Acer Switch 5 Un­com­pro­mis­ing lap­top-tablet

Look be­yond the Sur­face

Computer Active (UK) - - Contents -

Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Pro (see our re­view, Is­sue 508) showed a tablet could run Win­dows 10 just as well as a lap­top, and it’s been suc­cess­ful enough to at­tract sev­eral im­i­ta­tors. This is one of the best yet.

You can pay any­thing from £799 to £2,699 for a Sur­face Pro, de­pend­ing on the spec­i­fi­ca­tions. The near­est price to the Acer’s is £979, which gets you an In­tel i5-7300u pro­ces­sor, 4GB of mem­ory and a 128GB SSD. The Switch 5 comes with a very slightly slower i5-7200u, a much more sen­si­ble 8GB of mem­ory and a 256GB SSD.

To get those specs, Mi­crosoft would charge you £1,249. But the dif­fer­ence is even big­ger, be­cause Mi­crosoft adds £125 for the Sur­face Pro Type Cover and £100 for the Sur­face Pen, while Acer in­cludes a key­board and sty­lus as stan­dard. Don’t reach for your cal­cu­la­tor, we’ve worked it out: the Switch 5 is over £580 cheaper.

In­evitably, that means a few com­pro­mises. Mi­crosoft puts a lot of the ex­tra money into the Sur­face Pro’s won­der­ful touch­screen, which cov­ers 94.3 per cent of the SRGB colour range with ex­cel­lent ac­cu­racy and packs 2736x1824 pix­els into its 12.3 inches. The 12in Switch 5 man­ages 2160x1440 pix­els, which is still very sharp, but only 79 per cent of SRGB, with medi­ocre ac­cu­racy. In other words, there are fewer colours and even those don’t al­ways match what was in­tended. Con­trast and bright­ness are 50 and 30 per cent lower than the Sur­face Pro re­spec­tively.

Does it mat­ter? Well, yes: the screen will af­fect ev­ery minute you spend us­ing the Switch 5, and we wouldn’t choose it for se­ri­ous photo or video edit­ing, for ex­am­ple. For general Win­dows 10 use, though, you should be sat­is­fied.

And the good news is that not much else shows any ma­jor cor­ners cut. The black case is plain and sim­ple, with a well-de­signed kick­stand that, like the Sur­face Pro’s, lets the tablet sit firmly at any an­gle you want. The power but­ton in­cor­po­rates a Win­dows Hello fin­ger­print reader. With­out their key­boards, the Switch 5 is just over a mil­lime­tre thicker and 134g heav­ier than the Sur­face Pro.

Acer’s mag­net­i­cally at­tached key­board is back­lit and feels great – maybe not quite as re­fined as Mi­crosoft’s Type Cover, but sur­pris­ingly solid and stiff, even when tilted up at the back for more com­fort­able typ­ing. The built-in track­pad scrolled, zoomed and clicked re­li­ably for us ev­ery time, which is more than can be said for ri­vals like the Len­ovo Miix 510 (see Is­sue 509). Acer’s Ac­tive Pen lacks the Sur­face Pen’s tilt sens­ing, which can be used for subtle shad­ing in some pro­grams, but is pres­sure-sen­si­tive and felt very re­spon­sive.

It would be un­fair to com­pare the Switch 5 to our test results from the much pricier i7 ver­sion of the new Sur­face Pro, but the Switch 5’s over­all score matched the pre­vi­ous Sur­face Pro 4 with the older i5-6300u chip. We’d ex­pect Mi­crosoft’s new i5-7300u model to be around 10 per cent faster at best, so the Switch 5 is no slouch. Its i5 chip is less than half as fast as a low-end i5 desk­top PC pro­ces­sor, but fine for a wide range of tasks, and a big im­prove­ment on the m3 pro­ces­sor at the bot­tom of the Sur­face Pro range. The in­te­grated In­tel HD graph­ics card will run less de­mand­ing 3D games with qual­ity set­tings turned down.

Im­pres­sively, the Switch 5’s silent fan­less de­sign kept ev­ery­thing cool at all times, but the bat­tery gave up nine min­utes short of six hours in our video­play­back test. That’s good for a lap­top, but not much more than half the Sur­face Pro’s run­ning time.

VER­DICT: We can’t quite give it full marks, but if colour isn’t vi­tally im­por­tant for you, the Switch 5 is close to be­ing a Sur­face Pro at a huge sav­ing

★★★★☆

AL­TER­NA­TIVE: Asus Trans­former 3 Pro £980 Dis­counted to this price with an older i7-6500u and a much bet­ter screen, this 12.6in tablet is an­other great deal

A great-value Win­dows 10 hy­brid, as long as colour ac­cu­racy isn’t im­por­tant

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