Laptop? Tablet? Windows 10 helps to blur the lines
On your first glance at this very compact portable PC, you might be forgiven for thinking the ‘netbook’ was making a comeback. On closer inspection, however, the Acer Aspire Switch 10 E Review is a ‘convertible’: a touchscreen laptop that also works as a tablet. It comes with the full Desktop version of Windows 8.1, and is ready for a free upgrade to Windows 10.
We tested this model’s predecessor, the Aspire Switch 10. Acer has improved the hinge considerably from the original rather flimsy connection: a gentle pull separates the screen from its keyboard dock, and when you want it back together again, magnets lock it into place with a satisfying click.
Thanks to this effective arrangement, the Acer Aspire Switch 10 E Review is a veritable shape shifter, offering modes including laptop, tablet and tent. The last doesn’t mean you can actually bivouac under it, unless you’re the Borrowers, but folding the machine into an inverted ‘V’ makes it act as its own stand for watching videos or showing a PowerPoint presentation.
The Acer Aspire Switch 10 E Review comes in a choice of bold colors, including pink, orange, blue and purple, as well as a more restful black. Unsurprisingly for the price, it’s constructed mainly from plastic that feels a bit cheap and tacky. The cross-hatched texture at least makes the whole device easy to grip, and won’t pick up fingerprints. At 1.2kg (including both parts), it’s a lot heavier than a tablet and not exceptionally light for a small laptop.
The display has a disappointing 1280×800 resolution, and the combination of small size and low detail makes images look fuzzy and busy websites feel cramped. The screen is at least bright, with wide viewing angles. You can connect a second monitor to the micro HDMI port.
This is strictly a system for basic tasks: the Intel processor may have four cores, but it’s still an Atom, Intel’s euphemism for ‘slow’, and a paltry 2GB of RAM doesn’t help. You can watch videos, but this is not the PC for editing them, or playing 3D games. One benefit of a processor that doesn’t do very much is that it doesn’t use up much battery, so the Switch 10 E lasted us just shy of 10 hours without power in moderate use.
Upgrading the operating system on a slow PC isn’t always a great idea, because newer software can make it struggle even more. But we’ve seen Windows 10 play fairly nicely with Atom systems, and with its balance of Desktop and touchscreen approaches it seems ideal for a machine like this.
Just 32GB of flash memory is included to store your files. You can slot a microSD card into the screen section for up to 64GB more, but SD cards are relatively slow, so this could make the Switch 10 E feel even less responsive. The keyboard dock has a USB port for accessories. Acer mentions a model with a 500GB hard drive built into the keyboard that’s security-locked to work only when your tablet section is connected. It sounds like a good idea, but we haven’t seen it yet in the UK.
The keyboard itself is comfortable to type on and about as well-spaced as you can expect for a 10in laptop. A decent sized touchpad is built in, if you prefer this to swiping on the touchscreen.
The Aspire Switch 10 E is an interesting choice if you have only basic computing needs. But if you really need a more capable system, or simply more space for photos, videos and other media, don’t let the cute format sway you..
This hybrid system gives you some versatility at a low price. Just don’t expect miracles from its build quality or performance.
1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735 quad-core processor • 2GB memory • 32GB SSD • 10.1in 1280×800-pixel touchscreen • 2-megapixel webcams front and rear • 802.11n Wi-Fi • Windows 8.1 • 23x262x180mm (HxWxD) • 1.2kg • One-year warranty