In my quest to replace the Surface RT, I stumbled upon a low-priced Surface Pro alternative in the Acer Aspire Switch 12S (hereon known as the Switch, sorry Nintendo) and decided to run it through its paces hoping that I would finally find a perfect convertible device for the post-RT world. Long story short, I was disappointed. But I did find a device that could possibly burn its own trail as a cheap option for someone looking for a different experience.
But what’s the point of a device that is neither a good tablet, nor a good laptop?
On first glance, the Switch would probably be mistaken for a traditional clamshell laptop. The thick keyboard deck and the beefy hinge are reminiscent of the past, but the device has quite a unique look to it. I understand including the stickers for floor models for Best Buy and such, but I don’t get why they would put stickers on a consumer device. Taking the sticker off would seem to devalue the device (by denoting to others that it is used), even though leaving it just makes it feel so cheap. The worst part is it looks like they de-centered the front facing camera to fit the sticker, which would be one of the dumbest but funniest moves I’ve ever seen.
It seems a lot two-in-one manufacturers have thrown the whole “lappability” concept of the Window. While the Acer sports a sturdier base than a lot of its competitors, it has a notably heavy tablet portion that the hinge struggles to hold in place. In addition, that heavy tablet makes the device a bear to use one handed for anything more than a few minutes, so I can hardly describe this as a two in one at all.
The black and gold aesthetic of this device is a welcome departure from the traditional silver and grey metallic designs that are becoming increasingly common, but there are some oddities that keep this from being a good looking device. The device is very asymmetrical, with the whole tablet taking on an odd wedge shape. On top of that, for a 12.5-inch tablet, this is not a very portable device. Sure, it won’t weigh you down on a trip, but in a world of ever-shrinking bezels, this device has a similar footprint to the MateBook X Pro, which has a 14 inch display.
For a device that supposed to also be used as a tablet, the Switch has just an okay display. Notably, the glare on this is insane. Even looking straight down at the device I can see the reflection of my hands on the keyboard.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The trackpad, while smooth, is somewhat forgettable. It has a relatively small area and a very loud click. I understand there wasn’t a lot of room to expand it, but I still wasn’t too impressed. The keyboard on the other hand is quite impressive. The spacing is not quite as good as some other computers, but the keys have a good amount of travel, and are backlit, which is more than I can say for a lot of two-in-ones. There are some oddities with the Switch’s keyboard layout, but because of the sturdiness of the base, I would actively choose to type on this rather than almost all other detachables, including the Surface Pro.
Since I’m used to installing a clean copy of Windows every time I get a new product, I was going out on a limb when I tried using the stock software that the Switch came with. But after trying this out, I’ve realized that it really needs a copy of Windows 10 signature edition – more so than most other laptops. Even beyond the bloatware, the preinstalled apps like OneNote would not work, and I needed to uninstall and reinstall them before I could even start using the device. It comes with a rear dual-camera setup that is a demo for Intel’s RealSense technology, which essentially allows you to do a number of AR enabled activities…except for there were very few real applications for the tech, and the software is often running in the background consuming resources for no apparent reason. I quickly uninstalled it.
The Core M3 is one of those middle-ground processors that toes the line between usable and unusable. While I think most daily use should be okay, sometimes the device will heat up when managing a lot of background processes such as the software updates we all love so much. I’m concerned about the longevity of the speed, and am not so sure this will be very usable 3 or 4 years down the line. From a “netbook” standpoint, I think the Core M3 is the sweet spot and should be used a lot more often if it means lowering the cost, the size, and increasing the battery life of devices.
As an Android fan, I think a laptop equivalent of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 and 626 processors would be a game changer. For those that don’t know, the 625 and 626 are well known for their decent performance and legendary battery life.
- At some points, the pop up showing that caps lock is on will not show up, and then it won’t be obvious whether caps lock is on or not, since there is no indicator light on the keyboard.
- Having Thunderbolt 3 in this small device is incredible, and I really wish Microsoft included it on their Surface products.
- I’ve been waiting for someone to build expandable USB slots, not unlike the expandable ethernet port on many business laptops – it’s amazing the Acer has done it on a tablet. Of course, the bottom panel is actually pretty thick, but the expansion property allows the sides to curve to a smaller thickness.
I was testing the Switch with the intention of discovering whether it could be a good successor for my Surface RT, but it didn’t come close. The device clearly is closer to the Surface Book – it is a laptop that can be detached, rather than a tablet that can be connected to a keyboard. I really like the keyboard, and am very impressed for a relatively low cost device, but I wish the tablet portion was more usable. There’s no natural reason for me to detach the screen from the base.
I guess the conclusion I’ve come to is: if the device is a poor tablet, but there were significant sacrifices made in order for it to function as a tablet, like the bezel size, the imbalance of the keyboard, and the poor design, what’s the point? I think most would be better off purchasing a low cost tablet and a good portable laptop.