The $349 Acer Aspire Switch 10 E is ready to go all day. Boasting more than 8 hours of battery life, this 2-in-1 is a lightweight solution for students or mobile pros who work from 9 to 5, and leaves a little left over in the tank for overtime. Powered by an Intel Atom processor, the 10-inch hybrid is on the small side, but it can handle most productivity chores and multimedia tasks aptly. The Switch 10 E also separates from its dock to become an independent tablet or create several modes, making this convertible more versatile than flip-around models.
Maybe it's the cat-vomit puce color of my unit, but there's something about the Switch 10 E that makes it look like a bucket of fail. Thankfully, the convertible is available in more palatable colors, such as white, gray and turquoise, with coral and magenta to follow. At least the faux-linen cross-stitching pattern lining the exterior provides a sturdy grip.
For ports, you'll find micro USB, mini HDMI, a microSD slot and a headset jack on the left side of the tablet portion of the hybrid. On the right, there are buttons for power, home and volume. In case you want to whip out a mouse or a flash drive, Acer was kind enough to add a full USB port. Unfortunately, it's 2.0 instead of the faster 3.0. If you want to snap a quick photo, you can make use of the 2-megapixel cameras located on the front and rear of the tablet.
As a laptop, the Switch 10 E weighs 2.8 pounds and measures 10.3 x 7.1 x 0.9 inches. The hybrid is lighter and slimmer than 11-inch convertibles, but it should be because it has a smaller screen. Without the keyboard dock, the Switch 10 E weighs 1.4 pounds and measures 10.3 x 7.1 x 0.43 inches.
The top of the Switch 10 E's keyboard dock comprises a more austere matte black plastic. The island-style keys are smaller than those on other laptops due to the dock's relatively small dimensions. Still, the keys are well spaced, and despite the relatively short 1.3-mm travel, I notched 56 words per minute on the 10FastFingers.com typing test, which is within my usual range.
I had no problem executing gestures, such as pinch-zoom and two-finger rotate, on the 3.5 x 2-inch touchpad.
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Multiple Modes: Bend It
Aside from separating to form a tablet and useless-without-the-slate keyboard dock, the Aspire Switch 10 E can be maneuvered into several relatively useful new modes.
A quick pull upward releases the tablet from the dock's magnetic hold and can be used independently in what Acer calls Pad mode. The slate also can be flipped around and reattached to the dock for Display mode, creating a solid method to watch movies or presentations. And if you're ever in a tight spot like an airplane, you can flip the 2-in-1 over to enter Tent mode.
Similar to recent entries in the Lenovo Yoga series, the Switch 10 E launches a different wallpaper to correspond with each mode. It's not nearly as useful as Lenovo's take on this feature, which displays apps that complement the specific mode. And while the ability to have a true tablet is appealing, I still prefer Lenovo's 360-degree-hinge approach to convertibility. It's less complicated to not have to put the pieces back together.
Display and Audio: The No-Frills Edition
It's not the prettiest display you'll ever see, but the Switch 10 E's 1280 x 800 IPS touch panel is serviceable. I saw every wrinkle, crest and divot in disturbing detail on Killer Croc's leathery hide during the 1080p Suicide Squad trailer. However, the metallic sheen of the purple Lamborghini that actor Jared Leto and Harley Quinn were riding in looked muted, as did The Joker's normally neon-green locks.
The Switch 10 E hit 263 nits when measured for brightness, which was the second-best score among the six budget 2-in-1s we tested, behind only the Dell Inspiron 11 3000's 308 nits and enough to top the 234-nit average. The convertible delivered 70 percent of the color gamut, again beating the category average (68 percent) but playing second fiddle to the Dell (81.4 percent).
If you're a fan of table-rattling beats or loud audio in general, this is not the system for you. The Switch 10 E's bottom-mounted speakers barely filled my small bedroom with sound. The bass was virtually nonexistent on Kool & The Gang's "Summer Madness." Both the synthesized highs and the cymbals were muddy.
The Acer Aspire Switch 10 E's 1.33-GHz Intel Atom Z3735 quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM will help you create documents, do some light image editing, stream movies and television shows, and play a round of Hearthstone or two. The 2-in-1 deftly handled streaming an episode of BoJack Horseman while running a system scan with eight open Google Chrome tabs.
Unfortunately, the Switch 10 E was the worst performer on our Open Word Stress Test, taking 64.4 seconds to open a 69MB Word document filled with images of varying sizes. The Core-M-powered HP Pavilion x360 11 dominated, completing the task in 25.9 seconds.
On Geekbench 3, a synthetic performance benchmark, the Switch 10E's score of 2,123 beat the Lenovo Flex 3 11 (1,834) and the Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 (1,725). Only the HP Pavilion x360 11 (3,992) and the 13-inch Asus TP300 (3,922) scored higher.
The Switch 10 E kept its cool when streaming a full-HD video for 15 minutes. The touchpad, space between the G and H keys, and bottom measured 80, 81 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. All of those temperatures are well below the 95-degree Laptop Mag comfort threshold.
Battery Life: Last Hybrid Standing
Here's where the Aspire Switch 10 comes into its own. The hybrid lasted 8 hours and 28 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness). That's 2 hours longer than the budget 2-in-1 average (6:26). The next closest in this price range was the Dell Inspiron 11 3000, which lasted 6:42.
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Software: An App for Every Occasion
Acer loaded the Aspire Switch 10 E with a plethora of apps that vary in their degree of usefulness. The Dropbox app is one of the better options, as the company has teamed with Acer to give users 15GB of space free for three months when they log in or create a new account. McAfee LiveSafe will keep malware at bay, while Avast SecureLine VPN adds an extra layer of security between you and potential ne'er-do-wells.
Acer-branded apps include the cloud-based abDocs, abFiles, abMedia and abPhoto, letting you access your documents, files, music and images from any device. There's also Acer Screen Grasp, which offers a small cache of editing and aggregation features for capturing screen shots.
Feeling bored? The Switch 10 E has Netflix, Kindle, Spotify, Hulu Plus, Flipboard and Music Maker Jam.
Despite its off-putting design, the $349 Acer Aspire Switch 10 E has several positive qualities that shouldn't be overlooked. For starters, there's the nearly 8.5 hours of battery life that will get you through a full workday or school day. The hybrid is also highly versatile, transforming among four modes with a quick snap and a twist.
If you're willing to spend more and you prefer a bigger display, get the 11-inch Dell Inspiron 11 3000. But if you're looking for a detachable 2-in-1 that has passable performance with great battery life for less than $400, the Switch 10 E is a good bet.