The 2-in-1 category has been around since the arrival of Windows 8 and we have seen many different form factors. Acer has been one of the brands that has been generally known for its mainstream laptops. But its Switch series of 2-in-1s has been around for a while and Acer has been experimenting with different styles. Today we have with us the Acer Switch 12 with the Intel Core M processor, which takes a slightly unconventional approach in this segment.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
Acer Switch 12 can be divided into two parts - the tablet and kickstand module and the detachable keyboard module. Let us first start off with the display module. When it came to 2-in-1s, we were only used to two modes either the laptop mode or the tablet mode. But thanks to the addition of the kickstand on the Acer Switch 12, you can use it in modes such as notebook, pad, tent, display as well as a desktop - something that makes Acer call the Switch 12 a 5-in-1. Multi mode 2-in-1s are becoming more popular these days, thanks in a large part to Lenovo which has been pushing it with its Yoga series.
The Acer Switch 12 makes use of sturdy plastic in its construction. The display section of the tablet can lie flat with the kickstand which is basically an extended rectangular section which houses the battery . The display is attached to the kickstand via a sturdy hinge mechanism. On the rear side there is a slight depression somewhere in the centre, which is to accommodate the detachable keyboard. The textured back is pleasant to look at.
On the right hand edge, you have the volume rocker button, a button to switch between the desktop and laptop modes and a 3.5mm audio jack. The top edge has the microSD card slot, a power/standby button. On the left hand edge, you have the mini HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port and the power port and the kickstand has an additional USB port. The USB 3.0 port on the tablet is a USB in port rather than an out port.
On the front you have a 12.5-inch display with a significantly thick bezel surrounded by the plastic edges. Just beside the hinges, you have two rectangular holes which lock in the detachable keyboard. There’s a speaker grille section between the hinges. Also there is a magnetic strip around the hinges which ensures that the keyboard is well locked on. It measures around 15.2mm thick and weighs around 1.4 kg.
The best part about the Switch 12 is the fact that the kickstand helps in weight distribution and you can place the display at multiple angles. The keyboard can either attach to the section below the display or can be connected via bluetooth to the keyboard. This does not make typing very congested if say the the laptop mode was the only way to use this. I’d have liked to see the kickstand rotating complete 360 degrees, as the keyboard can attach to the kickstand’s edges as well. Right now if you want to close the Switch 12, you have to attach the keyboard behind the display and arrange the Switch 12 in the tablet mode. Thankfully, Acer bundles in a cover, which ensures that your display isn’t exposed, when the Switch 12 is not in use.
Keyboard and Trackpad: 7.5/10
The second module of the Switch 12 is the keyboard module. It offers a 5-row chiclet keyboard with decently spaced out keys for a 12.5-inch 2-in-1. It has a metal frame on which the keypad is lodged. The travel on the keys is slightly less than a regular laptop and typing fast on the keyboard will take some time. The trackpoint (which Acer calls mouse stick) placed between the B,G,H keys acts as the trackpad and is quite sensitive. This is complemented by two separate left and right mouse click keys present just below the Space bar. These keys are conveniently places in a way that your thumb will rest on those, as you are using the trackpoint. Overall I liked the build quality of the keyboard. There was no noticeable flex at any point across the keyboard surface even when typing while the keyboard was placed on my lap. Getting the hang of the trackpoint and the left/right click buttons will take some time. But the implementation is certainly better than that found on the keyboard cover of the iPad Pro.
Acer Aspire Switch 12 comes with an Intel Core M (5Y10) dual-core hyper-threaded processor clocked at 800MHz and it comes with Intel HD5300 integrated graphics solution. It is paired with 4GB LPDDR3 RAM and 128GB SSD. You also get a microSD card slot in case you want to expand the storage.
It comes pre-loaded with Windows 8.1 along with a lot of Acer bloatware. We immediately installed Windows 10 free upgrade. There’s a 12.5-inch IPS display which has a Full HD resolution and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. On the connectivity front, you get 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0. There’s a 3220mAh battery that completes the package.
Acer Aspire Switch 12 comes with a 12.5-inch FullHD display which gives a pixel density of around 176ppi. The display is bright, colours appear natural and text looks crisp. We had no legibility issues while using the device outdoors either, you just need to boost up the brightness levels. The auto-brightness feature was a hit and miss. Watching movies and videos on the display is a good experience and it offers a decent contrast ratio. You will need to adjust the kickstand in order to get rid of the reflective backgrounds on many occasions.
Acer Aspire Switch 12 performs as you would expect any entry level laptop to perform. The Core M processor paired with 4GB of RAM can handle most office related tasks without breaking into a sweat. Although, you may want to limit the number of open Chrome tabs to less than 15 for optimal performance.
We upgraded the Windows 8.1 OS to Windows 10, but we noticed that the Acer bloatware carries forward. There are applications such as abDocs, abMusic, abFiles and so on, which require an Acer ID login on the Acer Portal. Then there’s the Acer video player along with a month long subscription for McAfee security service. You can uninstall these if you don’t want them.
In terms of benchmarks, we got around a score of 1791 on the PCMark 8 as compared to 1733 on the Smartron t.book which has similar configurations. The SSD gives a sequential read speed of 494 MB/s and sequential write speed of 155 MB/s. It is not the best config if you want to do demanding tasks such as transcoding video files or heavy photo editing. But if your work involves surfing the web, working in Office applications and watching some YouTube on the side, then the Switch 12 is quite a capable 2-in-1. Casual games are playable, but don’t bother with games which use high end 3D graphics.
The portion on the top left hand side in the front and top right hand side on the rear side which houses the processor in between, tends to heat up while charging. We observed a temperature of 44 degrees whereas the rest of the area of the Switch 12 was hovering around 28-32 degrees. After running Prime95 for around 10 minutes we noted that the core temperatures were touching 80 degrees Celcius.
Battery Life: 6/10
Battery life is a function of how you use the device. When I was using the Switch 12 purely for work - browsing the web, working with Google docs - I could easily squeeze out around 6 hours. But when mixed with video and audio streaming or light photo editing, the battery life lasted around 4-5 hours. The PC Mark 8 battery life test gave around 3 hours 33 mins. Considering it has an Intel Core M processor which is meant to give stellar battery life, the Aspire Switch 12 leaves a lot of room for improvement.
Verdict and Price in India
The major thing going for the Acer Aspire Switch 12, is definitely its form factor. The detachable keyboard which can still be used to control the 2-in-1 is something unique, as so far the 2-in-1s we have seen require that the keyboard be connected to the tablet portion and the electrical contacts maintain the communication. Detaching the keyboard lets you place the keyboard at any place close to the Aspire 12 that is convenient for you and not constrict yourself to the limitations you would face when the keyboard had to be attached. This of course has some disadvantages, chief among them being limited lappability.
Since it has an Intel Core M processor paired with 4GB of RAM, it is targetted more towards getting some office related work done. This is not a device to get if you want to transcode heavy video files or work on Lightroom or Photoshop. But you can surely watch your high resolution movies on the Switch 12.
At Rs 53,999 it is priced a tad bit higher considering its overall feature set and performance. It is certainly better in terms of usage than the Smartron t.book which we reviewed recently and which also has similar sort of internal configurations. The Switch 12 is catered towards a lifestyle segment and geared towards those users who probably want a secondary laptop for work and entertainment purposes.
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