Acer Switch Alpha 12 a worthy rival to Microsoft Surface Pro 4

The Acer Switch Alpha 12. Acer has made a few tweaks to its device that arguably improves on the Surface Pro 4.
The Acer Switch Alpha 12. Acer has made a few tweaks to its device that arguably improves on the Surface Pro 4.PHOTO: ACER

The Acer Switch Alpha 12 joins the growing ranks of 2-in-1 hybrids that aspire to beat the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 at its own game.

Like the Dell XPS 12, Lenovo Miix 700 and Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, the Alpha 12 takes after the Surface Pro.

It is a 12-inch tablet that turns into a laptop when attached to its keyboard dock.

But Acer has made a few tweaks to its device that arguably improves on the Surface Pro.

Take its integrated kickstand, which works very much like the one on the Surface Pro.

It is opened from the sides and can be adjusted to any angle up to 165 degrees.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $1,898

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6500U (2.5GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Intel HD Graphics 520

    RAM: 8GB

    SCREEN Size: 12 inches, 2,160 x 1,440 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.0, microSD card reader, audio jack

    BATTERY: 37 watt-hour

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

But Acer has added a rubberised anti-slip coating at the base that keeps the Alpha 12 stable when placed on the lap or desk.

However, it is the Alpha 12's internal cooling system that the Taiwanese PC maker is probably most proud of.

This custom liquid-cooling system does away with the usual cooling fan.

Although other PC makers also have fanless hybrids, their devices are equipped with less-powerful, low-power Intel Core M chips. According to Acer, the Alpha 12 is the first fanless 2-in-1 hybrid with a sixth-generation Intel Core i7.

In the course of the review, the aluminium back became warm during video playback, but did not become uncomfortable to touch.

The 12-inch IPS display looks great with superb viewing angles and good contrast.

The 2,160 x 1,440 pixel screen resolution does not offer as many pixels as the Surface Pro's display, but the difference is negligible.

Unlike Microsoft, Acer includes the keyboard cover accessory for free. It has a similar fabric-like finish that seems to pick up smudges easily.

I found the key travel good and like that the keyboard is backlit.

However, I was not pleased with the amount of flex when typing on it.

At the side of the keyboard is a loop to hold the bundled stylus pen. There is also a plastic holder to attach the pen to the tablet. But the Surface Pro does it better by using magnets to hold its pen to its side. Acer says that its pen has just 256 levels of pressure sensitivity compared with 1,024 for the Surface Pen, which makes the Surface Pen the better option for drawing.

The Surface Pro also has the edge over the Alpha 12 in the portability department.

The Microsoft device is 786g compared with 900g for the Acer. With its keyboard attached, the Alpha 12 is around 1.25kg.

At around 6hr, the Alpha 12 lasts an hour longer than the Surface Pro in our video-loop battery test. The Surface's bright, high-resolution screen probably contributes to its inferior battery stamina.

Finally, Acer has priced the Alpha 12 (with keyboard and stylus) aggressively at $1,898. A similar Surface Pro 4 (with 256GB storage compared with the Alpha's 512GB) will cost $2,698.

Vincent Chang

•With its solid features and competitive pricing, the Alpha 12 will give the Surface Pro 4 a run for its money.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2016, with the headline 'Acer Alpha Switch 12 a worthy rival to Microsoft Surface Pro 4'. Print Edition | Subscribe