You must be familiar with most of the Aspire Switch devices from Acer and their main goal is to deliver good working experience without sacrificing portability, flexibility, and performance. And the Aspire Switch 12 S seems to be a more refined variant of the classic Switch 12 while taking things to a whole another level. This tiny 12.5-inch hybrid boasts a great number of useful features and with a price tag of around $999, it can easily compete with the likes of Lenovo Yoga 900S for example although the latter doesn’t offer detachable screen but instead a 360-degree rotatable hinge.
Anyway, the Switch 12 S not only comes with tons of connectivity options like USB-C with Thunderbolt, two full-sized USB 3.0 and a micro HDMi but also supports one of Acer’s latest gizmos – Acer Graphics Dock. It’s practically a case with a more powerful GPU (GTX 960M to be exact) giving you gaming capabilities of the convertible along with few other ports (HDMI, DisplayPort, USB 3.0 etc.). It can give you enough power to play some of the latest games without sacrificing the much-needed portability. For now, the Aspire Switch 12 S and the Aspire R13 can benefit from the dock using the USB-C connector on both pairing devices. However, it shouldn’t be mistaken for the Alienware Graphics Amplifier and Razer’s Core External Graphics Dock as they both support desktop-grade GPUs while Acer’s solution is more on the budget side and it aims to boost the performance only on ultrabooks and thin hybrids. Also, we would like to see if the Graphics Dock really makes a difference when paired with a Core m processor since we already saw a small bottleneck with the Alienware 13 R2, which uses a Core i7-6500U CPU and GTX 960M GPU.
The Switch 12 S hasn’t come out yet but you can check here when it does: http://amzn.to/1TI2hek
The device comes in a black luxurious box containing everything you need like AC adapter, charging cord, user manuals, Acer’s active stylus pen, the docking station and the tablet itself. Unfortunately, though, our testing unit lacked the full package so we were unable to test the stylus.
Design and construction
If we consider the Lenovo Yoga 900S as some kind of a direct competitor, or the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12, the Switch 12 S weighs a little bit more than both with the dock being 600 g while the tablet is just 800 g. In terms of thickness, the Switch 12 S is slightly thicker as well – 18 mm for both parts at its thickest point. Yet, the few extra grams and millimeters aren’t noticeable as they sound. And given all the hardware inside the Switch 12 S tablet along with the RealSense 3D camera and connectivity options, it’s kind of impressive.
The tablet’s screen is protected by a Gorilla Glass 4 layer with the webcam positioned on the upper bezel and front-facing speakers on the bottom left and right corners. The latter ensures better sound clarity no matter in which mode you use the device. The back uses a gray matte plastic finish successfully imitating anodized aluminum. We’ve instantly noticed the dual-camera setup on the back (Intel’s RealSense 3D camera technology) and the Wi-Fi antennas in the corners. Acer calls this technology “ExoAmp Antenna” and by using a different design, the OEM promises up to three times faster and more secure Wi-Fi connection compared to other competitors. The ExoAmp Antenna features metal cover and plastic cover for improved reception even through three walls.
Going around the sides of the tablet, we observe a slight change in design concept – diamond-cut highlighted edges make an appearance, but more prominently on the bottom where the connectors for the docking stations are located. The highlighted chamfered edges give the device a distinct and premium look without being too flashy. The left side holds the power button, volume rocker and the Windows key while the right side houses all the peripheral connectors – micro HDMI, USB-C 3.1 with Thunderbolt support (also serves as a connector for the Graphics Dock), 3.5 mm audio jack, mciroSD card slot for up to 128GB and there’s also the DC charging connector as well.
Thanks to the so-called Snap Hinge Gold, the device offers fairly easy transition between all four usage modes – tent, presentation, conventional laptop, and tablet. The Snap Hinge Gold is a direct successor to the Snap Hinge 2 and the original variant seen on older Aspire Switch devices. The newest Gold model incorporates two sensors which communicate with each other at high frequencies to enable high-speed transfers and keep up with the full-sized USB 3.0 ports on the keyboard dock. Also, the magnetic snap works just as good as we remembered and this time even looks good. The zinc-alloy hooks are coated with rose gold to highlight the importance of the connectors in the product. Keep in mind, though, that the absence of a 360-degree rotatable hinge requires the tablet to be flipped around when using the device in presentation and tent mode.
