Acer Aspire Switch 12 S review

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When Acer revealed the Aspire Switch 10 and Aspire Switch 11 detachable hybrids at its annual New York conference in May, they were undoubtedly aimed at people on a budget. But what about the Switch 12, a premium model announced at the beginning of the year? That went without an update, but now that Intel has officially announced its Skylake mobile processors, Acer has given its top-spec detachable an upgrade.

The 2015 Aspire Switch 12 S is visually very similar to the old model, alebit with a slightly redesigned hinge mechanism that uses magnets to keep the tablet locked to the keyboard dock. Acer is calling this Snap Hinge 2, because as the name suggests you can snap the tablet away from the keyboard without needing to mess around with switches or release mechanisms. It certainly works well in practice, with the strong magnets meaning you can lift the entire thing solely by the tablet.

The hinge also helps raise the keyboard slightly when used in laptop mode, creating a more comfortable typing position. It certainly relieves pressure from the wrists, but the shallow keyboard tray and less than springy keys could still make typing long documents a chore. The keyboard is useful in other ways, however, with a single USB3 port on either side for connecting peripherals an external storage.

The tablet has a MicroSD card slot, micro HDMI video output and a compact USB3 Type-C connector, but oddly not for charging; Acer has still seen fit to add a dedicated charging port, despite the fact that USB3 Type-C is able to provide enough voltage to effectively charge a laptop or tablet.

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It’s in the internal upgrades that you’ll spot the real differences between this and the old model, however. With an Intel 6th generation Core M processor based on the company’s Skylake architecture, the Switch 12 S is a passively cooled tablet with enough power for desktop tasks. With a lower Thermal Design Point (TDP) it should be able to last an extra hour when playing Full HD video compared to the old model. More importantly, its integrated graphics are able to run higher resolution displays than previous generation chips, which has allowed Acer to add a 4K display to certain Switch 12 S models.

It’s a hell of a screen, with stunning clarity and incredibly vibrant colours. There’s absolutely no way to spot individual pixels with the naked eye, as the 3,840×2,160 resolution is so densely packed in. The bezel is a little on the chunky side, and the glossy screen finish means light reflections are a bit of a problem, but for multitasking and multimedia playback displays like this will soon be unparalleled. Windows 10 has finally fixed UI scaling too, meaning you can comfortably work on multiple files without having to press your nose up to the screen to read text. The touchscreen is sensitive enough to use in Desktop mode as well as Tablet mode, but admittedly the full-screen UI is slightly easier to navigate with your fingers.

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Acer has yet to reveal official prices or availability for the Switch 12 S, as it’s still technically in the prototype stage. That means it will almost definitely be a while before it goes on sale, but if the final retail product doesn’t deviate from this early example, it could be a seriously desirable detachable. Now that Intel’s Skylake Core m processors have officially launched, hopefully that wait won’t roll into next year.

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