Acer Switch 10 E review: A small hybrid with extra storage

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THE GOOD

The Acer Switch 10 E doesn’t cost a lot, has a simple magnetic hinge to connect its tablet half, and packs a generous extra 500GB hard drive into the keyboard.

THE BAD

The 10.1-inch screen looks even smaller surrounded by a thick black bezel. The system is so top heavy it easily tips over, and the touchscreen is not always as responsive as it should be.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Despite extra storage space and a pleasing design, the Acer Switch 10 E suffers from a low-budget feel.

The Acer Switch line of hybrids was one of our favorites early on in the Windows 8 era because this low-cost line kept its screen and keyboard connected via a magnetic hinge, which was much easier to use than the physical latches many other hybrids used.

The latest version of the Switch smartly keeps the magnetic connection, which Acer calls the Snap Hinge. The 10-inch model, called the Switch 10 E, comes in six colors with a soft textured finish that looks feels more premium than its price of $349 (slightly different configurations are available for £279 in the UK and AU$549 in Australia). Also adding value to the version we tested is a separate 500GB hard drive built into the keyboard base, in addition to the 64GB solid-state drive in the tablet half (some models have only 32GB).

Now that we’ve moved on to Windows 10, hybrids are not the brave new world they once were. But the new Windows operating system still makes concessions to laptops that transform into tablets, with touch-friendly swipe-in menus from the edges of the screen and an optional tablet mode (that looks a lot like Windows 8) for slate-only use.

And like Windows 8, so far Windows 10 feels well-optimized for inexpensive, low-power systems such as this. For the price, the Switch 10 E is sturdy and full-featured enough for basic productivity, but it also has some serious budgetary concessions, including a top-heavy design prone to tipping over and a lack of full-size ports and connections. Additionally, the entire system is heavy, weighing more than many 13-inch laptops, and the touchscreen was sometimes not as responsive as we’d like it to be when swiping.

Taken together, there are a lot of compromises, but this is also one of the only ways to get a touchscreen Windows 8 hybrid with decent battery life and plenty of storage at this price. Just keep in mind that Atom-based systems such as this aren’t intended as your all day, every day PC, and the small screen and low 1,280×800 resolution make this best-suited for occasional or travel use.

ACER SWITCH 10 E
Display size/resolution 10.1-inch 1,280×800 touchscreen
PC CPU 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735
PC Memory 2048MB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz
Graphics 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics
Storage 32GB Flash Memory + 500GB HDD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (32-bit)

Design and features

From the outside, the Acer Switch 10 presents itself well, with its patterned cross-hatch texture across the outside lid avoiding the fingerprint-heavy glossy black plastic look of so many budget laptops and hybrids.

But at 2.8 pounds (1.27kg), it’s heavy, especially for a 10-inch display. Many 13-inch laptops weigh less, and combined with the thick body, small keys and wide screen bezel, it’s hard to feel like you’re not hauling around more computer than you need to.

When designing a hybrid, one has to choose between making it easy to separate the two halves, or making the connection between them especially secure. The magnetic hinge used here makes a very powerful connection, so it leans towards the latter, but that also means you’ll need two hands to pull the screen away from its base.

The two parts are at least easy to fit together, assisted by the strong magnetic pull that becomes obvious when the teeth in the hinge get close to the slots in the bottom edge of the tablet. When fitted together, the combined whole looks and feels a lot like a standard clamshell laptop — but because nearly all the components are packed behind the screen, the clamshell mode is top-heavy and can easily tip over backward if you’re not careful.

In the base is a 500GB hard drive, which is a nice bonus for storing media files and other bulky items. As an option, you can set that extra hard drive to encrypt itself when the two halves are not together, essentially using the tablet half as a key to unlock it.

The keyboard, while small, is at least well laid out. Keys have decent depth and register easily, but also have a mushy feel, wiggling a bit under your fingers as you type. Important keys like Shift or Control are sometimes shortchanged on smaller keyboards but here they’re all big enough to hit easily.

The large touchpad is very responsive, and important multi-touch gestures such as two-finger scroll work well, avoiding another pitfall many other budget Windows systems fall into. Windows 10 deserves at least some of the credit for that, thanks to better built-in gesture support, such as swiping three fingers up to see all open apps.

