Acer Switch 11 V SW5-173
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.
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.