Review: Acer Aspire Switch 10

Acer’s 10 inch Windows tablet hasn’t been updated since Windows 8 first came out, and that was two years ago, so what has Acer been cooking up, and does it have the potential to replace your portable PC?

Features

Inside the Acer Switch 10, it’s very familiar fare, with an Intel Atom powered by the Bay Trail generation (Z3735F) and clocked at 1.3GHz, running alongside 2GB RAM, and 32GB storage. Storage inside the tablet can be upgraded easily via a microSD slot found in this section.

Microsoft’s Windows 8 runs here and is preinstalled, working with connections such as 802.11a/b/g/n for WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and USB over a microUSB port found in the tablet section with a port converter accessory supplied in the box. HDMI is also included on the tablet, found in the form of a microHDMI port on the tablet.

All of these ports as well as the microSD card slot power port can be found on the left-most edge, while the 3.5mm jack for listening can be found on the right edge, sitting above buttons for power, volume rocker, and the Windows button, which has been relocated from the bottom of the screen to the right edge of the tablet.

A screen completes the package, providing a 10.1 inch display and rocking a 1280×800 In-Plane Switching panel protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3. This screen relies on Zero Air Gap technology to boost viewing performance when more light is hitting the screen, such as use outside.

One camera is also included on the computer, with a 2 megapixel camera built into the front of the tablet section above the screen.

The tablet also arrives with a keyboard section in the box, fitted with an island-key (chiclet) keyboard, touchpad mouse, USB port, and a 500GB hard drive.

Acer’s Switch 10 tablet mounts to this keyboard section by way of docking extrusions, magnets, and a small docking port needed to provide power and functionality to this section.

Performance

We haven’t heard much from Acer this year, with the company’s efforts in Australia mostly focused on Google’s operating systems, specifically for the budget Android tablets and the new netbooks of the world, those made to work with Google’s Chromebook OS.

But even though we haven’t heard much from the company, it wants people to know it’s still working on Windows computers for Australia, and even has one ready for the end of the year, with the view to being an option for the school and work year in early 2015.

That model is the Acer Switch 10, a tablet with an apt name, specifically in that it can switch between being a tablet, a laptop, and an entertainment system without needing a button or release mechanism pressed, like so many devices it competes with.

In the hands, the tablet is better built than you might expect, with Acer moving to aluminium for the bulk of the body, giving the tablet a cool feeling at the back, though coming off a little thick, sitting at 8.9mm, which isn’t very thick, but comes off looking like it due to very noticeable edges.

That said, it’s relatively well built, just not overly stylish in the grand scheme of things.

Switch the tablet on using the power button on the right side and the tablet comes to life relatively quickly. We’re relying on an Intel Atom processor here, and one of the recent Bay Trail versions, at that, so while we expect it to be decent, you shouldn’t go in expecting Core performance here.

Rather, you’re more likely to see some solid Office and web power, along with enough to do some of the basic games, and not the really hardcore graphics or CPU intensive processes.

That said, Windows for the most part plods along quite well, with similar experiences offered to other Atom-powered laptops we’ve seen this year.

Overall, the Switch 10 isn’t the fastest kid on the block, but it does handle its own once everything is loaded and good to go. You may experience some lag here and there — we did — but for most productivity applications, the Switch will handle its own.

We’re also pleased to see a keyboard included, which is great, as it means you won’t have to spend an extra $100 on a keyboard case, but don’t make the assumption that you need the keyboard to work. You can use this solely as a tablet if you so choose, because the computer is in the tablet section, and that’s really something you need to remember.

Like other tablets, all of the guts are in that screen, and the included keyboard really only serves to house a keyboard, touchpad mouse, USB port, and a 500GB hard drive.

Connecting this section to the tablet screen is a several dot gold docking port, not totally dissimilar from the style Microsoft uses on its Surface tablets, though more three-dimensional, and basically requiring to be pushed in and mounted to the tablet section. The screen is also held in place by two dock extrusions, and is pulled into place by magnets, particularly strong magnets at that.

The thing about these magnets is that they’re good, but a little too good, and the pull is such that frequently when docking the keyboard with the Acer Switch 10 system, the locking extrusions won’t always connect into place where they should and throw the alignment off.

It’s easy to correct, but can sometimes get a little annoying making sure the docking pieces are actually in the right place. You’ll feel it when they’re not, and see it quite easily, as the screen won’t have the alignment you need, and the keyboard connection won’t be made, stopping the thing from working.

Still, it’s one of those things that you get used to fixing, and after a while, goes away and is little more than an annoying quirk from the design process than something totally frustrating.

Perhaps lose the dock connectors and rely on stronger magnets next time, Acer.

The magnets are strong enough for this to happen, with the dock connector missing the extrusions and port, but it won't connect the keyboard to the screen.

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