This weekend I joined a cadre of technology writers for an Acer-sponsored trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. Amongst chowing down deep fried Mars bars and photographing men in kilts, we had a chance to try some of Acer’s latest tech. Last time I wrote about the Liquid Leap smart band, and now it’s time for something a little bigger: the Switch 10 convertible laptop.
A few years ago, Ultrabooks became mainstream and manufacturers started to look for more ways to differentiate their laptop computers. In concert with the new Windows 8 operating system, many manufacturers produced unique convertible designs that mixed a traditional laptop form factor with more extraordinary modes. Today, we’re looking at Acer’s latest convertible laptop, the low-price Switch 10.
The Switch 10 is made of two pieces, a tablet and a keyboard dock. Strong magnetic connectors allow the two pieces to quickly assemble into a laptop, or be pulled apart so that the tablet can be used alone. If you put the screen on backwards, you end up with a nice screen stand. Turn the whole thing upside down, and you end up with a tent that’s perfect for cramped spaces like train tray tables.
That’s a lot of adaptability for the £300 price point, but of course some sacrifices have been made. The internal hardware is pedestrian at best, with a quad-core Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage. That’s enough to browse the web or watch videos perfectly well, but you’ll see slowdowns if you load up the laptop with plenty of Chrome tabs or try any intensive applications. Ports are also incredibly rare; on the tablet section you’ll find only a headphone jack, micro HDMI, mini USB out and a micro SD card slot. To get full-size USB you need to attach the keyboard dock, and even that provides only a single port – not ideal.
The display is better than you’d expect from the specifications. 1366 x 768 is the lowest resolution that manufacturers can ship on a Windows 8.1 machine, and even at 10.1 inches you’ll find text is a bit indistinct and screen real estate is at a premium. It’s not all bad though, as Acer have used an IPS display that offers good viewing angles and reasonably accurate colours. A boost in resolution would be nice, but that brings its own problems in terms of decreased battery life and scaling on Windows. As it stands, the low-res display allows the Switch 10 to get about 8 hour of use – not too bad at all. Ultimately, the choice of screen makes sense for this laptop.
The Switch 10 feels well-made for its price point; the tablet section has a nice metal back cover and doesn’t flex in the hand. The keyboard dock is made of plastic and seems more flimsy, but still can handle being thrown in a backpack on a regular basis. The Switch 10 is also reasonably light, weighing in at just over a kilogram. Hiking around Edinburgh with a Switch 10 in a backpack was barely noticeable; a far cry from the multi-kilo beasts that normally destroy my back.
The Switch 10 is a surprisingly reasonable convertible, offering a solid design at a low price. While the internals are far from powerful and the lack of ports makes this a poor workstation, the lightweight build and easily shifted modes make the Shift 10 a reasonable choice.
Read on for a brief unboxing gallery, or let me know what you think in the comments below.