Hybrid 2-in-1 laptops have provided an alternative to traditional clamshell laptops for a few years now, ever since Microsoft decided to get in on the game with the Surface.
They’re more versatile than regular laptops and more flexible than Android and iOS tablets when it comes to getting work done, which is why more and more manufacturers are getting in on the action. The Acer Switch 5 is the latest example, and it might just be the Surface Pro rival we’ve all been waiting for.
Acer Switch 5 review: What you need to know
Just like the Surface Pro, the Acer Switch 5 is a 2-in-1 laptop, comprising a 12in Windows tablet and a detachable keyboard that doubles as a cover. The tablet part has a kickstand at the rear so it can stand up unaided and the keyboard attaches to it so it can be used as a full-blown laptop.
Unlike the Microsoft Surface Pro, however, the Acer Switch 5 comes with both keyboard and stylus included in the box, and it’s a much better deal than the Surface Pro, too.
Acer Switch 5 review: Price and competition
The Switch 5 starts at £900 for the 256GB Intel Core i5-7200U model, and will soon be available through Acer’s website. It isn’t to be confused with the lower-end Switch 3, which might be similar to look at, but is much less capable, running Intel Pentium and Celeron processors.
That’s a great price. The equivalent Microsoft Surface Pro 4 for £1,000 with the £100 Type Cover included is £200 more. Granted, the Surface Pro 4 has a 6th generation Skylake processor, but this doesn’t negatively affect its performance. The newer Kaby Lake-based Surface Pro is even pricier at £1,474 for the equivalent specification and package.
Other 2-in-1 machines with similar specifications include the £999 Core i5 HP Envy x360, the Lenovo Miix 510 at £850 and the Asus Transformer 3 Pro for around £700. The latter two feature the 6th generation Core i5-6200U processor and come with a keyboard and stylus included.
Acer Switch 5 review: Design and build quality
Acer has done a fantastic job with the Switch 5’s design, in particular, the metal kickstand. As with the Surface Pro, this is infinitely adjustable and it allows you to tilt it back until it’s lying almost flat on a desk.
The hinge is, rather unusually, a sprung affair rather than a friction-based mechanism, but it still gives you full control of the laptop’s position. And another nice point is that there’s a slight lip on the edge of the Switch 5’s stand that protects the rear from getting scratched when you lay it down flat on a surface.
Otherwise, it’s pretty standard 2-in-1 fare. At the front, there’s a 2-megapixel camera and a pair of forward-firing stereo speakers. The latter aren’t overly impressive or loud, but due to their positioning, provide a better listening experience when watching content than most. I’d still suggest investing in a portable external Bluetooth speaker, though (here’s our pick of the best).
Flip the laptop over and you’ll find a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, while on the left is a power button that doubles up as a fingerprint reader next to a volume rocker control. At the top, you get a microSD card slot for expanding storage and on the right-hand edge is a 3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack plus full-sized USB 3.1 Type-A, USB 3.1 Type-C (used for charging, external display and data transfers) and a proprietary charging port.
It’s surprisingly well-endowed, connectivity wise and it feels just as well built as the Surface Pro although it isn’t quite as light. The Switch 5 weighs 920g on its own (1.27kg with keyboard) is 9.6mm thick; the Surface Pro weighs 786g and is 8.45mm thick.
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Acer Switch 5 review: Keyboard, trackpad and pen
The Switch 5’s keyboard, trackpad and pen are all fine examples of the breed. The keyboard attaches itself to the device through a magnetic strip that sits at the bottom of the laptop and its keys provide plenty of travel and have a nice, positive key action – it isn’t quite as refined as the Surface Pro’s Type Cover keyboard, but it’s not far off.
A backlight provides visibility in dimly lit conditions and the keyboard can be tilted up for more comfortable typing. Impressively, even when it’s raised, the keyboard has a solid, stiff feel, and doesn’t feel too bouncy, even when you’re hammering away at the keys.
