PC

Affordable alternative to the Surface Pro

The kickstand of Acer's Switch 7 Black Edition works well if one is using it on a desk, but is less reliable when using it on one's lap.
The kickstand of Acer's Switch 7 Black Edition works well if one is using it on a desk, but is less reliable when using it on one's lap.

The Acer Switch 7 Black Edition is a tablet-laptop hybrid similar to Microsoft's Surface devices.

Its computing bits are in its 13.5-inch tablet, which is propped up by an adjustable kickstand.

A thin detachable keyboard with a fabric finish and a Wacom-based stylus stored in a slot at the corner of the tablet complete the set.

But the Switch does not quite measure up to its Microsoft competitor in terms of looks and build. For one thing, the Acer is much heavier. Together with its keyboard, the Switch is about 1.6kg compared with the 1.1kg Surface Pro.

Its kickstand pops out when you press its bottom edge on a flat surface, such as a desk, and activate the two buttons at both ends of the edge.

While it works well if you are using it on a desk, triggering the kickstand mechanism is less reliable when using it on your lap. I also found it impossible to open the kickstand while holding the tablet in one hand.

The mechanism seems overly complicated. Acer should have followed Microsoft and let users manually flip the kickstand open instead.

Its 13.5-inch screen is slightly larger than the Surface's 12.3-inch display. But physically, the Switch feels much larger because of its chunky screen bezels.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $2,598

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-8550U (1.8GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce MX150 2GB GDDR5

    MEMORY: 16GB DDR3

    SCREEN SIZE: 13.5 inches, 2,256 x 1,504 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 1 x USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB 3.0, microSD card slot, audio jack

    BATTERY: 37 watt-hour

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

Located on the right bezel under a layer of glass is an optical fingerprint sensor. It is not very good. I had to apply pressure with more force than usual for my fingerprint to be detected.

Acer should have opted for an infrared facial-recognition camera instead.

The display looks good - bright with excellent viewing angles. Its 3:2 aspect ratio is identical to the Surface's and is more suited to productivity as it lets you see more on the vertical axis.

The right edge of the Switch has a full-sized USB Type-A port, as well as a Thunderbolt 3 port that can be used for data transfer and display output.

Acer has included an HDMI dongle for the latter. The left edge houses the power button and volume rocker, both of which feel mushy and soft when pressed.

Like the Surface, the Switch's backlit keyboard is held via magnets and it fell off the moment I gave the tablet a violent shake.

It offers decent key travel, but like its Microsoft competitor, there is a fair amount of flex because it is merely a thin cover without any support underneath it.

The stylus is responsive and shows no lag when writing with it. But it is thin and not as comfortable to hold as an actual pen.

The Switch has a dedicated graphics chip. However, I am surprised it uses a fanless liquid-cooling system instead of the standard cooling fans.

The Switch felt relatively cool while running a system benchmark like PCMark 10. But a more graphically taxing app like a gaming benchmark causes the back of the tablet to become fairly warm.

To be fair, you are unlikely to play games on this device. While its entry-level GeForce MX150 graphics chip is slightly better than the standard Intel integrated graphics, it is still not ideal for gaming.

Its battery stamina is middling, at about five hours and 15 minutes in The Straits Times' video-loop battery test at maximum brightness. Newer ultrabooks typically manage six to seven hours.

The Switch is much more affordable than the Microsoft Surface Pro. Acer includes the keyboard cover and stylus with its tablet for $2,598.

The Surface Pro, with a similar hardware configuration, adds up to $3,535 with its keyboard cover and pen.

But Microsoft's tablet offers a better experience. It is lighter, easier to hold and its pen is more comfortable to write with.

• Verdict: Acer's alternative to the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet is much more affordable, but comes with flaws.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2018, with the headline 'Affordable alternative to the Surface Pro'. Print Edition | Subscribe