Acer takes yet another step towards the right direction with the release of the Acer Switch Alpha 12 that enters into the portable notebook market to compete with the likes of Microsoft surface Pro. The detachable notebook boasts of a beautiful design, strong performance and a bright display with a resolution of 2160×1440. The Acer is powered by the 5th generation Intel core i5-6200 processor, clocked at 2.3GHZ, 8GB of RAM and 256 GB solid state drive. This is the first detachable that is liquid-cooled in the market that promises complete silence while handling your tasks. The fact that the notebook weds the laptop and tablet design, it meets the needs of most Windows fans who are after solid performance for everyday use. It could have easily made it to Our Editor’s Choice list but minor bloatware manifestation issues, an average battery and issues with its touch pad make it to fall short of this title when compared to other pricier competitors in the category.
The Switch Alpha 12 reads from the script of Microsoft Surface 2-in-1 detachable design that combines a tablet, keyboard and a kickstand. The adjustable kickstand pulls from the aluminum end of the notebook with a silver-grey finish on its rear that features an Acer logo and a brushed motif. The notebook measures 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.6 inches and weighs 2.8 pounds when fully assembled, removing the keyboard the device measures 0.4 inches thick and weighs 2 pounds. It rates well with its competitor such as the HP Spectre X2 that is a bit taller and lighter measuring at 11.8 x 8.2 x 0.5 and weighing 2.7 pounds. The Microsoft Surface Pro which happens to be its main rival lighter and thinner measuring at 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.4 inches and weighing 2.4 pounds with the keyboard attached. The Acer’s portability and versatility to work both as a laptop and a tablet makes it a good companion for a business trip without having to carry a bulky backpack.
Under the hood, the notebook houses an Intel Core i5-6200U dual-core processor clocked at 2.3 GHZ coupled with 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM. The combination allows the machine offer high productivity without lagging when multiple tasks are thrown at it. The notebook can open up to 15 tabs and stream 1080p videos without slowing down. Using Acer’s fan-less liquid cooling solution the notebook stays silent and cool while running all these tasks. It also includes a 256 GB solid state drive that offers fast boot time and loading of programs. Whereas the fast solid drive is welcome, it offers limited space for storage of movies, photos, music, and other personal documents. Acer misses on including a 1TB option that could have worked well with geeks who have a lot of stuff to store such as designers after a portable workstation.
The switch comes with an integrated HD 520 graphics that is not good enough to handle demanding titles such as The Witcher or Overwatch but will be fine with casual gaming like Sims 4, Minecraft or Fifa. But throw in demanding titles and you need to turn most eye candy off. When playing Battlefield 4 and GTA you can get up to 30fps if you keep the settings low-medium with a resolution of 720p.
The Acer switch comes with a limited selection of connectivity options due to its small size. It features a USB 3.0 port, a USB Type-C port that supports multiple devices and a headphone/mic combo jack. There is no HDMI port but you can still extend your display to larger screens using the USB-C to HDMI adapter. It is obvious that we do not expect an optical drive in this device, but you are at liberty to purchase one separately to use when need rises. There is a microSD (HC/XC) card reader slot that will allow you to expand the storage or copy your photos from the camera. Internet connectivity is available by way of a speedy built in 802.11ac Wireless adapter and the device supports Bluetooth 4.0.
The switch comes with a 12-inch QHD touchscreen with a resolution of 2160 x 1440 that supports IPS technology. The screen matches what we saw in its competitors including the Microsoft surface Pro 4. The screen offers vivid and beautiful colors that makes the screen up to the task for those interested in watching Netflix, browsing the web or editing some notes on OneNote. The screen’s 81.3% coverage of the sRGB color gamut is OK for regular use, but it disappoints with its 57.8% coverage of the Adobe RGB. This is not a problem for regular use but professional designers and artists will find the Adobe RGB coverage wanting while trying to make use of the Stylus. The tablet won’t be a great choice for digital painting and editing of photos due to its inaccurate colors. Artists will find themselves comfortable with stellar tablets such as the Galaxy TabPro S that gets the job done. The optional Acer Active Stylus provides an easy way to draw or take quick notes on the Switch. There is a 720p selfie camera that comes in handy for video-hatting and a 5MP rear camera for use when you have detached the keyboard to take photos.
The laptop features a back-lit keyboard with 1.4mm of keys travel with nice spacing that makes it comfortable for typing thus better than average keyboards. The touchpad works well but acer faltered with the integration of the right and left click buttons on the main pad that makes the pointer fly around whenever you attempt to click and drag. The multi-touch capabilities of the pad do not measure up as it struggles to recognize basic tasks such scrolling up and down using two fingers.
The Switch comes with two built in front-facing speakers that are clear but not loud enough. The thin dimensions of the device is generally the reason for the under-powered speakers as it focuses more on portability. The speakers are however good enough for watching Netflix movies but will under-perform when it comes to playing music and expecting a great sound. This is a general feature we have seen on all hybrid devices that do not focus on the audio quality.
Acer’s drawback is also evident on its battery life apart from the bloatware infestation. Acer promises 8 hours of battery life but in real life you will get between 4-5 hours of usage on average to high demanding tasks. It runs behind the Galaxy TabPro S which is a M-powered hybrid that lasts up to 7 hours.
The Acer Switch Alpha 12 is a decent 2-in-1 detachable that offers solid performance for those who are in love with windows convertibles. If you are on a budget, and the Microsoft Surface Pro seems to break your bank, then the Acer comes in as a solid choice. Some of the low points of the Acer include its battery life that does not inspire users to carry it all day without having the charging adapter close. However, uninstalling a number of bloatware could slightly increase the battery life of this laptop. The notebook offers a snappy performance thanks to its i5 processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD that allow it to run more exotic programs than a Chrome browser or MS Office suite. The Asus Transformer 3 Pro is also a great choice thanks to its Intel core i7 processor and 2880 x 1920 display. All said, the Surface Pro 4 remains a better choice for buyers who can afford it.