The 10.1-inch display is surrounded by an especially wide black bezel and has a native resolution of 1,280×800, which is comparable to the 1,366×768 displays found on many budget laptops. But it’s still low, especially considering how many mainstream laptops and tablets have already blasted past the 1,920×1,080 mark, and how much our PC usage now revolves around consuming massive amounts of information online or streaming and playing HD video.

The display works fine for everyday Web-surfing and productivity, but the top surface is so glossy that it’s prone to glare and reflections. Weak, thin-sounding speakers also keep this from being a great way to enjoy multimedia content.

PORTS AND CONNECTIONS
Video Micro-HDMI
Audio Combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 1 USB 2.0 (on base), 1 Micro-USB 2.0, microSD card reader
Networking 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections, performance and battery

A full-size USB 2.0 port is built into the keyboard base, otherwise every other connection is housed in the tablet half of this hybrid. The SD card, USB 2.0 and HDMI ports on the left edge of the screen are all of the mini or micro variety and you’ll need adaptors or special cables to use them, so plan accordingly. The micro-USB port on the tablet is also used for charging, so it’ll be occupied if the system is plugged in.

Thanks to the how well-optimized Windows 10 is, as is the new Edge browser, you can use the Switch 10 E for all sorts of everyday tasks, from reading and writing to video playback to basic productivity and office apps, without ever feeling too much like you’re running a low-power Intel Atom CPU. Dive deeper into photo editing with Photoshop or trying to play games, and it’ll start to slow down. That said, many games in the Windows app store play great even on an Atom system.

Dropping a level of performance to something like the even-less-expensive HP Stream 11, which uses an Intel Celeron processor, and you’ll get more slowdown and pauses during basic navigation. On the other hand, Microsoft’s Atom-powered Surface 3 uses a more powerful version of the Atom and feels much more like a mainstream laptop. At only $499, £419 or AU$699, the Surface 3 may feel like a reasonable upgrade, but keep in mind it doesn’t include the keyboard, which is sold separately.

n hands-on use, including working on productivity documents and streaming HD video, the Switch 10 E performed well, although it sometimes took several seconds for the keyboard and touchpad to be recognized after waking the system up from sleep mode.

Thanks to Intel’s very efficient chips for low-power PCs, the Switch 10 E had very good battery life, running for 8:24 on our video playback battery drain test. That’s about 25 minutes longer than the HP Stream 11 and more than 40 minutes longer than the Surface 3.

Conclusion

Little about the Acer Switch 10 E jumps out at first. The screen is overly glossy and the top-heavy body tends to tip over backward if you’re not being careful. Performance is decent, but not what you’d need for an all day, every day mission-critical computer.

But there are some positive features lurking just beneath the surface. It has a well-made magnetic hinge holding the tablet and keyboard base together, an extra 500GB hard drive hiding under the keyboard, and has more than enough battery life for a full day of library or coffee shop work.

* MULTIMEDIA MULTITASKING 3.0 TEST

Microsoft Surface 3 : 1220

Acer Switch 10 E : 1727

HP Stream 11 : 3742

NOTE: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

* APPLE ITUNES ENCODING TEST

Microsoft Surface 3 : 1220

Acer Switch 10 E : 1727

HP Stream 11 : 3742

NOTE: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

* VIDEO PLAYBACK BATTERY DRAIN TEST

Acer Switch 10 E : 504

HP Stream 11 : 478

Microsoft Surface 3 : 461

Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi : 314

NOTE: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

* SYSTEM CONFIGURATIONS

Acer Switch 10 E Micorsoft Windows 10 Home (32-bit); 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735; 2GGB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 32GB Flash Memory + 500GB HDD
Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 1.2GHz Intel Core M 5Y71; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 3839MB (shared) Intel HD 5300 Graphics; 128GB SSD
HP Stream 11 Microsoft Windows 10 Home; 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2840; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 64MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 32GB SSD
Microsoft Surface 3 Microsoft Windows 10 Home; 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z8700; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 128GB SSD

(cnet.com)

 

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