Moving on to the docking, we have absolutely no complaints or too little of that matter. The keyboard feels big enough with excellent ergonomics and spacing. The keys may feel a bit shallow but the tactile feedback offers good typing experience along with the bright LED backlight. The overly “clicky” touchpad may feel strange to some, but we didn’t notice any strange behavior – in fact, the input device felt solid, responsive, fairly accurate and has a really nice finish. Moreover, the whole finish around the keyboard and docking feel solid and premium featuring anodized aluminum and since there’s no hardware to heat things up, it always feels cold to touch.
Acer has built a cool device with functional, elegant and sturdy design to fit the nature of the Switch 12 S. It feels good in hand, it’s relatively portable and offers elegant design signature. And it seems that the price isn’t going to be high either. So if you are looking for a small hybrid premium device but you don’t have too much to spend, the Switch 12 S can easily fit into the mid-range laptop segment and serve as a tablet and a notebook at the same time.
Display and sound
The Acer Aspire Switch 12 S uses a 12.5-inch IPS touchscreen with Full HD (1920×1080) resolution. The panel is manufactured by AU Optronics with model number B125HAN01.0. Its pixel density is 176 ppi, the pixel pitch is 0.144 x 0.144 mm and it can be considered as “Retina” if viewed from a distance equal or greater than 50 cm.
The display offers good viewing angles.
We were able to record extremely high brightness levels at the center – 441 cd/m2 while the average luminance isn’t too far from this one – 430 cd/m2. The maximum deviation is just 6%, the average color temperature is 6540K and aligns almost perfectly with the standard 6500K(D65). Compared to the central area of the screen, the maximum color deviation (dE2000) is just 1.8 – measured at the upper-left corner – and it’s an excellent result.
To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction of the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. Starting with the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy. Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that has been used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used by professional cameras, monitors and etc. for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.
On contrary to the results from the previous section, the sRGB coverage isn’t exactly satisfying. The display scored only 54% sRGB color gamut coverage so almost half of the web-based colors will be missing.
Below you will see practically the same image but with color circles representing the reference colors and white circles being the result. You can see main and additional colors with 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% saturation inside the sRGB gamut. The profile has been set to 140 cd/m2 and optimal white point – D65 (6500K) without any additional calibration.
The contrast ratio is high – 1020:1 before calibration and goes down to 960:1 after. Also, colors appear to be pretty accurate without any further calibration needed but the gamma curve seems a bit off. The darker parts of an image will appear even dimmer while the bright areas will be brighter.
Below you can see the results from the accuracy color checker with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange etc. The results are before and after calibration.
Gaming capabilities (Response time)
We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and reverse.
The measured Fall Time + Rise Time was 20 ms.
Pulse-width modulation (PWM, Screen flickering)
We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the display doesn’t use PWM for adjusting screen brightness. However, we’ve noticed some slight pulsations when the tablet is plugged into the power source. The pulsations are small and flicker at really high frequency – 56 kHz. Basically, at this rate the screen can be considered harmless to one’s eyesight.
Blue light emissions and health-related features
Like some of Acer’s previously reviewed units, the Aspire Switch 12 S offers a film that helps decrease the blue light emissions and thus reduce the unwanted health-related issues. We suggest you read about Acer’s BluelightShield technology and also why blue light emissions shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The tested screen on the unit shows exceptional properties in some cases like maximum brightness, optimal native color temperature, high contrast ratio, and accurate color reproduction but fails to deliver in one really important aspect – sRGB color gamut coverage. Only half of the sRGB gamut is covered so images will lack the much-needed saturation in some cases. Even the PWM dimming is missing so really the only thing missing here is the lack of decent sRGB coverage.
The tablet provides exceptional sound quality thanks to the front-facing stereo speakers but slight resonance can be heard when using the “Music” mode.
