Acer manages to roll premium construction and smart design, better-than-average performance, decent battery life and a fantastic keyboard into a affordable 2-in-1 tablet. The battery life is actually a little better and the easily hit power button made me nuts once in a while, but overall the business’s Surface wannabe, the Aspire Switch Alpha 12, makes a compelling compromise for those who need enough power for working and gaming but don’t need top-level stylus performance, a stellar display or an excellent camera.

The configuration I tested packs way-above-average specs because of its $750 (AU$1,730) price; the same Surpace Pro 4 setup costs almost $500 more (though in addition, it has a far better display). Our particular test configuration doesn’t seem to be to be offered in the united kingdom: the closest is a £750 version that differs by a smaller 128GB drive or a £599.99 model with 4GB RAM, and i3-6100U processor and a 128GB SSD. Oddly, the Acer Active Stylus is a $50 (£20) option in america and Australia (I cannot find the stylus for Australia), but comes bundled in the united kingdom. Other US configurations range between a $700 model with a 128GB SSD to a $1,000 model with a Core i7-6500U processor. In Australia there are options only AU$1,390 4GB memory and Core i3-6100U to AU$2,159 for an i7-6500U with a 512GB SSD.

Of all models wanting to emulate or improve on the Microsoft Surface’s design, I believe that one succeeds best. The machine feels top quality and durable: it even passed an impromptu pushed-off-the-table-at-Starbucks test. (It fell face down on the display, therefore i don’t know if it could have cracked if it had fallen on an advantage.) Among the big attractions is its novel fanless, liquid-cooled architecture (Acer’s LiquidLoop COOLANT SYSTEM). It is not only silent, such as a tablet, nonetheless it can stream Netflix forever rather than get warm. It gets a bit more heated against my legs, but remains tolerable.

Like many 2-in-1s, the Switch Alpha 12 is made up of a 12-inch touchscreen tablet section running Windows 10 with a bundled, magnetically attachable keyboard; the keyboard cover includes a loop to carry the stylus. The magnet is surprisingly strong — it latched onto my badge holder at one point when I held the tablet up to have a picture — nonetheless it serves as a destination to attach the stylus when working with it as a slate.

The kickstand design works perfectly. You can tilt it to any angle between almost properly flat to almost vertical, and it includes a rubberized section on underneath to keep it from sliding also to keep it stable on, say, a bed. It isn’t quite as comfortable to use as a notebook on your own lap, but it isn’t a bad compromise.

I like the keyboard aswell. It has full size, backlit keys that contain great tactile feedback; I’m a keyboard pounder and picky about feel. The touchpad is in an excellent spot and appropriately responsive. You will likely have to configure it to create it behave how you expect, though.

The Switch Alpha 12’s an excellent size (roughly letter/A4), but weighs somewhat a lot more than competitors: about 2.9 pounds/1.3 kg with keyboard and stylus or 2 pounds/906g for the slate portion. Though Acer does not say so anywhere, you may charge it via USB-C — though you need to spring for a 45W charger, the sort used to charge Chromebooks and MacBooks. Otherwise, you might have to schlep the AC adapter if you want a lot more than 5.5 hours of battery life. That’ll add another 11 ounces to your burden.

At the top, when holding the tablet vertically (or on the left in landscape), sit a power button, volume switch and dedicated Windows button. I really do think it is hard to juggle the tablet without accidentally pressing the somewhat twitchy power button. On underneath (right side in landscape) will be the headphone jack, a USB 3 and a USB-C connector and the energy connector. On a single side below the kickstand hinge is a microSD slot for storage expansion.

The trade-off from more costly rivals including the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S may be the display: the Switch Alpha 12 uses IPS technology instead of OLED. Nevertheless, it’s sufficiently bright and high contrast, with reasonably accurate color, so that it should oftimes be fine for some needs. The resolution is leaner when compared to a 4K-capable Surface Pro 4, but it’s sufficient for noncritical photography editing, and streaming Netflix on the cheap standard-definition plan looks sharp enough.

Its performance is up for some fairly graphics- and CPU-intensive tasks, and I’ve no complaints about the computer’s speed — even for GPU-intensive applications like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. (Sorry, I’m not really a gamer, therefore i can’t weigh in on that.)

The middle-of-the-road active stylus and underwhelming low-resolution 5-megapixel camera may deter creatives from considering this as a genuine Surface alternative, however. The optional Active Stylus is sensible and includes a nice heft — because of the AAAA battery inside — however the system/pen combo only has 256 degrees of pressure sensitivity and you’ll experience some lag in sketching. However, if you want pressing hard to improve the stroke width you might like the feel.

For note-taking it includes a nice frictiony feel without much lag. However the programmable activate the barrel lies accurately where I grip it for writing so my hand quickly tires trying to locate a comfortable spot, and it generally does not appear to track sufficiently for fast writing. The switch could be programmed to talk about Acer’s Hover utility, an instant launcher for user-specified pen-savvy apps, and erasing.

A great deal
Within the line, I believe our test configuration strikes the very best balance between power and price, and the Switch Alpha 12 is among the finest 2-in-1’s available for the amount of money. But if you want something more powerful, you may as well intensify to model with an improved display and first-class pen support just like the Surface Pro 4 instead of just bumping up the processor with the Acer.