The slightly awkward name aside, the Switch 12 is a 12 inch hybrid laptop that takes concepts seen in Microsoft’s Surface Pro line and repackages them in a way that is both appealing to the eyes and the pocket.
Lets get this out of the way first. The Switch 12 looks an awful lot like a Surface Pro. This is no bad thing, since Acer have taken those ideas and refined them with some thoughtful additional touches. The solid-feeling tablet portion of the offering weighs in at 0.9kg. Adding the keyboard and stylus brings this weight up to 1.2kg. Stereo speakers face out from the top of the screen and give a good all-round sound (although slightly tinny, as one would expect on a device of this form factor – this is no Swift 5.) The screen features a stand on the back that can be adjusted by up to 165 degrees, which is great for all purposes from normal typing through to sketching or annotating with the stylus. The stand itself has a rubberised base, which provides grip on slippery surfaces or when being held, although this does mean the stand does protrude a little when folded away, which may not be to everyone’s taste. I found it slightly odd at first, but soon got used to it as a hand-hold. The back of the screen itself is rounded and pleasingly tactile in a way that the Surface Pro, for example, isn’t. At less than 1cm thick, the screen isn’t ultra thin, but also no heavyweight.
A powerful magnet on the base of the screen secures the keyboard and allows 2 angles of keyboard use, either flat or slightly tilted (which I find easier for typing.) The keyboard also has a holder for the battery powered stylus, which is a disappointing location – attached to the screen would have been better. I would have also liked to have seen the stylus attached by magnet and use wireless charging, since the removable stylus battery will run down with use (so keep a spare AAAA battery handy.)
The keyboard is excellent and feels surprisingly rigid. It is covered by a fabric material, which has a pleasant feel, and the trackpad ‘clicks’ properly in use. If it wasn’t for the thin profile of the keyboard, you could be using a ‘proper’ laptop. The keys themselves are backlit and have a decent amount of travel – touch typing presents no problems here. Finally, I’m pleased to report that Acer have resisted the design tics seen on the Swift models – the power button is nowhere near the delete key, and the rest of the keys are spaced evenly.
The last exterior design element of note is the power button, which is on the side, alongside a rocker switch for volume and a hardware windows key, which is good to see.
The Switch 12 features a full sized USB 3 port, as well as a USB-C port (which can be used for charging the device if necessary), a headset socket and a power socket. Hidden beneath the stand is a micro-SD card slot for external storage.
One of the stars of the show is the screen. The glossy panel is simply gorgeous to look at with the 2160 x 1440 display being crisp and clear. 10 point multi-touch means that this tablet should take whatever the upcoming Windows 10 Creator Edition can throw at, including (hopefully) Surface Dial support. If I manage to get both a Surface Dial and the Switch 12 in the room at the same time, I will report back. The stylus does feel a little laggy on the version of Windows 10 that comes in the box (the Surface Pro 4 stylus is the high-water-mark in this regard) but installing the latest insider build of Windows dealt with this, and the stylus is a pleasure to use with all the upcoming inking features.
Acer make much of the liquid cooling technology in this tablet, and the fanless 6th generation Core i3 CPU runs silently and cool (even when being stretched by some of the 3D tools in the next version of Windows 10.) i5 and i7 versions are also available. That said, this is not a gaming rig, and the Intel HD 520 graphics chipset means that modern gaming is out of the question, although older or less demanding games such as Minecraft will work fine. Memory is 4gb in the version I tested, with a 128gb SSD (8gb RAM and 256gb SSD’s can also be specified.) This should be enough for most day to day to tasks, but obviously this particular device will struggle with CPU intensive functions like transcoding.
Acer quote an 8 hour battery life for this device. In my testing I saw between 6 and 7 hours, although a portion of that was using an insider build of Windows 10 that is unlikely to have the most optimised power plans.
Microsoft have quietly killed off the non-Pro versions of the Surface line, and Acer have clearly stepped up to fill that niche with this device. At less than £600, the offering includes the tablet, stylus and an excellent keyboard. That is excellent value. Obviously some limitations inherent in this design need to be considered (you won’t be using it on your lap with the keyboard, for example) but if you are in the market for a hybrid laptop and like the idea of a stylus, then the Switch 12 should definitely be high on your list for consideration.