Devices that offer the so-called “2-in-1” capabilities are becoming more and more popular. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, there are a lot of consumers out there, who don’t need a big notebook or desktop computer, but still want the more effective and comfortable physical keyboard. Secondly, technology becomes so advanced that companies like Intel offer quite small SoCs that can fit in a smaller form factor without sacrificing overall performance.
That being said, Acer Aspire Switch 12 offers not only good and functional design, but it packs serious horsepower under the hood thanks to the new Core M chip series, part of the Broadwell family from Intel. The exact processor used here is the Core M-5Y10a (2-core, 800MHz – 2.00GHz, 4MB cache) and as you can see it offers good overclocking capabilities and we can assume that it’s quite energy efficient thanks to the 14nm FinFET manufacturing process. Let’s keep in mind that the Core M chipsets were announced ahead of the rest of Broadwell processors – around Q4 last year. Another product that features the new processors is the new Yoga 3 Pro notebook from Lenovo.
Aspire Switch 12 comes in relatively big box that fits a small power supply for charging, some user manuals and, of course – the keyboard.
The entire device is made out of hard plastic along with the keyboard and both feature the same signature ornaments on the surface, which offer a comfortable grip. At first it seems a bit heavy, but it does have sturdy construction and there are no moving or creaking parts. It seems like the engineers from Acer managed to pack everything inside and left no free space.
Let’s start with the back of the device which doesn’t offer anything out of the ordinary, except for the Acer’s logo in the middle. Looking a bit under the logo we see convex part of the tablet which is actually the stand – similar to the Yoga Tablet devices. Aspire Switch 12 can be put in different positions, like the Yoga devices – tent view, tablet view, desktop view and laptop view, but keep in mind that the last two positions are practically the same, whereas the desktop view is with detached keyboard. Although, the stand in this device offers a bit more, compared to the Yoga stands, it has an USB 2.0 port on the right side and also a small 3-pin slot on the back which is used to charge the keyboard.
The sides of the tablet are flat with sharp edges. On the right side, you will see the Windows dedicated button and the volume rocker. Right above them is located a 3.5 mm combined jack for headset and microphone, speaking of which, a bit lower can be found the integrated microphone. The top edge of the device has the sleep/shut down button and microSD card reader slot. The ordinary ports like micro HDMI, micro USB 3.0, and the power supply jack can be found on the left side of the device.
Front panel also doesn’t offer anything specific – 12.5-inch display, Acer logo on the bottom and, of course – webcam at the top. Also, put on display view, the device offers front-facing stereo speakers, but only if it stands on its hinge, which is a drawback. If you are willing to use the device in “display mode”, speakers mounted on the hinge won’t be used as intended. There is another problem we encountered that is worth considering. When using the device with the stand, tapping the top of the screen causes the device to shake, which may be due to a bit loosened hinge.
Now let’s look at the numbers – the whole device weighs about 1.4 kilograms and the physical dimensions are 317 x 220.6 x 9.5 millimeters. With the keyboard attached at the back, the thickness goes up to 16.5 mm. For the protection of the display, Acer uses Gorilla Glass 3 which will offer a fairly good protection against scratches, but don’t expect to take big drops without any consequences.
We were quite pleased with the build quality and design of the keyboard. Even the size was pretty good for a 12.5-inch laptop. Due to the wireless connection with the device, the keyboard can be used attached and detached, although it is pretty easy to attach it. It has two plastic pin-like elements on the side, which go into the empty space on the bottom of the hinge and click without any hassle. In fact, the magnet is so strong that holds the keyboard in place firmly and makes it even easier to attach. It also has a dedicated power on/off button to preserve energy when not in use.
The overall working experience with the keyboard is quite pleasing – the buttons provide long feedback, it features two big “Shift” buttons on the sides and the designers didn’t rule out the “Fn” buttons. However, there are only a few of them, but those you might use the most – turning on or off the Wi-Fi connection, managing external displays, and the “Mute” button. It’s safe to say that this keyboard is even more comfortable and well built than some low to mid-ranged laptops.
