Acer's latest laptop could make a splash in the PC industry. Acer's new Switch Alpha 12 is the first 2-in-1 with liquid cooling, which allows it to pack in a powerful Intel 6th Generation Core Series CPU without the need for a noisy fan. Due out in June, the $599, 12-inch detachable has a host of premium features, including a 2160 x 1440 display, a speedy 128 to 512GB SSD and USB Type-C charging.
Fanless laptops are a hot commodity these days, figuratively speaking, with a number of noise-free 2-in-1s and ultraportables hitting the market in the past year. However, to avoid active cooling, vendors have had to use Intel's low-power, but comparatively-slow Core M CPUs. The Switch 12 solves this problem by using a liquid to absorb the additional heat from its Core Series CPU.
Acer calls its cooling technology "LiquidLoop," because the coolant passes through the system in a closed pipe that absorbs the heat and uses the hot air to move, rather than requiring a pump or radiator as you'd see in a desktop.
We had a chance to spend a few moments with the Switch Alpha 12 at Acer's press event and were pleased with its colorful display and snappy keyboard. The keyboard feels a lot like the Surface Pro 4's, with great snappy feedback and a large touchpad. Just as with the Surface, the keyboad uses a small, but powerful magnet to attach to the slate. There's also a stylus, which is about the size of a large ballpoint pen and felt a bit heavy in our hands.
The Switch Alpha 12 uses a thin, switch-like kickstand that looks a lot like the one on the HP Spectre X2, but not like the thick ones on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Lenovo Miix 700. In our brief time with the laptop, we were able to bend the lever back into several positions, one of which was close to flat and another of which was closer to 90 degrees.
Unfortunately, at 1.98 pounds for the slate alone and 2.76-pounds with its keyboard, Acer's 2-in-1 feels bulky in comparison to the 1.73-pound Surface Pro 4 (2.37 with the keyboard). On the bright side, the Switch Alpha uses USB Type-C for both charging and data, but also has a USB 3.0 port for connecting to most of today's peripherals.
Though we didn't get to watch any videos on it, the 2160 x 1440 IPS display appeared vibrant and viewing angles were strong. The system felt responsive as we navigated around the desktop, but we'll need to run real benchmark tests on Switch Alpha 12 to see if the LiquidLoop cooling and Core Series processor provide really strong performance.
The concept of liquid cooling may be new to lightweight laptops, but high-end desktop PCs have used liquid-filled pipes for years. Last fall, Asus unveiled the 17-inch, GX700 gaming laptop, which attaches to a liquid-cooling dock. However, the Switch Alpha 12 is the first mainstream laptop to employ the technology.