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Acer Switch 7 Black Edition review: This game-ready tablet keeps its cool

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The Good Costs less than a similarly configured Surface Pro, and includes liquid cooling, an Nvidia GPU and a "smart" kickstand. Keyboard cover and stylus are included in the price.

The Bad The fanless system gets hot when using the GPU for games. It's much heavier than other detachable PCs.

The Bottom Line The Acer Switch 7 Black Edition packs a lot inside a fanless slim tablet frame, including liquid cooling and a GPU, but most importantly, doesn't charge extra for a keyboard and stylus.

Editors' note: This hands-on preview is based on a non-final hardware build provided by Acer early in the production process. We'll update with new benchmarks and a rating when the final hardware is released.

When we see a Windows tablet with a built-in kickstand and a keyboard cover that clips on magnetically, we tend to call them Surface-alikes, after the Microsoft product line that kickstarted the modern Windows tablet movement. But the Surface has been largely the same for its last few iterations, so if a Windows tablet comes along that offers some new and exciting twists on the category, maybe it deserves a new nickname.

The Acer Switch 7 ($1,649 at Amazon) Black Edition certainly does a few things differently than the Surface and its clones. The three primary selling points are: a self-deploying kickstand; an Nvidia MX150 GPU; and a form of liquid cooling, to keep the GPU and high-end eighth-gen Intel Core i7 running smoothly -- all without the help of any internal fans.

Acer calls its cooling system the dual Liquidloop. It's not exactly the same as the massive liquid cooling tubes and pumps found in big gaming desktops, but it does channel heat away from the CPU and GPU in a much quieter fashion than a fan.

03-acer-switch-7-black-edition
Sarah Tew/CNET

Note that our impressions are based on a not-quite-final version of Acer's hardware. Our demo unit lacks a fingerprint reader, and may undergo other cosmetic or configuration changes before its final release.

At a planned $1,699 for this Core i7/16GB RAM/512GB SSD configuration, which also includes the Nvidia MX150, a keyboard cover and a basic stylus, this isn't an impulse buy. But it's much less expensive than a similarly configured Microsoft Surface Pro at $2,199 (£1,999 or AU$3,299), plus $159 (£149 or AU$249) for a keyboard cover and $99 (£99 or AU$139) for a stylus. A 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at less, but the same i7/16GB/512GB setup also jumps to $2,199. Official UK and Australian price and availability have yet to be confirmed, but pricing converts to around £1,300 and AU$2,280, respectively.

Not that this is the hands-down winner for everyone looking at a detachable Windows tablet. It's probably more powerful than most people need. I still like Microsoft's clip-on keyboard cover better, and the included stylus is small and not as well-designed as Microsoft's sold-separately Surface version. The Switch 7 is also heavy as hell, weighing 3.6 pounds, including the 13.5-inch 2,256x1,504 resolution tablet and the keyboard. (The Surface Pro with keyboard cover is about 2.4 pounds.)

SYSTEM NAME

Price as reviewed $1,699
Display size/resolution 13.5-inch 2,256x1,504 touch display
CPU 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-8250U
Memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz
Graphics 2048MB Nvidia GeForce MX150
Storage 512GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Window 10 Pro (64-bit)

Get your kicks

The kickstand gets a smart upgrade that's deceptively simple in its implementation, but amazingly useful and clever in real-world use. Called the AutoStand, it uses two black buttons on the very bottom edge to automatically pop out the kickstand when that edge is pressed against a flat surface, such as a desk.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

It's not rocket science, but it's much better than manually working your fingernails under some other tablet kickstands and awkwardly pulling them out. The kickstand also leans back smoothly when the tablet screen is pushed down, lowering itself until it's a hair under 3 inches from the desk.

Your Fortnite tablet awaits

Few tablets have built-in graphics cards (the HP Zbook and Microsoft Surface Book are two outlier exceptions). It's even rarer to have an Nvidia GPU in a fanless tablet. The MX150 here isn't exactly a gaming powerhouse, but it's a fine mainstream card that can play Fortnite, Fallout 4 or a variety of other games at decent detail levels.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

One thing to keep in mind: Despite the liquid cooling system, the back of the system got pretty hot when playing a game, topping 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) on some parts of the rear panel.

Quest for power

One thing that always drives me crazy about Windows tablets is finding the actual power button. It's almost always small, randomly placed, and as every tablet maker does it differently, impossible to remember its location. In this case, it's no different, so remember to look for the power button on the upper left edge, just above a volume rocker switch.

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Sarah Tew/CNET
27-acer-switch-7-black-edition
Sarah Tew/CNET

The power supply is also funky, at least in this pre-production model. Instead of the handy USB-C ports so many laptops and tablets are moving to, the Switch 7 still uses a thin cylindrical tip type, which somewhat randomly connects about halfway down the right edge of the tablet. It does, helpfully, include a full-size USB port, which made it much easier to quickly connect a Razer mouse for some gaming sessions.

Always bet on black

For anyone who likes the portability and flexibility of Surface-style Windows tablets, but wants something a little more powerful, the Swift 7 Black Edition gives you that, plus it packs in the kind of add-ons Microsoft charges extra for, all at a significant discount from a similarly configured Surface Pro.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

At 3.6 pounds, it might cramp your shoulder bag style, and laptops with the same Nvidia MX150 graphics can get down to $600 or so. A standard clamshell laptop might be a better bet for similar components for a lower price, but if you need a powerful tablet, we've found one.

Geekbench 4 Multi-Core

HP ZBook x2
15060
Asus Zenbook US461U
13509
Lenovo Miix 520-121KB
12516
Acer Switch 7 Black Edition
11688
Microsoft Surface Pro
4473

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 Multi-Core

Asus Zenbook US461U
671
HP ZBook x2
524
Acer Switch 7 Black Edition
506
Lenovo Miix 520-121KB
495
Microsoft Surface Pro
417

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Asus Zenbook US461U
629
Microsoft Surface Pro
505
Lenovo Miix 520-121KB
387
Acer Switch 7 Black Edition
301
HP ZBook x2
283

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Acer Switch 7 Black Edition
429
Asus Zenbook US461U
409
HP ZBook x2
251

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

HP ZBook x2
41.26
Asus Zenbook US461U
39.6
Acer Switch 7 Black Edition
38.52

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System configurations

Acer Switch 7 Black Edition Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce MX150 Graphics; 512GB SSD
Asus Zenbook US461U Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce MX150 Graphics; 512GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Pro Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-7600U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640; 512GB SSD
Lenovo Miix 520-121KB Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
HP ZBook x2 Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-8650; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 2048MB Nvidia Quadro M620; 512GB SSD

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