Acer Switch 11 V SW5-173

Tech Advisor - - CONTENTS - An­drew Har­ri­son

Fol­low­ing Mi­crosoft’s blueprint, Acer has been loy­ally build­ing con­vert­ible tablet/lap­top hy­brids for Win­dows 8, when the op­er­at­ing sys­tem’s de­vel­oper be­came hell-bent on making Win­dows touch­able in a postiDe­vice world. The As­pire Switch 11 V is a sub­tly up­graded version of 2014’s model, now head­lin­ing with Win­dows 10, an im­proved screen, and 800MHz In­tel Core M pro­ces­sor in place of 1.5GHz Core i3.

In essence, the Switch is an 11.6in Win­dows tablet with a cus­tom key­board that snatches into place with mag­nets. Once docked, you get the ben­e­fit of real keys and a but­ton­less track­pad, which in­ter­act with the tablet through shiny con­tacts rather than Blue­tooth. Like Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Pro 4 (page 24), the hinged screen be­comes con­tin­u­ously mov­able to ad­just rake; but sim­i­larly to the pre­vi­ous release, the ensem­ble is far too back-heavy.

There’s no ex­tra bat­tery in the key­board, which is a shame as bat­tery life still falls short – just four hours 45 min­utes in our stream­ing video test, where an iPad goes twice the dis­tance. It’s dou­bly dis­ap­point­ing when 2014’s Switch 11 ran al­most as long with a real Core i3 chip. The Core M is In­tel’s ul­tra-low-power pro­ces­sor, but clearly this setup isn’t as ef­fi­cient as it could be.

On some vari­ants you can get ad­di­tional stor­age in the key­board, if only a whirring me­chan­i­cal disk, but it’s use­ful to com­ple­ment the tablet’s M.2 flash drive.

As a tablet, the Acer weighs around 760g – or ap­proach­ing twice the weight of an ad­mit­tedly smaller iPad Air 2 – and this mass can swell to a portly 1.6kg com­bined with key­board. At 24mm thick, the Acer is too out­sized for the ul­tra­book club.

Tablet I/O in­cludes mi­croSDXC slot, Mi­cro HDMI and USB 2.0. Charg­ing is through a sep­a­rate DC in­let, us­ing an un­sightly ca­ble with a spindly plug half­way up the lap­top screen.

The Core M pro­ces­sor means fan­less op­er­a­tion, but only by ag­gres­sively throt­tling it back to keep it cool. PCMark 8 Home gave the Acer just 1916 points, where sub-2000 scores fre­quently equate to ‘an­noy­ingly slow’ real-world per­for­mance. Win­dows 10 at least felt rea­son­ably swift thanks to re­spon­sive flash stor­age.

Un­like an iPad, or even an Asus Zen­book run­ning the same Core M chip with HD Graph­ics 5300, ac­tion gam­ing is out. We found the Switch 11 V av­er­aged just 23fps in Tomb Raider at 720p and the low­est pos­si­ble de­tail.

Com­pared to the iPad Air 2, Geek­bench showed the Acer’s pro­ces­sor and mem­ory were faster sin­gle-core mode (2208 against 1815 points), but 14 per­cent slower mul­ti­core (3975 against 4515).

Fol­low­ing Ap­ple, Acer has elim­i­nated the air gap un­der the top glass that makes shiny screens less com­fort­able to view, with a full-HD IPS panel of some merit. Colour gamut was only 74 per­cent sRGB, though it had good con­trast (740:1) and wide viewa­bil­ity. Judged by eye, it’s a sharp and vi­brant screen.

Ver­dict

At first glance, a two-in-one seems smart ex­cept ev­i­dence sug­gests few peo­ple want or need Win­dows tablets. Acer has also failed to ad­dress crit­i­cisms of 2014’s Switch 11 in this new model. This leaves us an un­der­pow­ered, ill-bal­anced and clunky lit­tle lap­top, with me­diocre bat­tery life and a nice screen. A bet­ter Win­dows lap­top is the £650 Zen­book UX305, but if you need a tablet, buy an iPad Air 2 for £399.

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