Acer’s Aspire Switch 10 E is a portable, long-lasting laptop that sells for cheap, although its keyboard is a bit cramped. That makes this $349 laptop a mixed bag as a work machine, since slightly larger, 11-inch hybrids offer roomier, sturdier keyboards without sacrificing too much portability. Still, the Switch 10 E’s unbeatable longevity, solid performance and versatile detachable display might be fair trade-offs for a mediocre typing experience.
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Our Switch 10 E review unit came with a purplish-gray paint job that isn’t pretty, though the device is also available in white and gray. The faux-linen texture on the back gives the impression of stitching, which actually looks pretty nice and makes the device easy to hang onto.
The Switch 10 E has a smaller screen than those of its closest competitors, so the device as a whole is also smaller. It weighs just 2.9 lbs., which makes it lighter the both the 3.2-lb. HP Pavilion x360 11 and the 3.1-lb. Dell Inspiron 11 3000. If you need a notebook to carry on your daily commute, or on work trips, the Switch 10 E is the most portable of the bunch, but only by a little.
Most hybrid laptops suffer from top-heavy designs, and the Switch 10 E is a particularly egregious offender. Tipping the display back a bit to get a better viewing angle causes the whole thing to topple over backward, unless you’re holding it down with your wrists on the keyboard. On a flat desk or table, the display can be tipped about 30 degrees before becoming unstable; on my lap, the threshold was closer to 15 degrees. If you plan to do a lot of typing with the Switch 10 E in your lap, you’ll have to remember to hang onto it.
On the other hand, I appreciate that Acer allows the hinge to open beyond the point of stability. Similar hybrids like the Dell Venue 11 Pro severely restrict your viewing angle to avoid this stability issue, but that results in a laptop that’s almost useless in your lap.
What separates the Switch 10 E from conventional notebooks is its convertible design. The keyboard dock is fully detachable, giving you the option to use the device like a laptop or stand-alone tablet.
The display connects to the keyboard magnetically, so detaching the screen is as easy as giving it a firm tug. Re-attaching the tablet is equally easy, and I liked that I could attach the display to the dock in reverse orientation. This lets you use Tent and Stand modes, both of which are handy for using the touch screen in cramped quarters, such as on an airplane tray table.
Can you work on a 10.1-inch display? That’s the question to ask yourself before considering the Aspire Switch 10 E as your next work machine. The compact display makes for a portable machine overall, but it also feels cramped for screen-intensive work tasks like viewing documents and editing spreadsheets. And I longed for a bit more breathing room while I typed this review on the Switch 10 E, with my Word document opened on one half of the screen and a Web browser open on the other half. The extra inch of screen size afforded by competing, 11-inch machines like the Inspiron 11 3000 makes them noticeably roomier.
At least the Switch 10 E’s display is reasonably sharp for its size, with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. The IPS display panel offers good viewing angles, and it’s pretty bright, too, topping out at 263 nits of brightness. That beats the 234-nit average for the category, though the Inspiron 11 3000’s 308-nit screen is brighter. A bright display is nice because it’s easier to view outdoors or in direct sunlight.
It’s not Acer’s fault that the Switch 10 E’s keyboard is slightly undersized, since the notebook’s 10.1-inch frame simply couldn’t accommodate a larger layout. In fact, all other 10-inch laptops suffer from the same problem.
Users with small hands might have no issues with the small keyboard, but I found it uncomfortable after about an hour of typing while I worked on this review. That may not be an issue if your job involves minimal typing, as the layout is perfectly fine for hammering out the occasional email reply.
Size aside, the keyboard is more than serviceable. Its 1.3 mm of travel is a bit on the shallow side, but that’s typical for small laptops like this one. The keys themselves feel pretty snappy, providing a satisfying level of feedback with each keystroke.
The Switch 10 E includes a serviceable number of ports for on-the-go productivity. The tablet itself has a single micro-USB port for connecting accessories, as well as a micro-HDMI port for linking the device to a larger monitor or projector, and a micro-SD card slot for expanding the device’s internal storage.
The keyboard dock has just one port: a single, full-size USB 2.0 port, which is nice for connecting peripherals like a mouse or external hard drive. I would have preferred a USB 3.0 port, though, for faster data transfer.
The Switch 10 E is fast enough for light productivity, but it’s not cut out to be your primary PC. The device is powered by a 1.33-GHz Intel Atom Z3735 processor with 2GB of RAM, which provides reasonable speed for editing documents, managing your email inbox and browsing the Web. Apps opened and closed quickly during my testing period, and light multitasking was smooth enough.
The Switch 10 E racked up a middle-of-the-road score of 2,123 on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That beats out the Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 (1,725) and Lenovo Flex 3 11 (1,834), but the HP Pavilion x360 11 (3,992) scored higher.
No other compact hybrid can match the longevity of the Switch 10 E, which makes it a great travel companion for business users. The machine ran for an impressive 8 hours and 28 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. That’s a full 2 hours longer than the average budget-priced 2-in-1 laptop (6:26). Among competing devices, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 comes closest, running for a decent 6 hours and 42 minutes on the same battery test.
The Switch 10 E ships with Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft’s PC operating system. The OS is perfect for a hybrid device like this, since Windows 10 offers separate Laptop and Tablet modes. While Laptop mode will look familiar to veteran PC users, offering a standard desktop layout, Tablet mode is more touch-friendly, with full-screen apps and big navigation buttons at the bottom of the interface. You can set the Switch 10 E to automatically enter Tablet mode when you detach the keyboard, or you can trigger this manually each time.
With the best battery life of any budget hybrid we’ve tested, Acer’s $349 Aspire Switch 10 E can last through the longest business flights. It also offers a handy detachable design and solid performance for basic productivity on the go.
But you’ll make concessions for the Switch 10 E’s ultraportable size. The small keyboard feels cramped, and the 10.1-inch display doesn’t offer a lot of room to work on.
Slightly larger devices like the 11-inch Dell Inspiron 11 3000 are more comfortable for extended work sessions. The 11.6-inch HP Pavilion x360, meanwhile, is bulkier still, but offers faster performance than other compact hybrids. Still, no device in its category can quite match the Switch 10 E’s portable design and long battery life.
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