The specs sheet may vary depending on your region.
|CPU||Intel Core m3-6Y30 (0.9 – 2.2 GHz, 4MB cache)|
|GPU||Intel HD Graphics 515|
|HDD/SSD||128GB/256GB + microSD card up to 128GB|
|Display||12.5-inch Full HD (1920×1080) touch IPS panel, glossy|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11ac Bluetooth 4.0|
|Battery||2-cell, 34.5Wh (4550 mAh)|
|Thickness||18 mm (0.71″)|
|Weight||1.4 kg (3.08 lbs)|
Our unit came with pre-installed Windows 10 (64-bit) but if you are planning on clean install of the OS, download all the needed drivers from Acer’s official website.
Unfortunately, the Switch 12 S we received for testing wasn’t exactly ready to go out on the market so we weren’t able to run some of the tests, including the usual battery tests. So until we receive a final unit, we cannot determine whether the 37Wh battery on the tablet can keep the device running for longer periods of time. For now, we only have information directly from the vendor who claims that the device will get you through 8 hours of mixed usage. However, we run our tests with completely different settings and we cannot confirm the given data at this time.
CPU – Core m3-6Y30
The Core m3-6Y30 is a dual-core SoC part of the Core M family and its extremely low TDP makes it really power-efficient. It’s the most affordable model from the Core M family and it can mainly be found in ultra-thin notebooks, convertibles and even tablets. Its design with 14nm FinFET process and a wide range of frequencies (0.9 – 2.2 GHz or 2.0 GHz for two active cores) make it suitable to be implemented into systems with fanless design.
The chip holds a dual-channel LPDDR3-1866/DDR3L-1600 memory controller share with the integrated graphics – Intel HD Graphics 515. The performance of the CPU cores and the GPU greatly depends on the configuration and the custom set TDP, since the latter is configurable by the OEM. The maximum TDP, however, is 7W and it includes the CPU, GPU and memory controller. It can also go as low as 3.8W.
You can browse through our top CPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this processor: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-m3-6y30/
GPU – Intel HD Graphics 515
Normally, the Intel HD Graphics 515 can be found on the latest Core m Skylake SoCs but it’s considered as a low-end iGPU. It represents the GT2 variants of the Skylake iGPUs and features 24 of the so-called EUs (Execution Units). They are clocked at 300 MHz and can go up to 1000 MHz but that depends on the CPU model.
Intel claims about 40% better performance than the last HD Graphics 5300 (Broadwell) generation GPUs, but that is strongly dependent on the CPU model and the TDP so statistics may vary. However, there are some notable features that come along with the HD Graphics 515 like H.265/HEVC fully hardware decoded and supports outputs like DP 1.2 / eDP 1.3 and HDMI 1.4a. The GPU can handle up to three displays connected simultaneously.
The power consumption of the whole SoC may vary, but most of the time it’s 4.5W. Nevertheless, it can go down to 3.5W or go up to 7W. These numbers include the CPU, iGPU and the memory controller.
You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this GPU:
Hands down, this is the best 2-in-1 device Acer has ever built, although we weren’t able to complete the full set of tests for our final verdict. We would like to see how the CPU performs given the form factor of the product and how long will the battery last in our tests.
Anyway, from a design standpoint, the product looks polished, refined and elegant while the choice of materials make it exceptionally sturdy. We are also extremely satisfied by the touchpad and keyboard experience, especially when considering the form factor of the device. And with all the connectivity options, the device turns into a full-sized laptop with all the features that come with it.
The screen appears to be excellent with high contrast, extra bright panel and fairly accurate color reproduction and color temperature but results from our tests indicate poor sRGB gamut coverage. However, the absence of PWM kind of compensates for that so you can rest assured that the tablet can be used around the clock without feeling tired. The BluelightShield also brings other health-related benefits as we discussed earlier.
The review will be updated with all the tests (performance, temperatures and battery) as soon as we have a final unit. We would also like to see how the CPU will handle games using Acer’s Graphics Dock
The Switch 12 S hasn’t come out yet but you can check here when it does: http://amzn.to/1TI2hek
- Functional, elegant and sturdy design with easy snap hinge
- Flawless touchpad and keyboard experience
- Extra bright screen with high contrast and accurate colors
- No PWM across all brightness levels and BluelightShield for reducing blue light emissions
- Wide range of connectivity options and support for Acer’s Graphics Dock
- Low sRGB coverage (54%)