If the Acer Switch 3, the company's $450 detachable 2-in-1, were just a tablet, it might be great. But Acer sells this machine as a complete PC, and in that regard, it's far from the total package. Sure, it has a bright display and solid construction, but everything else feels like an afterthought. The cameras are clumsy and hard to focus, the keyboard is cheap and plasticky, and it has short battery life that won't get you through the day. Want a bright screen at all costs? This is for you. Otherwise, you should consider other midrange options.
I'll give the Switch this: It feels more premium than I would expect for something under $500. The tablet has a gunmetal-gray back with Acer's logo in silver and the Switch 3 logo on the kickstand. The rear camera is located just above the logo.
The kickstand has a notch on each side and needs to be pulled out manually. I wish it had buttons or larger openings so that it would be more comfortable to open.
On the other side of the tablet, the 1920 x 1200 display is flanked by a thick bezel. The detachable keyboard attaches to magnets on the bottom of the slate, with island-style keys, a touchpad and a loop to hold the included stylus.
The tablet is 1.9 pounds on its own, while the entire package weighs 2.8 pounds and is just 0.6 inches thick. The HP Pavilion x360 is a heavier 3 pounds and a thicker 0.8 inches, while the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 weighs the most, at 3.6 pounds, also coming in at 0.8 inches thick.
For the price, the Switch 3 gives you an incredible 12.2-inch, 1920 x 1200 display that punches above its weight class in both brightness and color. When I watched a 1080p trailer for Thor: Ragnarok, the Hulk was the perfect shade of emerald green, and I could make out every little glass shard when Thor leaped out of a window.
The screen covers an excellent 150 percent of the sRGB color gamut, far above the ultraportable average (101 percent) and more than twice as vivid as the Pavilion (70 percent) and Inspiron (71 percent).
It's also brighter than the competition, at 348 nits of average brightness. The average is 289 nits, while the Inspiron (223 nits) and Pavilion (193 nits) were both far dimmer.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Stylus
The detachable keyboard on the Switch 3 is plasticky and bouncy. While I appreciate the soft-touch wrist rest, the keys, with 1.4 millimeters of travel and 71 grams of actuation, had a lot of give (both when used flat and when at an angle). On the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I hit 108 words per minute, within my average range, but with a 6 percent error rate -- three times my usual 2 percent.
The 3.7 x 2.1-inch touchpad is a little small and has the same plasticky feel as the keys, and I occasionally hit the top while two-finger scrolling. But it accepted every Windows 10 gesture I tried on it, whether tapping four fingers to open the Action Center or showing all of my open windows with a three-finger swipe.
The Acer Active Pen has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, but it doesn't feel as good as I would hope. It works, and the palm rejection was solid, but the tip was rougher on the screen than competitors were, and I could've used a bit more weight in the pen. It doesn't feel sturdy, and the clip was loose.
The speakers on the Switch 3 are a mixed bag at best. I listened to the All-American Rejects' "Move Along," and the vocals were clear up close, though the guitars and drums were quiet and the bass was nonexistent. It didn't come close to filling the room with sound, and when I moved just a few feet from the computer, the vocals and guitars were all I could hear. Additionally, there isn't any software on the Switch 3 to help you adjust the audio to your liking.
The Switch 3 isn't a high-performance machine. With a 1.1-GHz Intel Pentium N4200 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage, it's for people who like to focus on one task at a time. I had eight tabs open in Google Chrome, including one streaming an 1080p episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and I noticed lag when switching between sites.
This 2-in-1 earned a score of 4,495 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, beating the Pavilion (4,974, Pentium N4200) but falling behind the ultraportable average (6,522) and the Inspiron's score (6,759, Core i5-7200U).
The Switch 3 took 57 seconds to copy 4.97GB of files, a rate of 89.2 MBps. While that's slower than the average (210.6MBps), it beat both the scores of both the Inspiron (32.4MBps) and the Pavilion (57.2MBps).
It took 9 minutes and 13 seconds for the Switch 3 to pair 20,000 names and addresses in the OpenOffice spreadsheet macro, just 1 second behind the Pavilion's time (9:12) and far slower than the average (5:56) and the Inspiron's showing (4:01).
The Switch 3 isn't made for photo editing or gaming. It earned a low score of 34,853 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark. While that beats the Pavilion's score (29,444), it's well below the average (55,823) and the Inspiron's mark (62,604), and neither of those laptops are graphics powerhouses, either.
The Switch 3 is nice and light, which is good, because you'll have to carry the charger around with this machine. It lasted only 5 hours and 55 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which browses the web continuously over Wi-Fi. The average ultraportable lasts far longer (8:22), though the Pavilion fared even worse (5:48) and the Inspiron was also short of the average (6:09).
The Switch 3 is the rare 2-in-1 with both front and rear-facing cameras. They're both bad. The 720p webcam had trouble focusing, and in a few shots at my desk, opted to emphasize the lights behind me, blowing out the photo. The green in my shirt was hard to see, and it was tough to make out details in my face.
The 2560 x 1440 rear camera was also blurry. When I took a photo of a 7,500-piece Lego Millennium Falcon, the image was neither sharp nor crisp, but rather hazy with a yellow tint. You're better off taking pictures with your smartphone.
Be careful if you're using the Switch as a tablet; it runs warm. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, the back of the machine measured 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which goes above our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Software and Warranty
Acer has a history of filling its computers with useless junk, and the Switch 3 is no exception. Even the Windows 10 task bar has unnecessary shortcuts, including Priceline, Netflix and Firefox. Also installed are Amazon, Dashlane, eBay, Evernote, Music Maker Jam and WildTangent Games.
Acer's own software is slightly more useful. There's abFiles and abPhotos to access your content from cloud-connected devices and Quick Access to turn on more features like Bluelight Shield.
On top of its own bloatware, the Switch 3 comes with the usual junk that accompanies Windows 10, including Plex, Keeper, Candy Crush Soda Saga, March of Empires: War of Lords, Bubble Witch 3 Saga and Drawboard PDF.
The Acer Switch 3 is a midrange detachable 2-in-1 that seems to forget that both halves need to be great. The display is bright and vivid, and the tablet is built solid, but the keyboard is bouncy and feels like an afterthought in comparison. Add on blurry cameras, short battery life and a little too much heat, and you should definitely consider alternative devices. The best thing you can do in this situation is spend a bit more. The Inspiron 13 5000 is a convertible 2-in-1 starting at $450. It has a comfortable keyboard and a much faster processor, though its battery life is similar to the Switch's, and the screen isn't as nice.
But the Switch doesn't deliver as an entire computer, and if that's what you need, this machine simply isn't right for you.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag