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Acer Aspire Switch 10: Versatile Windows hybrid (review)

Windows 8 supports several form factors and this hybrid from Acer can morph into most of them.
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1 of 8 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Acer has released the Aspire Switch 10, a tablet that ships wiith a keyboard dock that turns it into a laptop. It uses a unique magnetic hinge that lets the Switch 10 do more than most Windows hybrids.

The term "hybrid" fits the Switch 10 as it can assume four configurations instead of the typical two for most devices of this type. The screen is detachable, yielding a thin and light tablet to rival with most competing devices. Pop the tablet into the keyboard dock and you have a good Windows laptop complete with a nice trackpad. Flip the tablet into the dock backwards and you have a presentation mode that allows using the keyboard with the display facing backwards. Finally, you can set the tablet and keyboard dock up in an inverted "V" to watch videos in the tent mode.

Hardware as reviewed:

Processor AtomTM Quad-Core Processor Z3745 1.33GHz
Display 10.1-inch, 1,366 x 768, IPS
Memory 2GB
Storage 64GB
Communications 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
Camera Front: 2MP 1080p; Rear: none
Ports Tablet: microUSB 2.0, microHDMI, audio  Keyboard: USB 2.0
Battery 5910mAh, 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: 1.29 lbs; 0.58 kg

Tablet and keyboard: 2.58 lbs; 1.17 kg

Switch 10 as tablet

The Aspire Switch 10 tablet is only 1.29 pounds and 0.35 inches thin making it a very portable device. The 10.1-inch screen has a standard resolution of 1,366 x 768 so it's not the highest resolution display. That resolution works well using Windows 8.1 in desktop mode so it's a reasonable tradeoff to keep the cost down. It's an IPS display and the viewing angles are good.

There are a number of ports and slots on the tablet -- microSD, microUSB 2.0, microHDMI, and audio in/out jack. There is an additional USB 2.0 port on the keyboard dock. Acer obviously chose to save money by using the older USB 2.0 technology instead of the current 3.0, a real shame.

Communications for the Switch 10 is through wi-fi a/b/g/n using MIMO dual-band. There is no LTE option available. Bluetooth 4.0 is also supported.

Acer claims 8 hours of battery life and in preliminary testing this seems to be accurate. There is no battery in the keyboard dock to extend time away from an outlet.

The Aspire Switch 10 is very comfortable to use in the hand for extended periods. The edges of the tablet are flat and feel natural when holding the tablet. The only complaint is that like many OEMs, Acer chose to use a touch Windows button on the bezel instead of a physical button. Using the tablet in the hand results in regular inadvertent touches, interrupting the session by jumping to the Start screen.

There is a 2MP webcam on the tablet face capable of 1080p HD. Note there is no rear-facing camera for those who find that important.

It's a laptop

Acer has produced a unique hinge on the keyboard dock (which is included with the tablet). It is comprised of two pieces into which the tablet is inserted for use as a laptop. The connection is via strong magnets and the tablet is easy to insert into the dock as a result.

This hinge is rigid enough to hold the screen firmly in place and requires a bit of force to remove the tablet from the dock. This rigidity makes it possible to use the Switch 10 in tent mode, an inverted "V", which makes it handy for using in tight spaces like crowded seats on flights.

This docking system also supports inserting the tablet into the dock backwards. This could be useful for giving presentations with the screen facing backward while still using the keyboard.

The keyboard on the Switch 10 is OK but nothing special. The keys support rapiid touch typing. They are not backlit. The trackpad on the keyboard dock is decent for such a peripheral, and has no buttons.

Conclusion

The Acer Aspire Switch 10 is a solid Windows 8.1 hybrid consisting of a decent tablet and solid keyboard dock. The current generation Atom processor is a good performer and runs Windows well.

The Switch 10 is a highly portable laptop that takes advantage of Windows 8.1. Both trackpad and touch screen operation work as expected in Windows.

This hybrid is a good value, priced at $429.99 as reviewed. There are cheaper models available starting at $379.99. This makes the Switch 10 a good choice for those on a tight budget.

Pros:

  • Versatile
  • Good tablet
  • Unique keyboard dock

Cons:

  • USB 2.0 instead of 3.0
  • Touch Windows button

Reviewer's rating: 8 out of 10

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2 of 8 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Comfortable in the hand as a tablet

The Acer Aspire Switch 10 is a good tablet weighing in at 1.29 pounds.

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Good in portrait

The thin, light tablet is comfortable to use in portrait orientation.

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Keyboard dock with magnetic hinge

The 10.1-inch screen is IPS with good viewing angles.

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Nice keyboard with buttonless trackpad

The trackpad on the Switch 10 is good for a Windows laptop

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Thin profile

The tablet alone is only 0.35 inches thick. The tablet and keyboard is 0.8 inches.

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Flip the tablet in the dock

You can remove the tablet and flip it around, forming a presentation mode. The keyboard is still operable in this mode.

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Pitch a tent and watch movies

Tent mode is good for watching movies in tight spaces.

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