Acer Switch 3

A de­tach­able key­board and tablet that’s flip­ping good value

Computer Active (UK) - - Contents -

Choosing a por­ta­ble com­puter is get­ting com­pli­cated. A few years ago, you could have a lap­top or a tablet. A tablet wouldn’t run Win­dows, but gave you a small and light de­vice to carry around for email, web brows­ing, mu­sic and so on. A lap­top was big­ger and heav­ier, but did the same kinds of things as a desk­top PC. Then Mi­crosoft in­vented the Sur­face, and it was nei­ther one thing nor the other. Or, as Mi­crosoft would pre­fer you to be­lieve, it was both.

The Win­dows tablet bit worked well, once they added touch­screen fea­tures to Win­dows. And al­though the key­board was more like the floppy ipad ac­ces­sory kind, it was sturdy, and im­proved with up­dates. To­day’s Sur­face Pro is very us­able as both a lap­top and a tablet – and it’ll set you back a min­i­mum of £749. The key­board costs ex­tra, as does the Sur­face Pen sty­lus.

Acer’s Switch 3 looks rather en­tic­ing by com­par­i­son. First, it costs more than £300 less with a key­board and Win­dows Ink-com­pat­i­ble sty­lus thrown in, mak­ing it bet­ter than half the price (in fact, we even saw it listed for £299, but we’re not sure how long that will last: www.snipca.com/27710). Sec­ond, al­though we don’t have any com­plaints about Mi­crosoft’s Type Cover, the Switch 3’s key­board is more lap­top-like. It has a re­as­sur­ingly well-built metal and plas­tic con­struc­tion that doesn’t bounce when you type on it. This is even the case when it’s mag­net­i­cally at­tached to the tablet part with a Sur­face-like arrangement that raises the back to a com­fort­able an­gle.

It can’t com­pete with the Sur­face’s glass-topped touch­pad; Acer’s serves the same dual pur­pose of cur­sor po­si­tion­ing and multi-touch ges­ture recog­ni­tion, but its plas­tic sur­face is stick­ier and less re­spon­sive. Still, you can al­ways prod the touch­screen, which de­taches com­pletely for use as a tablet. Or, rather than ditch­ing the key­board, you can stick it to the back, rem­i­nis­cent of those con­vert­ible lap­tops where the key­board ro­tates 360 de­grees to sit flat against the screen while you use it as a cum­ber­some tablet. The Switch 3 is smaller and lighter, mak­ing it much more prac­ti­cal, but we found it some­times for­got to ig­nore the key­board in this mode, re­sult­ing in un­wanted typ­ing.

The Switch’s fold-out frame-type kick­stand worked OK for us on a desk, but when we tried to bal­ance it on our knees, the screen didn’t weigh it down con­sis­tently enough to stop it oc­ca­sion­ally spring­ing back to a steeper an­gle. The squarer Full-hd-and-a-bit screen looks very sharp at this 12.2in size. For this kind of money it’s quite de­cent, cov­er­ing 88 per cent of the SRGB colour range, with very good con­trast and bet­ter-than-av­er­age bright­ness.

It’s on the inside that a few cor­ners have been cut. While the Sur­face uses m3, i5 or i7 pro­ces­sors, here you get a lowly Pen­tium. Even at a leisurely 1.1GHZ, though, the N4200’s four cores give it an ad­van­tage over the bar­gain-base­ment Atom in the likes of Asus’s Trans­former Mini (£250 from Cur­rys www.snipca. com/27713, see Is­sue 491, page 21). In sim­ple Win­dows 10 tasks we never felt we were be­ing held back; 4GB of mem­ory is about enough, and al­though the 64GB of flash mem­ory is nei­ther as big nor as fast as a typ­i­cal lap­top SSD, it’ll prob­a­bly suf­fice, with a mi­crosd slot of­fer­ing some­where to keep your photo col­lec­tion.

The bat­tery lasted just un­der seven hours in our video-play­back test, which is rea­son­able for a skinny tablet. While the Sur­face Pro has two USB 3.0 ports and Mini Dis­play­port, the Switch has one USB 3.0 and a multi-pur­pose Type-c, as well as a sep­a­rate charg­ing port.

VERDICT: With a sty­lus and sturdy key­board, this is a great af­ford­able al­ter­na­tive to Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face.

★★★★☆

AL­TER­NA­TIVE: Asus Zen­book Flip UX360CA £650 A 13.3in 360-de­gree lap­top with m5 pro­ces­sor, 8GB mem­ory and 512GB SSD, but it doesn’t con­vert into a tablet

With a sty­lus, sturdy key­board and de­cent per­for­mance, this is a good deal

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