Acer Aspire Switch 11 V SW5-173 laptop and tablet review

Following Microsoft’s blueprint, Acer has been loyally building convertible tablet-laptops for Windows 8, when the OS developer became hell-bent on making Windows touchable in a post-iDevice world. The Aspire Switch 11 V is a subtly upgraded version of last year’s 2-in-1 Switch 11, now headlining with Windows 10, an improved screen, and 800MHz Intel Core M processor in place of 1.5GHz Core i3. See also: Best ultraportable laptops

The Switch is essentially 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, these talking to the tablet through shiny contacts rather than Bluetooth. Like Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, the hinged screen becomes continuously movable to adjust rake; but similarly to the last Switch 11, the ensemble is far too back-heavy. Also see: Best new tablets coming in 2016.

There’s no extra battery in the keyboard, which is a shame as battery life still falls short – just 4 hr 45 min in our streaming video test, where an iPad goes twice the distance. It's doubly disappointing when last year’s Switch 11 ran almost as long with a real Core i3 chip. The Core M is Intel's ulta-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 (500GB), but it's useful to complement the tablet’s M.2 flash drive.

See also: Hands-on with the Microsoft Surface Book

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 spindly plug halfway up the laptop screen.

Aspire Switch 11 V review

Acer Aspire Switch 11 V SW5-173 review: Performance

The Core M processor means fanless operation, but only by aggressive throttling it back to maintain 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 iPad Air 2, Geekbench showed the Acer’s processor and memory were faster single-core mode (2208 vs 1815 points) but 14 percent slower multi-core (3975 vs 4515 points).

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 but it had good contrast (740:1) and wide viewability. Judged by eye, it’s a sharp and vibrant screen.

Acer Aspire Switch 11 V: Specs

  • 11.6-inch (1920 x 1080) 190ppi IPS gloss touchscreen
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 800MHz Intel Core M-5Y10c (2.0GHz Turbo) 2C, 4T
  • Intel HD Graphics 5300
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 128GB M.2 SATA Revision 3.0 SSD
  • 802.11ac dual-band
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x Micro-USB 2.0 (tablet) 1x USB 3.0 (keyboard)
  • Micro HDMI
  • microSDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • 0.9Mp front camera, 2.1Mp rear camera
  • single mic
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • detachable UK tiled keyboard and buttonless trackpad
  • 35Wh lithium-ion polymer battery, non-removable
  • 45 W mains charger with IEC C5 inlet
  • 298 x 205 x 23.8mm (9.3mm tablet)
  • 1569g (761g tablet + 808g keyboard)
  • 11.6-inch (1920 x 1080) 190ppi IPS gloss touchscreen
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 800MHz Intel Core M-5Y10c (2.0GHz Turbo) 2C, 4T
  • Intel HD Graphics 5300
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 128GB M.2 SATA Revision 3.0 SSD
  • 802.11ac dual-band
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x Micro-USB 2.0 (tablet) 1x USB 3.0 (keyboard)
  • Micro HDMI
  • microSDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • 0.9Mp front camera, 2.1Mp rear camera
  • single mic
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • detachable UK tiled keyboard and buttonless trackpad
  • 35Wh lithium-ion polymer battery, non-removable
  • 45 W mains charger with IEC C5 inlet
  • 298 x 205 x 23.8mm (9.3mm tablet)
  • 1569g (761g tablet + 808g keyboard)

OUR VERDICT

At first glance, a 2-in-1 seems smart except evidence suggests few people want or need Windows tablets. Acer has also failed to address critisicms of last year'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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