Hands on: Acer Aspire Switch 10 (2015) review

A thin upgrade walking on glass

What is a hands on review?
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Acer has been chasing after the hybrid laptop dream for a long time. Quirky iterations, such as the Aspire P3 and the Aspire R15 were interesting experiments, but they all failed to strike the right balance between a laptop and tablet. Today, the company has finally nailed the design and build quality, but forgot some key components in crafting the new Switch 10.

The 10-inch 2-in-1 laptop with a detachable keyboard is a flat improvement to last year's model. While they might seem nearly identical, a closer look will reveal the new Switch 10 has inherited a Gorilla Glass 3 shell from Acer's flagship Aspire S7 Ultrabook.

The glass back is a big step up from the hollow and cheap-feeling plastic frame on outgoing Switch 10 we reviewed in late 2014. Thankfully, the added premium touch does not add much weight. Tipping the scales at 2.64 pounds (1.19 kg), the 2015 Switch 10 is lighter than HP's recently announced11-inch Pavilion x360, which weighs 3.21 pounds (1.45 kg).

Acer Aspire Switch 10 2015

Pull the screen off the detachable keyboard, and the device as a tablet feels like nothing, weighing just 1.31-pounds (0.6 kg) weight. That's even lighter than the 1.37-pound (0.62 kg) Surface 3.

Of course, with such a tiny machine, you may find the keyboard too cramped for your style. More than once, my thumbs knocked into each other while trying to just type a few simple sentences. But if you're a fan of iPad and other tablet keyboards, you should feel right at home with the Switch 10.

Acer Aspire Switch 10 2015

Baby got bass

The glass screen lid isn't the only shake up the Switch 10 has seen. Acer has also bumped up the resolution of the screen to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, a serious increase from the 1,366 x 768 resolution display on last year's model. The new panel is not only higher resolution; it's also brighter and more vibrant.

The Acer Switch 10 was able to render the new Mission Impossible trailer with bright and excellent colors with generous viewing angles - essential for any tablet device. During my quick hands-on time with the device at a blaring New York event, I was even able to hear the dialogue in the movie trailer, thanks to the Switch 10's two booming, front-facing speakers.

Acer Aspire Switch 10 2015

What's new is old

Unfortunately, Acer did not take as much care into upgrading the internals, as the new Switch 10 comes running the very same Intel Bay Trail processor as the 2014 model. It's disappointing to see on paper, but thankfully I didn't run into performance hitches while tapping around the Windows interface.

On the plus side, this low-powered processor should let users squeeze up to seven hours of battery life out of the new Switch 10. However,I'm doubtful this will turn out to be true, because of the laptop's full HD display.

Acer Aspire Switch 10 2015

Meager beginnings

Users might be more disappointed that this machine only comes with 2GB of RAM. Even worse is a 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 installed on the system, which may raise some nasty program compatibility issues.

The base configuration, also comes with a meager 32GB solid-state. If our time with last year's Acer Switch 10 was any indication, Windows will eat up a sizable chunk of storage leaving users with only 22GB of usable space. Thankfully, there's an option to bump up the storage to a 64GB SSD. Still, that's hardly enough for most users to download rented movies and the occasional game.

Acer Aspire Switch 10 2015

The Acer Aspire Switch 10 (SW5-015) will be available in North America in August with the entry model starting at $399 (about £264, AU$512). Later this June, the Switch 10 will also be available in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for a starting price of €449.

Early verdict

The new Aspire Switch 10 comes at quite a bargain for a convertible, 2-in-1 laptop. However, it's easy to see how this new hybrid machine is nearly identical to last year's model, save for a sharper screen and a new piece of glass for the shell.

It's this sour note that makes this device especially hard to recommend, especially in light of the stunner HP just dropped in the Pavilion x360. For a rather competitive $409 (about £273, AU$530), HP's back-flipping transformer offers a newer Broadwell series Intel Pentium processor with 500GB of storage and double the RAM. Let's just say the new Switch 10 has quite a fight ahead of it.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.