The Acer Switch 10 E ($349 in the US while not being available in the UK and Australia in this exact skew) dives into a veritable ocean of shiny, new 2-in-1 notebook computers ready for Windows 10. Pioneered by the Microsoft Surface 3 and others, the new hybrids further refine the mixture of tablet convenience and laptop productivity.
This latest model from Acer competes with convertibles such as the Asus Transformer Book T100 Chi and the Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000, only the Switch 10 E is more budget minded. That being the case, it's light on both performance and features, but compensates with high portability and long battery life.
Following the Surface 3's lead, the Switch 10 E is a Windows 8.1 tablet that attaches to a keyboard base. Together, the system weighs in at 2.82 pounds (1.27 kg), while the tablet by itself is 1.39 pounds (0.63 kg). Not the lightest 10.1-inch notebook around, but it's within the range of comparable systems, and the tablet is a tad lighter than the 1.6 pound (0.72 kg) Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000. Nevertheless, I spent a good deal of time commuting with the notebook tucked in my backpack and barely noticed its weight.
The tablet portion has a 64GB SSD built-in, which seems like a decent amount. That is, until you realize that between Windows 8.1 and the pre-installed software, over half its storage is used up right out of the box. Attaching the keyboard base adds an additional 500GB hard drive, which is great. But, being that it's external storage, you wouldn't necessarily want to install applications onto it.
There's a relatively sturdy connection between the tablet and the base, although there were a few occasions when the two accidentally came apart when I didn't pick it up or open it correctly. The notebook also has a tendency to fall over backwards when the screen is tilted too far.
Otherwise, the computer is pretty solid and comfortable to type on. I like being able to flip the screen around into Display mode to watch movies or to do some reading. However, the keyboard's small trackpad isn't always responsive. Shortly after the system wakes up, the touchpad doesn't register movements or clicks for a few seconds.
No frills switch
Apart from the micro-HDMI port, which lets you hook the tablet up to a large screen monitor or TV for watching movies, the Aspire Switch 10 E is pretty light on features. There is a single microSD card that supports up to 128GB of memory for extra storage, which is pretty standard for most 2-in-1 systems. However, there is no full-size SD card reader on neither the tablet nor the keyboard.
Although the keyboard has a much appreciated 500GB hard drive built in, it too is pretty bare bones. There are no backlit keys, and it sports only a single USB 2.0 port. So, you'll be stuck waiting for a long while if you plan on moving a large number of files from a flash drive to the hard drive. The similarly unimpressive speakers need to be turned up all the way to hear anything at a reasonable volume, which means that either headphones or an external speaker is needed to enjoy videos.
Meanwhile, the most worthwhile aspect of the Switch 10 E is its battery life, which is supposed to last up to 12 hours. Although it might reach that mark with light everyday use, our benchmarks estimate that it doesn't even reach half that with continuous intensive use unless you stick with using it in tablet mode. Even then, it doesn't even reach 10 hours of battery, which has been the standard set by the iPad Air 2 and Nexus 9.