Hands on with the Acer Aspire Switch 10 Special Edition Windows 2-in-1

Acer has updated the popular Switch 10 Windows 2-in-1 and it's looking good in our field test.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
Sarah Tew / CBS Interactive
I found enough to like when I reviewed the Aspire Switch 10 last year that I jumped at the chance to try the newly released Special Edition. This 2-in-1 now ships with Windows 10 which handles small displays quite well. That display is ready to take on the road with the new Corning Glass cover to add protection for the screen.

The hardware of the Special Edition is not much different than last year's model, with a slight bump in the Atom processor. It is not the latest Atom x7 chip as used in the Surface 3, and there's a noticeable difference in the performance between the two devices. It does handle typical work functions without issue, so the slower processor is not a problem. It no doubt helped keep the price of the Switch 10 Special Edition so low.

The display is low resolution by today's standards at 1280 x 800. The screen is bright and crisp for a 10.1-inch display but a higher resolution would have been welcome. That's not a deal breaker as Windows 10 is optimized to handle screens of all sizes and resolutions and looks good on this display.

Acer Aspire Switch 10 Special Edition gallery

Hardware specs as reviewed:

  • CPU: Intel Atom 3735F, 1.33 GHz, quad-core
  • OS: Windows 10 Home, 32-bit
  • Display: 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800
  • Memory: 2GB
  • Storage: 64GB
  • Communications: 802.11 a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0
  • Ports: USB (dock), microUSB, microHDMI, microSD, audi
  • Battery: 5,910 mAh, 8 hours
  • Dimensions: Tablet 10.3 x 6.97 x 0.35 inches; 261.6 x 177.1 x 8.9 mm; Tablet and Keyboard: 10.3 x 7.57 x 0.8 inches; 261.6 x 192.4 x 20.2 mm
  • Weight: Tablet: 1.31 lbs; 0.595 kg; Tablet and keyboard: 2.6 lbs; 1.18 kg

Laptop use

Acer ships the Aspire Switch 10 Special Edition with the keyboard dock which forms a laptop with the display attached. The design is well executed and you can't tell it's not a laptop with a permanently attached screen. The tablet attaches to the dock easily with two posts on the latter that insert into slots on the tablet. Strong magnets complete the attachment and there is no concern the tablet will fall out. There is no release latch and removing the tablet is done by pulling it off the dock.

The keyboard dock is gray plastic with black chiclet keys and a good sized trackpad. The keys are a little small but rapid typing is possible. The keyboard is not backlit which may be a negative for some. There is a slick covering on the trackpad that makes sliding fingers easy. There is a full USB port on the dock.

The durable hinge can be pushed back almost 180 degrees so any comfortable viewing angle is supported. With the laptop open the two speakers on the tablet are at the bottom of the screen and directly above the keyboard.

The bottom of the keyboard dock is white plastic that matches the glossy white back of the tablet. When closed the laptop looks like a premium model that costs more than the Switch 10. The laptop is not heavy (2.6 pounds) yet feels substantial when held.

The 8-hour battery life consistently lasted all day in my testing. This was accomplished with the default power setting on the Switch 10. It is possible to eke out extra time with stringent power savings. This makes the Acer a reasonable option for the frequent business traveler.

Using the Aspire Switch 10 Special Edition as a laptop has been a nice experience. In spite of the small size which is a product of the display, the unit has performed well and felt good in use. The keyboard dock is as good as many standard laptops and doesn't compromise heavy use.

Touch the tablet

The Switch 10 works well as a tablet given the size and relatively light weight (1.31 pounds). It is easy to hold for extended periods and, with Windows 10, is a full-featured slate.

Taking a tour around the tablet on the left side we find the power port, microHDMI, and microUSB ports, and a microSD slot. On the bottom are the two slots for the keyboard dock, and there is nothing on the top. The right side finds the audio port, power button, volume rocker, and the Windows button.

When I reviewed last year's Switch 10 I didn't like the inclusion of a capacitive touch Windows button on the bezel due to the ease of triggering inadvertent opening of the Start Menu when handling the tablet. On the new model Acer got rid of the touch button and included a physical Windows button. This is not a good change as the button is on the right side of the tablet and hard to operate. The touch button would have been better even given its fault as described.

The low resolution of the display works as a plus in tablet mode, as controls are big enough to operate easily by touch. As mentioned earlier, Windows 10 handles displays well, much better than Windows 8.1 on last year's Switch 10 model. Using it as a tablet is a delight and better than some other Windows 10 tablets I've tested.

Good value

While the Acer Aspire Switch 10 Special Edition is not the fastest nor the best 2-in-1 Windows 10 system, it is good enough for many given the low price point. At $349.99 it brings good value to the road warrior wanting a portable system that can do it all.

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