ACCORDING to IDC, Western European shipments of ultra slim convertibles and detachables posted positive growth (44.7 per cent) to account for 18.4 per cent of total consumer shipments and 21.9 per cent of commercial devices in Q1 2016. This is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise declining PC market.
We had recently reviewed the HP Elite x2 1012 G1, a 2-in-1 that competes directly against Microsoft's Surface Pro 4. The Acer Switch Alpha 12 which we are reviewing today is yet another device that is targeted at the same market. Starting at RM2,499, the Switch Alpha 12 will burn a much smaller hole in your pocket compared to Microsoft's premium detachable.
Including the keyboard, the Switch Alpha 12 measures 11.5x7.9x0.6 inches. These dimensions are almost identical to HP's Elite x2. This 2-in-1 weighs 1.28 kilograms.
Compared to the Surface Pro 4, the Switch Alpha 12 is not a great beauty. Its silver-grey rear and keyboard which looks like a clone of the Microsoft device are not designed to stop anyone in their tracks.
But compared to the HP Elite x2, Acer's 2-in-1 does have one useful design feature. The detachable keyboard has a hoop which allows the stylus to be inserted. This means you do not have to attach the stylus via a twine or risk misplacing it.
Another nice feature is the versatility of the kickstand. Being fully detachable and very flexible, it can be used to position the tablet at a variety of angles that you feel comfortable with. The kickstand also has a rubber grip in its middle which prevents the device from sliding about on a table surface.
The backlit keyboard has the same tactile feel as the one that comes with the Surface Pro 4. Probably due to its smaller size and aping some recent laptop designs, the keyboard does not include clearly visible left and right buttons. This is sometimes an irritation as the mouse pointer starts moving while you are trying to click.
The Acer Switch Alpha 12 has a 12-inch IPS display with a 2160x1440 resolution. This is a higher resolution than the screen which adorns the HP Elite x2, but the same as the Surface Pro 4. While the peak brightness is comparable, colour reproduction after calibration is better than the HP device.
The right side of Acer's 2-in-1 has a headphone/mic combo jack, a USB 3.0 port, a USB Type-C port, a power jack and a microSD card slot. These are more options than both the Surface Pro 4 and Elite x2. The power and volume buttons are located on the left side.
One of the major headline features of the Switch Alpha 12 is its watercooling - the first of its kind in any 2-in-1. As a result, there are no air vents or fans in the device. But on the flip side, the tablet does become hot if you are watching videos or playing a game. Fortunately, it never becomes too hot to handle.
Our version of the Switch comes with the Intel Core i3 6100U CPU running at 2.3GHz. Other versions of the device with Core i5 CPUs are also available. It also has 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The display is powered by Intel's HD Graphics 520 adapter.
Performance & Software
With its liquid cooling and full power Intel processor (instead of the Core M CPU), we expected the Acer Switch Alpha 12 to be at the top of the performance pack. But that is not quite how it turned out to be. Falling in the middle of the pack, this 2-in-1 is slightly faster than HP's Elite x2, but slower than the Core i5 and i7 versions of the Surface Pro 4.
Battery life is also an issue. With the screen at peak brightness, the Switch Alpha 12 lasts just over three hours if you watch a Full HD video or stream from YouTube. This is well below the competition.
The front 'Skype' camera is similarly lacklusture. Although it can capture Full HD video, the images become grainy in low light conditions or in shadow. Audio output is comparable to the HP Elite x2, but inferior to the Surface Pro 4.
We were surprised to find that our test version of the Switch Alpha 12 came with a version of Windows 10 that had not been pre-activated. It also came with a little too much bloatware for our liking including Acer packages such as Acer Care Center, Acer Documents, Acer Portal, Acer Quick Access and Acer User Experience Improvement. Since the device only has 128GB of storage, you might want to consider uninstalling some of these to free up space.
To be absolutely clear, the Acer Switch Alpha 12 is not the Surface Pro 4 beater that we thought it would be. Although liquid cooled, it is still not fast enough to claim the top performance crown. It is also let down by humdrum battery performance. But it does have a high quality screen, a usable keyboard and a low asking price.
Rating: 4 out of 5