Surprising as it is, the laptop-tablet hybrid game is only heating up, with the likes of Dell, Lenovo, Asus and more all raring to go with multi-mode computing devices. Acer dipped its toes into these waters with products like the Acer Aspire R7 and Acer Aspire P3. Now, the company has dived right in with the Acer Aspire Switch 10, its first detachable laptop-tablet hybrid device.
Billed as a 10.1-inch device that meets at the intersection of creating and consuming content, the Aspire Switch 10 is both a Windows 8.1 laptop and tablet. Thanks to what Acer calls its magnetic "Snap Hinge," I was able to quickly swap between laptop and tablet modes during my short time with the device at an Acer press event in New York.
And don't worry, the fancy name is more than a marketing hook: connecting the 0.35 inch-thin, 1.30-pound tablet to its 0.44-inch keyboard base produces an audible "snap". The snap both sounds and feels substantial.
The considerable force tells me that this is one strong set of magnets holding the two together. And when I tested holding the Switch 10 with one hand, the keyboard dock didn't come crashing down on the show floor and embarrassing me in a room full of reporters.
A multi-mode pad for a pittance
One major aspect of the Switch 10 that Acer didn't focus on during its announcement was its position in the overall market. To date, most laptop-tablet hybrid devices are built using premium materials with premium price tags to boot, but nay for this multi-mode device.
While the Switch 10 is coated in an aluminum finish on its lid and base, Acer has priced it at $379.99 (about £225, AU$409). That's thanks to some mid-range to budget-level components inside, starting with a barely-HD 1366 x 768 touch screen. Though, that screen is behind a Zero Air Gap bezel with LumiFlex technology for better sunlight visibility.
Rounding out the spec sheet is an Intel Atom Z3745 processor (quad-core, 1.3GHz), 2GB of RAM, up to (a bit tiny) 64GB of eMMC storage and a 2MP webcam up front. In addition, all that powers two USB 2.0 ports (one micro), HDMI out and a microSD card reader.
Given that it's a generally low-power system, I wouldn't be surprised if the Aspire Switch 10 lived up to Acer's promise of up to 8 hours of battery life. And that wouldn't be too shabby for a 10.1-inch hybrid device that costs less than Apple's latest iPad mini 2 with Retina display.
While I'm not at all bullish on hybrid devices, and this is isn't the slickest of the lot, I'm impressed with Acer accomplished at this very approachable price point. With front-facing speakers and a punchy chiclet keyboard in a sleek, thin aluminum profile, the sub-$400 price tag would have surprised me if not for the entry-level specs.
Naturally, that's the whole point with this laptop-tablet hybrid: to get a hybrid device in as many folks' hands as possible without it feeling or looking budget. And with a rather bright screen and snappy touch panel, it doesn't seem like it will perform like a budget machine either.
An Acer representative told me at the event that the company is moving away from a focus on specs and toward one on the user experience, the overall device quality. That much is clear from my brief moments with this machine, but whether it lives up to the promise will have to wait for my full review.
The Acer Aspire Switch 10 will be available in late May in North America, Europe and the MENA region.