Acer Aspire Switch 10 E review: A competent, low-cost Windows hybrid
As phones get bigger and laptops become smaller, the tablet is starting to get lost somewhere in the middle. Because of this, a myriad of hybrid devices have cropped up, allowing you to snap the keyboard off and turn your portable laptop into a chunky tablet for browsing the web on the sofa in front of the TV, or while you’re having a lazy lie-in on Sunday morning.
And you don’t have to spend much if you don’t want to. Toshiba’s £200 Satellite Click Mini is proof you can lay your hands on a reasonable hybrid without spending too much, even if it is a bit of a boring slab, and the HP Pavilion x2 shows that, for not much more, the feat can be achieved with some elan.
Designing a desirable product on a budget is a difficult task, but with the Aspire Switch 10 E, Acer has certainly tried its hardest to make its hybrid stand out from the crowd.
Available in a multitude of colours – some garish, some not – the Aspire Switch 10 E has an air of mid-2000s netbook about it. Opting for a rough-textured plastic instead of a gloss finish, the Switch is pleasing to hold and touch, and it feels durable and rugged; exactly what you want from a low-cost device.
It isn’t anywhere near as stylish as the HP Pavilion x2, which sets the standard in the category, but it’s pleasingly compact, measuring only 262 x 180 x 23mm (WDH) with the keyboard and only 11mm thick in tablet mode. It’s reasonably light, weighing 1.19kg with the keyboard attached, and 622g without. For comparison, that’s 185g more – or just under two Cadbury Dairy Milk bars heavier – than an iPad Air 2.
Open the lid and you’ll find a 10.1in, 1,200 x 800 IPS touchscreen along with a standard laptop keyboard, complete with Function keys – something the Toshiba Click Mini lacks. You’ll also find micro-USB, micro-HDMI and microSD ports around the edges of the tablet, with an extra, full-sized USB connector on the detachable keyboard. Wireless connectivity comes in the form of single-band 802.11n and Bluetooth; nothing beyond the most basic provision, in other words.
Laptop or tablet?
Every hybrid device I’ve ever used has felt more like a compromise than a meeting of laptop and tablet in a pleasing form factor. The same can be said of the Aspire Switch 10 E.
As a laptop, it’s perfectly portable and easy to use. Its detachable keyboard is comfortable to type on thanks to responsive, if slightly spongy, keys. The built-in trackpad is responsive, only occasionally failing to register a finger swipe. It’s all rather unremarkable, but that’s generally a good sign.
In real-world use, the Atom chip is powerful enough to make it feel snappy when performing undemanding tasks, but I wouldn’t advise trying to edit 1080p video on it or running too many apps simultaneously. And while Windows 10 does improve the desktop navigation experience, the small screen can make things feel cluttered rather quickly.
Detaching the keyboard and using the Switch 10 E in tablet mode doesn’t improve things much. I upgraded to Windows 10 for this review (it turned up with Windows 8.1 onboard), but the device failed to switch between Desktop and Tablet modes automatically, even with the feature enabled in the settings. This isn’t down to faulty detection, since the Windows background changes depending on the mode you’re in, but it makes the tablet feel clunkier to use than it needs to.
In Acer’s defence, this is a £200 device that’s capable of being used in four different modes, which many high-end hybrids are incapable of. Borrowing a leaf from Lenovo’s Yoga range, the Switch 10 E can be used as a simple laptop, detached and used as a pure Windows tablet, have its keyboard reversed to act as a display stand, or be turned upside down and pitched in a “Tent” position. Like the Yoga series before it, this is more novel than truly functional, but it does help separate the Switch from the crowd.