John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Acer Switch 10 review

Yup another Windows tablet to review! As usual some framing, I am coming off using my Asus Transformer TF701 Android tablet as my main device for the last 6 months. The transformer is a beautifully designed device (for the most part). Android as a main device has worked well and gets great battery life. I have run into a number of challenges using Android as my main device. Printing, using Office, limitations of OneNote on Android, websites that do not display right on Android (yes even when you request desktop mode), websites that flat out don’t work on Android (for example anything flash based, or requiring plugins), clumsy cut and paste, spell check which does not work on some web sites (like my blog) and poor RDP support (particularly on high res devices). The one thing about the transformer is I really hate the mechanism locking the keyboard to the tablet. It just does not feel good. So much so I found myself rarely using this device as a tablet. A shame really because it really is a good tablet. Light, thin, and powerful. Everything one could ask for. Asus really have a done a great job on it. The Windows version of this Transformer has a better locking mechanism, but still not great IMHO.

So that prompted me to have a look at what was out there on Windows. So what I really wanted was a quad core atom (reasonable performance with good battery life), 2G RAM min (more in a bit), 64G drive, touch screen, HDMI out, and a decent keyboard. And preferably not too expensive. I really don’t care if it’s a tablet or not. I found a few that met most of my requirements, but I was shocked to find devices without touch screens in today’s day. WTF. Tigerdirect had this one on sale and the price was what I was willing to pay so I bought it. Up until recently Atom processors were limited to 2G RAM max. Intel quietly released a few Atom models that now support 4G! Some tablets are starting to hit the market with this new Atom but for now they are on the pricier side so fell off my radar pretty quick. Hopefully that will sort itself out soon.

Onto physicals. This is a tablet with a removable keyboard. Acer have done a great job on the interface between the two. They use a magnet to draw the two together along with a couple guiding posts. Separating the two is a reasonably easy feat, but it does take two hands. The magnets are strong enough to be able to hold the device by the tablet and the keyboard hangs on. All in all I like it and would be more likely to use it as a tablet on it’s own. Interestingly enough the tablet can be connected to the keyboard in either forward or reverse facing and the USB port still works. Oddly the keyboard/mouse only work in forward mode. Although, if the display was facing away from the keyboard your unlikely to use it anyway, so no big deal. The keyboard does not contain a second battery (as it does in the Asus transformer). I had read in some posts that the device feels top heavy and tips. I have not found that. In fact I found the transformer more tippy in spite of it having more weight in the keyboard (the second battery).

262 x 178 x 10.2 mm (tablet only) 1170g (including the keyboard)

Overall the tablet itself feels a bit boxy/clunky in the hand. The square edges are a little sharp in the hand. The weight does not feel too bad.

Button wise there is a power button, volume up/down and a windows key all on the right side of the tablet. I still would prefer the Windows key on the front of the tablet.

Port wise there’s a microSD, microUSB port (for USB OTG), microHDMI and the proprietary barrel charger on the tablet itself. The charger is 12V 1.5A for 18 watts. By comparison most tablets that use standard microUSB (which I prefer) have been limited to date at 5V 2A for 10 Watts. The cable on the proprietary charger is a bit on the short side for my liking.

On the keyboard there is a standard USB 2 port (which supports USB hard drives) and that’s it. I would have liked to have the charger on the keyboard so that I could use it like a dock but it is what it is. The keyboard has a reasonable feel to it but it has the usual crappy Acer layout which puts a slash too close to the enter key and the other slash too close to the shift key (and then makes a smaller shift key). While I won’t say I hate the layout, I don’t really like it either and it will take some getting use to. There is a glide point on the keyboard (which I hate and am clumsy with) but heh, it’s the way the industry mostly make them. The track point can quickly be turned off by a function key (yay thanks Acer!).

Spec wise the one I bought has a Quad core Atom Z3735F
2G of memory, and a 64G SSD. The 64G leaves a reasonable amount of storage left for your apps (around 40G). And you can add a microSD card that can be mapped into your drive space for use as program or content storage. Performance was good at 47MB/s write and 93MB/s read. Much quicker than my Vivotab Note at 25/46 MB.s. The drive arrived uncompressed and the recovery partition is on the drive (vs on a microSD card as it was for the Vivotab).

Acer really do load on a ton of bloatware onto the tablet. If you use it then I guess it is value add software. Fortunately it can be uninstalled.

Screen resolution is 1280 x 800 which is low for Windows and below there min giving you the usual warning indicating things can (and will) be cut off. I can only hope Microsoft will wake up and embrace the tablet marketplace.
There are 8′ tablets with this resolution and given this is a 10″ there’s just no way to call this high resolution by today’s standards. My Transformer is 2560 x 1600 for reference at the same screen size. Nough said.

If you connect to the HDMI the default is to mirror the local screen and the resolution ends up being 1200×768. Changing over to HDMI only I was able to get full 1080p HD. Which is perfect if your going to use this device for media playback (XBMC/Kodi). And it nicely remembers your settings the next time you reconnect the monitor.

Oddly I had an issue with my one of my BT mice being extremely jerky on this tablet my other BT mouse was fine. No idea why. This same mouse (a Dell) works perfect on every other device I’ve tried it on.

I saw some odd behavior on the keyboard. The first key touched after a period of inactivity would be missed. Very bizarre. I called Acer and it is a known problem. They told me to take the tablet back to a restore point before March 10/2015, that a Windows update patch had broken it and Microsoft would be working on a fix. I restored back to the factory install and the issue was still there. So I contacted my retailer and returned it.

I did try a couple of capacitive pens. The thin tip was completely ignored. The fat one was detected and could be used, but doesn’t feel anything like a real pen. But that’s why devices with digitizers like my Asus Vivotab Note, and Samsung note family exist.

I ran 1.5 hours of Kodi doing movie playback through HDMI (with the on board screen off) and the battery went down by 16%. Extrapolating means a whopping 9 hours of battery life. Kodi playback was relatively smooth, but I did notice it was jerky as an email was coming in and being processed. Sadly I can’t imagine how you could control that other than getting rid of the mail configuration in the Metro mail app so it does not run in the background.

Like all devices in this category it uses a power management scheme called connected standby to keep the device updated in the background. With the keyboard attached I saw 15% decrease in battery life over 12 hours or 1.25% per hour. The tablet only drew 12% in almost 16 hours or 0.8% per hour. By comparison, my Vivotab Note drew 0.5% per hour. Microsoft requirements are “Connected Standby systems must drain less than 5% of system battery capacity over a 16-hour idle period” (0.3%/hr). So higher than it should be, but I am sure it varies depending on how many accounts you have syncd how many background apps etc. And of course since it is %/hr adding a bigger battery (as the Vivotab Note has) helps skirt the issue.

The battery charged 73% in just under 2 hours so a pretty impressive charge time. The benefit of using a proprietary charger. A standard microUSB would like take 3-4 hours.

It’s worth noting that there is no onboard wired ethernet. Not a surprise really but notable if you were going to use this device as a media streamer. You could add a USB ethernet adapter but you would be limited by USB 2 data rates.

In spite of having a faster hard drive, this tablet just seemed laggy. In the end, the keyboard issue did it in and back to the store it went. I have no idea why these devices are on the market as long as this issue persists. I guess some people, don’t notice, or don’t mind. For me it was maddening. One of the reasons I bought this device was the keyboard. So for this to not work is just not going to cut it.

March 23, 2015 - Posted by | Windows tablets

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