The trackpad works flawlessly. I didn’t encounter any problems navigating, zooming, scrolling or clicking. It’s certainly a lot better than the one on the Lenovo Miix 510.
And Acer also includes a stylus, which is pressure sensitive to 1,024 levels. This “Active Pen” isn’t as advanced as the Surface Pro’s – it doesn’t support tilt-detection for shading– but does work very well with minimal input lag and its palm rejection is very effective.
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Acer Switch 5 review: Performance
The unit we tested was powered by a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U CPU coupled with 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM and a 256GB Intel SSD for storage. That should be plenty for serious work, and you should be able to multitask with ease on Windows 10 Home 64-bit.
Indeed, in benchmarks, the Switch 5 performed very well is very good. In the Expert Reviews benchmarks, it gained an overall result of 44, which is identical to the Surface Pro 4’s Intel Core i5-6300U. By comparison, the Surface Pro 2017 with an Intel Core i7-7660U scores a phenomenal 102 score.
^ Acer Switch 5: Benchmark table
Put through its paces with the cross-platform Geekbench 4 benchmark, the Switch 5 achieves a score of 3,302 in single-core and 6,290 in the multi-core tests. By comparison, the Huawei MateBook X we reviewed recently, which has the same processor, achieved scores of 3,806 and 7,371.
This means the Switch 5 has plenty of power to churn through video and image editing and should have no trouble at all browsing the web and running more mundane tasks.
For graphics, the integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 is sufficient of running non-graphically intense games, but when it’s faced with more strenuous scenes it struggles. In GFXBench returned an average frame rate of 16fps in the Car Chase test and 31fps in Manhattan 3.0 when run at native resolution (2,160 x 1,440).
That’s not great, but it’s no different to any other lightweight laptop with the same Intel chip, and you should be able to run lightweight games reasonably smoothly if you dumb down the resolution and detail levels. At 1,920 x 1080 resolution, the results are significantly better: 24fps in Car Chase and 49fps in Manhattan 3.0.
As for storage, that’s pretty good, too. The 256GB Intel SSD inside our review unit achieved sequential read and write speeds of 1,159MB/sec and 573MB/sec.
^ Acer Switch 5: Battery life
As for battery life, the Acer Switch 5 is on-par with most of the other lightweight Kaby Lake i5 laptops we’ve tested, which is to say it’s a little disappointing. It survived 5hrs 51mins in our video rundown test, a little shorter than the Surface Pro 4 and a long way behind the 2017 Surface Pro, which lasted longer than 11hrs 33mins. Bear in mind, though, that we tested the Core i7 version of the 2017 Surface Pro.
Acer Switch 5 review: Display
The Switch 5’s 12in 2,160 x 1,440 display is mediocre. Its resolution is impressive on a small screen, but at 216ppi it isn’t as sharp at the Surface Pro 4’s 12.3in 2,736 x 1,824 “PixelSense” display.
Technically, it isn’t as good as far as colour rendition goes, either. The screen covers 78.8% of the sRGB gamut compared with the Surface Pro 4’s 97.5% and colour accuracy isn’t particularly good, either.
To the eye, it’s clearly an inferior display to the Surface Pro’s, and that isn’t helped by a low-ish contrast ratio of 845:1, which lends dark scenes in movies and games a slightly greyish look.
On a more positive note, the screen is bright enough at 341cd/m2 to ensure good readability, even if you’re using it in a brightly lit room, and its multi-touch functions work flawlessly, with swipe, pinch and pan gestures all as responsive as can be.
Acer Switch 5 review: Verdict
For £900, the Acer Switch 5 has a lot going for it: it’s fast, stylish, has a good bundled keyboard, trackpad and stylus, is equipped with all the right ports and is well built. The only downsides are its battery life (which is on par for this specification anyway) and the display.
If you’re in the market for a 2-in-1 device and want to save yourself £200 over even the discounted Surface Pro 4, get the Acer Switch 5, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a worthy Expert Reviews Best Buy award winner.