A versatile netbook, but not without issues | Bangkok Post: tech

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A versatile netbook, but not without issues

Acer Aspire's Switch 10 is transformable and functional, but is its focus on looks to the detriment of power?

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Last year I reviewed the W510, one of the first tablet-notebook hybrids from Acer, and it somewhat disappointed me. The model was short on processing power, too small on storage space and had issues with Windows 8. 

Thankfully, Acer seems to have heard my voice (and maybe those of others) and improved everything with its new system — the Switch 10. But is the improvement worth your money?

It uses the same Intel Atom brand, is made for office-centric productivity and doesn’t do well with graphic-intense apps. That said, for normal tasks — browsing in Google Chrome, typing a Word document and watching HD movies — there’s no sign of slowness, thanks to its faster quad-core CPU.

With three or more programmes active at once, it still functions properly, which is unfamiliar for an Atom CPU.

Another improvement is storage space. It offers 64GB, twice that of the W510. While that may not sound particularly impressive, you can install third-party software on the 64GB and store movies and music on a microSD card. Think of it as an inexpensive thumb drive that fits right into the machine.

The name Switch comes from its multi-positional modes. Consider it a netbook with a removable screen, allowing it to be used as a tablet. The machine has four modes —a tablet, a laptop, a display and a tent. All modes but the tablet require an accessory — a removable keyboard.

In previous models you had to pay extra, but now it’s bundled. This item will give users a keyboard, a track pad and an additional 500GB hard disk. Combining these features, the Switch 10 transforms itself into a laptop.

A display mode, created by flipping the display backwards, is helpful when presenting documents and PowerPoint presentations when a projector isn’t available.
I also found myself using the Switch 10’s tent mode when laying on my bed watching K-drama shows.

The screen’s 16:9 ratio, along with the front-facing speakers, gave me a movie-watching experience my iPad couldn’t. Sadly, the 720p resolution screen isn’t enough for 2014. Other tablets are now offering a 1080p screen, which offers more pixels and detail.

Acer uses a magnetised docking mechanism, similar to the Surface’s Type cover. Switching between modes is easy — just pull it out and put it back in. Magnetic hinges feel dependable, but you have to aim to get a perfect lock. And beware — since the weight of the tablet is more than that of the keyboard, it can easily flip over.

Intel Atom is designed to be a power-efficient system. However, I got only four to six hours of battery life. Quite a disappointment for a tablet, as most tablets normally can run up to 10 hours.

Unfortunately, the slim design comes at a price. For instance, HDMI and USB ports are both shrunk, so users must carry an adapter. If you forget, well, you are out of luck. While a keyboard dock provides another full-size USB port, it is difficult to dock all the time.

More about the keyboard — the keys feel very cheap and jumpy at times. Sometimes, “i” turns into “ii” and “r” into “rr”, which proves very frustrating for fast typists. And once I attached the tablet to the keyboard, it became heavier and more uncomfortable to hold.

Windows 8.1 is way better than 8.0 in terms of usability. For example, when you touch a text box, an on-screen keyboard pops up, and text and other elements of Windows can be enlarged to fit the small screen size much more properly.

Having Windows also means you can run a full version of Microsoft Office. Of course, a lot of alternatives exist — from OpenOffice to iWorks to Google Docs — but none can quite match Word. One big selling point it is.

Besides that, the tablet’s “modern-style’’ interface with its touch-friendly apps don’t really work. Windows 8’s app selection is nowhere near the catalogue available for iOS or Android.

And since most of our PCs aren’t equipped with a touchscreen, navigating through menus with a mouse is weird. But in a world where Windows rules, we have to get used to it.

Last but not least, there’s no 3G built in. You have to depend on a Wi-Fi hotspot when using it outdoors. Not so good for a tablet that accesses data from the internet.

Even though the Switch 10 doesn’t offer new innovations, focusing instead on a price perspective, this is a good netbook replacement due to its software compatibility and speed. So when budget is your main concern, the Switch 10 is a device for the shortlist.

Related search: notebook, tablet

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