Designers from Acer even put a trackpoint and two buttons, if you prefer working with a mouse. The trackpoint is located right between the “G” and “H” buttons and it resembles the one we find usually on a Lenovo ThinkPad devices. Under the “Space” button can be seen the two mouse buttons, which also provide a good tactile feedback. One thing, though – those mouse buttons don’t come across the edge of the keyboard. Instead, there is a little space that doesn’t allow the buttons to be pressed on the edges. But that is actually a small flaw, which most of the consumers won’t even notice.
Our overall impression of the design and build quality is very good. All ports are well placed, the keyboard is functional and easy to use, and it even has its own place on the back of the tablet when you don’t need it. The design isn’t astonishing, but it is functional and even the two drawbacks we mentioned above (about the loosened hinge and the design of the mouse keys) are quite neglectable.
Display and sound
Acer Aspire Switch 12 is equipped with 12.5-inch (31.75 cm.) FHD (1920×1080) IPS LCD panel, which is manufactured by LG Display and its model number is LP125WF2-SPB2. The pixel density in this case, is 176 PPI with space between each pixel of 0.144 x 0.144 mm. This being said, Aspire Switch’s display turns into “Retina”, when viewed from a distance around 50 cm.
Here is a photo of the screen viewed under microscope on a white background.
The display has some good viewing angles and there is no image distortion when viewed over 45° angle.
We’ve measured the maximum brightness before calibration – 367 cd/m2, which is relatively high and you can even use it in outdoors. The contrast ratio is 800:1 and the color temperature is 6940K – a bit cold and significantly deviated from the optimal one, which is 6500K.
Color gamut coverage
The device’s screen covers 66% of the sRGB and 50% of the Adobe RGB color gamut. A significant amount of Web-based colors (sRGB) are absent.
The gamma’s deviation is neglectable (2.20) and offers good brightness distribution across all levels.
We’ve calibrated the panel with two different calibrators, so we can check the color reproduction in both conditions.
For the first one, we’ve left the native color temperature.
Average deviation of DeltaE (1976) is 1.16.
Most of the given colors were really precise (90%), which is inherent for a professional panel. The DeltaE is 0.7. Nevertheless, the backlight’s spectral characteristics seem to ruin the picture – DeltaE=6.15.
For the second calibration, we’ve set the color temperature to 6500K and measured the color reproduction before
The display can be used with default settings, due to the accurate color reproduction, but we don’t recommend using it for professional photo or video editting.
Here is a map of the color reproduction.
Aspire Switch’s display is harmless to your eyes if it operates at brightness set to maximum. Under 99% brightness we’ve recorded PWM (pulse-width modulation) or simply, screen flickering. This is considered bad for human vision and can result in headaches and eye soreness after long and continues usage.
The device’s display has some appealing characteristics like high resolution and pixel density, contrast ratio, and high levels of brightness. It also has good viewing angles and color reproduction, but it lacks 1/3 of WEB-based colors. It’s also important to consider the PWM we’ve recorded under 99% brightness.
Lowest point of measured frequency is 280Hz at -12 dB.
|Processor||Intel Core M-5Y10a (2-core, 800MHz – 2.00GHz, 4MB cache)|
|Graphics card||Intel HD Graphics 5300|
|Display||2.5-inch, Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS LCD panel, with Gorilla Glass 3 protection|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11a/b/g/n, micro HDMI|
|Thickness||9.5 mm (16.5 mm with keyboard)|
Acer Aspire Switch 12 configurations
Aspire Switch 12 comes with Windows 8.1 (64-bit version) out of the box and you probably won’t need any drivers. However, if you find yourself in a situation needing them, you can visit the link provided below, which contains all drivers, software, and user manuals needed. Just make sure you select “Aspire Switch 12” under the “Notebook” section:
The battery’s capacity is 3220 mAh which isn’t outstanding for its class and size, especially considering the 12.5-inch Full HD display, which can drain the juice pretty fast. On the other hand, Aspire Switch 12 is equipped with, what to be believed, one of the best energy efficient SoCs. So, we tested the battery in three categories – web browsing, 3D gaming and playing a video. All three tests share the same conditions – Wi-Fi turned on, Bluetooth off, the screen is dimmed to 120 cd/m2, and battery mode is set to “Power saver”.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.
