Hands-on review of the Acer Aspire Switch 10: the small convertible tablet that packs a punch
I had just wrapped up my review of the HP Pavilion x360 not too long ago when I received the Acer Aspire Switch 10 at my doorstep. I wasn’t too excited about testing another small convertible Windows 8.1 device, since my experience with the HP x360 proved to me that a cheap price tag usually means basic levels of performance and specs.
I was wrong. The Acer Aspire Switch 10 (which I will heretofore refer to as the Switch 10) is one heck of a small convertible device that packs one heck of a punch in terms of performance and specs. The Switch 10 was announced in April of 2014 and has been available in the US market as of June 2014.
The Switch 10 is also being marketed as the thinnest 2-in-1 devices on the market, since it measures less than 0.35 inches thin in tablet mode, and only 0.80 inches thin with the keyboard dock. The Switch 10 also weighs a mere 1.3lbs in tablet mode, and a mere 2.6lbs in Notebook mode.
Let’s dive in and explore the Switch 10. Will this be your next 10.1-inch convertible Windows 8.1 device?
Let’s begin by taking a look at the hardware specifications. Hardware is an important aspect in any machine, and can make or break a deal.
The Switch 10 comes powered by Microsoft’s latest operating system Windows 8.1 32bit. It also features an Intel Atom Z3745 processor (1.33GHz/1.86GHz w/ Intel Burst technology), a 10.1-inch multitouch HD CineCrystal LCD display running at 1366 x 768 resolution, 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 64GB of storage, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, 2MP front-facing HD camera, and weighs 2.6lbs when connected to the keyboard (tablet itself is 1.3lbs).
The machine comes with a decent processor and the overall responsiveness of the device is excellent. I was worried that a small and cheap-priced device like this would be super sluggish and slow, but I was mistaken. The device is also vibrant and the resolution works just right with the 10.1-inch display.
The hard drive is very small, however. Our review unit had 64GB of space and it filled up very quickly with only a few essential applications installed. If you plan on installing just a few applications and several Windows Store apps, you will be fine. Just don’t expect to store any movies or music.
This device is small and it packs a punch. When I first turned on the device, I immediately noticed how fast it was to boot up and how quickly I was able to get around the operating system. The device features various buttons around the screen of the device, which can be removed from its keyboard dock to function as a small and sleek tablet.
The device is very light in your hands and the display is super responsive to touch. The keyboard, on the other hand, is decent but can be a bit awkward when the screen is tilted back a bit. This causes the keyboard to lift off the table and the screen to tilt back due to the weight. This is also due to the fact that the screen — which doubles as a tablet — is heavier at the top, compared to the keyboard.
The power button is located at the top left of the device, just above the volume rocker. On the top right side of the device, you have the micro HDMI port, as well as two micro USB2 ports. There is also a microSD card slot if you want extra storage space, located at the top right of the device.
The device features two front speakers which pack a punch, and a headset jack located at the top left of the device, just above the power button.
The keyboard is similar to the Surface’s Type cover, in that you can “click or unclick” the screen from the keyboard and utilize the device as a 10-inch tablet. This is called the “Snap Hinge.”
“The Acer Switch 10 features the Snap Hinge that easily and securely connects the display to the keyboard portion of the device. It features a magnetic detachable design for latch-free docking and smooth transition. The Acer Snap Hinge connects the display to the keyboard from either direction for convenient two-sided viewing. The tablet connects firmly to the keyboard, yet it can easily be released by lifting it from the dock. The magnetic force is capable of holding 6.2 lbs in weight, so expect that you’ll have to give it a firm tug to separate the two parts. The two portions of the device will stay firmly connected even if it’s open when moved,” Acer stated.
However, as I mentioned above, if you try to adjust the screen too far back while connected to the keyboard, the device topples over. The trackpad on the keyboard is easy to use and responsive to your touch. There is one full-sized USB 2.0 port located on the keyboard.
You can utilize the device in notebook mode as a fully functional notebook PC, complete with the keyboard and touchpad, or you can use the device as a tablet in tablet mode. You can even switch the screen to the opposite side to show content in a presentation manner or utilize the device in tent mode for watching movies.
The tablet itself weighs 1.3 pounds, while the device weighs 2.6 pounds when connected to the keyboard. It is pretty lightweight and it feels fantastic in your hands. To give you an idea of the weight, Microsoft’s own Surface Pro 3 only weighs 1.76 pounds.
