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 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.
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.)
|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|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Window 10 Pro (64-bit)|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|