Acer seems to be loathe to let go of the netbook form factor, with their Switch range of devices conforming to that design spec while at the same time being standalone tablets. It’s an unusual thing to stick with but every company has to have their own er… thing that they do. This is Acer’s.
And by and large, the idea works. Sort of. I was okay with the Acer Aspire Switch 10 and now, a few months later, we’re faced with Acer’s Switch 10 E. What’s the difference? Not much, really, except that the Switch 10 E is a bit cheaper – in terms of price as well as build quality.
A Whole Slab
Like the Switch 10, the Switch 10 E is a tablet that just so happens to come with a keyboard attachment. One which magnetically affixes itself to the display/tablet section. Although the keyboard section is a nice-to-have, it’s more or less optional. Everything of value, minus a single full-sized USB port on the right hand side, lives in the 10.1-inch screen.
All of the internals and all of the major ports are behind or arrayed alongside the 1,280 x 800 IPS LCD screen. Down the left-hand side are the microSD slot, headphone jack, mini-HDMI and micro-USB charging port. Opposite is the power button, volume rocker and a Windows Start Menu button, for reasons I can’t quite quite fathom. The docking section, as well as the holes for those magnetically-held tabs, is on the bottom, while the top of the Switch 10 E is unsullied.
The bodywork, both on the keyboard and the rear of the tablet section, is a heavily textured plastic. It comes across as durable enough, if containing a touch more flex than I’d have liked, but the textures bode ill for anyone who lets this machine get dusty. If there’s a mark on this machine, it’s not coming off.
Behind The Curtain
Acer’s tablet/PC hybrid runs Windows 8.1 SL, using Microsoft’s now-outdated operating system to power an Intel Atom Z3735F 1.34GHz, 2GB of system memory (1.93GB according to Geekbench, our benchmarking app of choice for these things) and an Intel-made graphics system.
There’s a 64GB SSD (51GB visible, 47GB available) inside the Aspire Switch 10 E and some models also ship with a 500GB hard drive hidden in the keyboard section. Unfortunately ours, the SW3-013, wasn’t quite as blessed – extra storage is by way of the microSD slot or not at all. Not exactly an inspiring specification loadout, even if you were looking at this one as just a tablet.
Oh, and the Switch 10 E is also home to the typical load of Acer crapware, like McAfee and the Acer Explorer, though I have to say that there seems to be less of it than usual. That’s always nice to see.
Pedal To The Metal
As you might have guessed, the specs didn’t leave any of us very hopeful about the Acer Aspire Switch 10 E’s capabilities in terms of performance. This is one time I would not have minded being disappointed but multi-platform benchmark Geekbench gives the Switch 10 E a single core of just 730. Multi-core is 2007 and while these scores are okay-ish for an Atom processor, most mid-range smartphones will trounce the Switch 10 E and just about every full-sized notebook will stick its head in the toilet and steal its lunch money.
Let’s put it this way. The Samsung Galaxy S4 puts up a better benchmark than Acer’s hybrid. But this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for users. The usual run of apps don’t lag appreciably but I wouldn’t use this notebook, with or without the keyboard, for anything more intense than tootling around on the internet, updating social media and perhaps watching locally-stored videos when Eskom have taken the lights down again.
If you’re after anything more impressive, like multitasking and the odd bit of gaming and/or apps more resource-hungry than Office 365 (you get a one-year Personal subscription with this unit, by the way) then the Aspire Switch 10 E isn’t for you. The performance isn’t great and the main reason to opt for one of these is because you’re on a serious budget. Even then, you should probably drop the R5k-odd on something better endowed in the specs department. Acer’s hybrid just isn’t that enticing compared to a dedicated and better-endowed notebook.