We connected a USB mouse to the device and found no issues. We also connected an external hard drive and experienced no issues. Unfortunately, there is only one USB 2.0 port and it requires you to have the keyboard plugged into the tablet. It would be nice to have the USB port on the tablet part of the device, but we can’t complain. At least it has a USB port.
The device runs Windows 8.1 and comes with a code to install and activate Office Home and Student 2013. The software is already installed and when you launch it via the Start Screen, you will be prompted to activate or purchase Office 2013. The package comes with a code for Office Home and Student 2013.
It also comes pre-installed with various software, including the Kindle app, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Ebay, Zinio, Evernote Touch, iStoryTime, and various other apps. It also comes with certain Acer-specific apps, such as Acer Docs, Acer Portal, Acer Remote Files, Acer Explorer, and more. Not a big deal, but you can find yourself spending a quick thirty minutes to uninstall all the apps you don’t need.
Installing and running various desktop applications and Windows Store apps were a breeze and we noticed virtually no lag or slowdown. This device comes packed with some good specifications, so we did not expect nor did we see any slowdowns while running common applications.
We also ran 3DMark RT, an app from Futuremark available in the Windows Store, and achieved a score of “maxxed out” for the Ice Storm test. The Ice Storm test is used to compare mainstream smartphones/tablets, and is a test that includes two 720p graphics tests to measure GPU performance and a physics test to stress its CPU performance.
The Ice Storm Extreme test, a test for high performance mobile devices, gave us a 9078 score. We ran the test a second time and earned a score of 10147. A third run of the test gave us a score of 10152. Comparatively, we earned a 8392 score on the HP Pavilion x360, which is a similar and rival convertible device. The Ice Storm Unlimited test gave us a score of 12941.
We ran PCMark 8, a computer benchmark tool developed by Futuremark, which gave us a Home Conventional score of 1230. The test lasted close to one hour. In comparison, this score doesn’t even compete with the average Office PC score of 2498, Gaming laptop score of 2521, Ultralight notebook score of 2633, and High end gaming PC score of 4908. This Home Conventional test measures the performance of the CPU, GPU, RAM, and more, offering a well rounded score of the device.
The PCMark Work test gave us a score of 1560. The Work benchmark test measures the system’s ability to perform basic office work tasks, such as writing documents, browsing websites, creating spreadsheets, and using video chat. Since this device is targeted towards these capabilities, this score is quite important.
We ran the test a few times – from start to finish – drained the battery from 100% to pretty much 45%. Keep in mind that the system was under a heavy amount of stress during each test, lasting an hour each time. Running these tests also caused the back of the screen to be a bit hot, but nothing scorching or damaging. This was expected as the device was being placed under stress in order to run these performance tests.
The battery life on this device is absolutely amazing. After fully charging the device with the power cable (which by the way only took two hours for a complete charge), I was able to go a few days with no usage and only see a slight drain in the battery. This is all thanks to the InstantGo feature, which is also available on Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3.
“The Aspire Switch 10’s Intel Atom processor and Microsoft InstantGo means a smooth, fast experience and less time wasted,” Acer stated. Basically, when you leave the device idle for a very short amount of time, the device will shut off the screen. Battery life is then preserved until you return to the device and tap on the power button again to wake it up.
Acer is touting an 8-hour battery life, but we experienced roughly 6 to 7 hours of battery life with moderate usage. Not bad at all.
This is a nice device that can be used as a laptop replacement, considering the decent price tag, as long as you do not mind the small screen. The performance of this device is phenomenal, again considering the price tag. Don’t expect to play your favorite game like Titanfall or Call of Duty on this device, but you can surely get some work done while on the couch or while sitting outdoors.
“The Aspire Switch 10 was designed for students, business users and anyone who wants a highly capable Windows notebook that provides a flexible design with additional usage modes, including tablet,” Acer stated. We agree. This device is excellent for students as well as those wishing to get some work done.
Overall, this device has fantastic specs and performance, excellent battery life, a vibrant and small display, and it even comes with Office 2013! You can choose the 32GB option for roughly $379.99, or the 64GB option for roughly $429.99. We highly recommend the purchase of this device. You can check out the Switch 10 on Acer’s website here.Further reading: Acer, Aspire Switch 10, Windows 8.1