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Acer Switch 10 E review: A small hybrid with extra storage

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The Good The Acer Switch 10 E doesn't cost a lot, has a simple magnetic hinge to connect its tablet half, and packs a generous extra 500GB hard drive into the keyboard.

The Bad The 10.1-inch screen looks even smaller surrounded by a thick black bezel. The system is so top heavy it easily tips over, and the touchscreen is not always as responsive as it should be.

The Bottom Line Despite extra storage space and a pleasing design, the Acer Switch 10 E suffers from a low-budget feel.

6.9 Overall
  • Design 6.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 6.0
  • Battery 8.0

The Acer Switch line of hybrids was one of our favorites early on in the Windows 8 era because this low-cost line kept its screen and keyboard connected via a magnetic hinge, which was much easier to use than the physical latches many other hybrids used.

The latest version of the Switch smartly keeps the magnetic connection, which Acer calls the Snap Hinge. The 10-inch model, called the Switch 10 E, comes in six colors with a soft textured finish that looks feels more premium than its price of $349 (slightly different configurations are available for £279 in the UK and AU$549 in Australia). Also adding value to the version we tested is a separate 500GB hard drive built into the keyboard base, in addition to the 64GB solid-state drive in the tablet half (some models have only 32GB).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Now that we've moved on to Windows 10, hybrids are not the brave new world they once were. But the new Windows operating system still makes concessions to laptops that transform into tablets, with touch-friendly swipe-in menus from the edges of the screen and an optional tablet mode (that looks a lot like Windows 8) for slate-only use.

And like Windows 8, so far Windows 10 feels well-optimized for inexpensive, low-power systems such as this. For the price, the Switch 10 E is sturdy and full-featured enough for basic productivity, but it also has some serious budgetary concessions, including a top-heavy design prone to tipping over and a lack of full-size ports and connections. Additionally, the entire system is heavy, weighing more than many 13-inch laptops, and the touchscreen was sometimes not as responsive as we'd like it to be when swiping.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Taken together, there are a lot of compromises, but this is also one of the only ways to get a touchscreen Windows 8 hybrid with decent battery life and plenty of storage at this price. Just keep in mind that Atom-based systems such as this aren't intended as your all day, every day PC, and the small screen and low 1,280x800 resolution make this best-suited for occasional or travel use.

Acer Switch 10 E

Display size/resolution 10.1-inch 1,280x800 touchscreen
PC CPU 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735
PC Memory 2048MB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz
Graphics 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics
Storage 32GB Flash Memory + 500GB HDD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (32-bit)

Design and features

From the outside, the Acer Switch 10 presents itself well, with its patterned cross-hatch texture across the outside lid avoiding the fingerprint-heavy glossy black plastic look of so many budget laptops and hybrids.

But at 2.8 pounds (1.27kg), it's heavy, especially for a 10-inch display. Many 13-inch laptops weigh less, and combined with the thick body, small keys and wide screen bezel, it's hard to feel like you're not hauling around more computer than you need to.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When designing a hybrid, one has to choose between making it easy to separate the two halves, or making the connection between them especially secure. The magnetic hinge used here makes a very powerful connection, so it leans towards the latter, but that also means you'll need two hands to pull the screen away from its base.

The two parts are at least easy to fit together, assisted by the strong magnetic pull that becomes obvious when the teeth in the hinge get close to the slots in the bottom edge of the tablet. When fitted together, the combined whole looks and feels a lot like a standard clamshell laptop -- but because nearly all the components are packed behind the screen, the clamshell mode is top-heavy and can easily tip over backward if you're not careful.

In the base is a 500GB hard drive, which is a nice bonus for storing media files and other bulky items. As an option, you can set that extra hard drive to encrypt itself when the two halves are not together, essentially using the tablet half as a key to unlock it.

The keyboard, while small, is at least well laid out. Keys have decent depth and register easily, but also have a mushy feel, wiggling a bit under your fingers as you type. Important keys like Shift or Control are sometimes shortchanged on smaller keyboards but here they're all big enough to hit easily.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The large touchpad is very responsive, and important multi-touch gestures such as two-finger scroll work well, avoiding another pitfall many other budget Windows systems fall into. Windows 10 deserves at least some of the credit for that, thanks to better built-in gesture support, such as swiping three fingers up to see all open apps.

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