether it’s possible to make a compelling hybrid while sticking to a tight budget.

First impressions will depend entirely on how you feel about the bright colours and textured finish on the rear of both the tablet and keyboard parts of the Switch 10 E. The texture certainly creates more grip, helping us keep hold of the tablet when using it in one hand and giving us something firm to hold onto when detaching it from its keyboard dock, but we thought it felt a little cheap – almost like something created on a 3D printer rather than an off-the-shelf product. Other journalists we spoke to liked it, however, and there’s no doubt the six colour choices help it stand out against the competition. It also does an excellent job at hiding fingerprints – something which can’t be said of the glossy screen finish.

The 10.1in display uses an IPS panel which produces excellent viewing angles, but the lowly 1,280×800 resolution betrays the Switch 10 E’s budget price. It’s perfectly legible and fine for working on a single document, but certain websites feel a little cramped and you can’t really multi-task on it effectively. Colours looked vibrant, but we’ll have to wait until we get a review unit into the labs to deliver a final verdict using our colour meter.

The reinforced hinge felt far more secure than the old model, with both parts staying locked together even when we lifted them up by the screen and gave them a good shake. You can still pull the two devices apart quickly by gripping each part and pulling, with no need to press a button or flick a release switch. It’s quick and far more convenient than other hybrids we’ve seen. At 600g in tablet mode or 1.2kg when docked with the keyboard, it’s light enough to carry anywhere as a pair – ideal for when you need to get some typing done but otherwise just want to browse the web in tablet mode.

The keyboard can be specified with an optional hard disk, expanding the capacity of the device when docked. Without it, you’ll get a maximum of 64GB of storage depending on the model. This doesn’t take the Windows 8 installation into account either, so you might find yourself quickly running out of space. Connectivity looks great for a budget device, however, with a full-size USB port on the keyboard and a microUSB on the tablet itself, a micro HDMI port for hooking the device up to a bigger screen, and 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless peripherals and networks.

We had no problems typing on the keyboard, with the island-style keys providing a reasonable amount of feedback. The keyboard is undeniably small, however, so people with larger hands may feel a little cramped, and the keys were slightly spongy. The touchpad underneath felt very small, and was a little too sensitive, sending the mouse flying when it detected two fingers on it, but the touchscreen was so responsive that this shouldn’t be a major concern.

Acer expects customers to get up to twelve hours of battery life out of the Switch 10 E, a result of using an energy efficient (if somewhat underpowered) Intel Atom processor. It should be fine for most desktop tasks, web browsing and multimedia playback, but won’t be suitable for heavy loads like video editing or 3D gaming. 

The Acer Aspire Switch 10 E is set to go on sale in the UK from around May, with prices starting from £280. It certainly has potential to capture the budget end of the hybrid market, as even if it won’t set the world alight in terms of performance it works brilliantly in both tablet and laptop modes. We’ll be taking a more in-depth look a little closer to launch, so be sure to check back for our final verdict.