The time here is way above average for a notebook-class device – 409 minutes (8 hours and 9 minutes).
Watching a movie
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
Aspire Switch 12 managed to endure 300 minutes (5 hours)
For accurate simulation, we used the Metro Last Light benchmark running on loop with graphic settings set to minimum.
The device’s battery also showed great result during the most demanding test – 190 minutes (3 hours and 10 minutes)
Intel’s Core M-5Y10a is one of the first Broadwell processors and pioneer in the Core M CPU lineup. It is intended for integration in small form factor devices like 2-in-1 devices, tablets, due to the small dimensions of the SoC.
The Core M-5Y10a’s base frequency is 800MHz and supports Turbo Boost 2.0 and can be overclocked up to 2.0GHz when needed. The CPU has 64-bit architecture with 2 cores and both of them can emulate a virtual one thanks to the Hyper-Threading technology. It also has ultra-low power consumption of only 4.5W, which is due to the 14nm FinFET manufacturing process.
The CPU supports LPDDR3 1600/1333MHz and DDR3L/DDR3L-RS 1600MHz and a maximum of 16GB. It’s also compatible with PCI 2.0. The Core M-5Y10a is equipped with Intel HD Graphics 5300 core with a base frequency of 100MHz and a maximum of 800MHz.
Results are from the Cinebench 20 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)
Intel HD Graphics 5300 is integrated GPU included in various Broadwell generation of CPUs from Intel. Due to its nature, the GPU doesn’t have dedicated video memory, so it uses the one present in the system (RAM). It also has mid-range characteristics like 24 Execution Units (EU).
The base frequency is 100MHz and can go up to 800MHz when needed. It supports OpenCL 2.0, DirectX 11.2, DP 1.2/eDP 1.3, HDMI 1.4a, but there is no word of HDMI 2.0.
Of course, Intel HD Graphics 5300 is integrated into ultra-low power consumption SoCs like the Core M lineup. The maximum TDP is 4.5W and can be managed by the vendor which affects performance and battery life.
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Superposition benchmark (higher the score, the better)
We are absolutely aware of the device’s capabilities and we know it’s not meant to be a gaming machine, but we still ran the usual gaming tests just for evaluation purposes and comparison.
Aspire Switch 12 is not only well built, it is smartly built. The design is functional, but nothing too special. Also the construction feels sturdy, a bit heavy, but overall compact. The hinge seems to be a bit loosened at times, but it packs an extra 3-pin port for keyboard charging and features a USB 2.0 port. The display has a quality 12.5-inch panel that packs a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and considering the stereo speakers, Acer didn’t leave out the multimedia. It also offers a fairly good protection with Gorilla Glass 3.
The keyboard is another major plus, when considering buying the device. It is easy to attach and detach, while the buttons offer a good tactile feedback. Also, the device’s overall performance feels good – it’s snappy and responsive and it seems to have a pretty good battery life for a laptop, but drags behind a lot of mid-ranged tablets. So, to sum things up – it is good for work, will keep you connected for quite some time and offers smart and functional design.
- Simple and functional design
- Great keyboard
- IPS LCD panel with FHD resolution
- Relatively good battery life
- It packs the new Broadwell Core M processor and shows good performance
- Mouse button design could be better
- We’ve recorded PWM under 99% brightness
- The hinge feels loosened at times