The Acer (News - Alert) Aspire Switch 10 two-in-one touchscreen tablet/laptop may be the ultimate device for students and consumers. In short, it offers all the good of a PC, meaning you can run full Microsoft (News - Alert) Office applications like Word and Excel, and at the same time it is a touchscreen tablet, which can be used for media consumption. This device also is cheaper than a high-end desktop phone, yet could easily double as a phone.
It runs Flash, so all the challenges many other tablets have with this Adobe creation aren’t a problem. It is fast – much faster than you would expect from a device that starts at $350. It is infinitely configurable as a media consumption device as the tablet inserts into a keyboard both front- and rear-facing and can also be used in a tent configuration.
There are drawbacks. The laptop has on 2 GB of memory, but in tests of opening many apps with 10 or more browser tabs open, this didn’t prove to be a problem. The tablet is heavier than the keyboard, which means the device can tip backwards on occasion.
The $350 price gets you only 32 GB of storage; $400 gets you 64 GB. But you can insert a USB drive in the keyboard, a Micro USB drive in the tablet, and/or a Micro SD card in to add more memory. Plus, there are myriad cloud services, including one Acer provides, that you can use for extra storage as well.
Battery life is another issue as real-world testing pegs it in the five- to six-hour range (the company claims eight). Moreover, the screen does need to be on a very bright setting to be easily read, meaning you may not get away with dimming the screen to extend battery life.
When compared to an iPad or Android (News - Alert) tablet or even a Chromebook, this device wins in most every case where productivity is needed. The reason is, you get full Microsoft Office with all the keyboard shortcuts, which makes you that much quicker at working. The iPad version of Office is extremely limited, and Google (News - Alert) Docs still aren’t at the level of polish as what Microsoft delivers. Moreover, on an iPad you could pay up to $100 a year for the honor of using Office since you have to purchase an Office 365 subscription. Moreover, this is a recurring annual fee. On the Switch, Office for Home & Student is included.
It’s worth noting there are far fewer apps in the Microsoft App store as opposed to Google or Apple (News - Alert). This is in a large part offset by the ability to run all websites – those with Flash included.
This brings us to competition with a laptop.
The Macbook Air is a premium laptop for education, but if a user is familiar with Windows, there is a learning curve required for what many believe is an easier OS to navigate. It’s also expensive at a starting price of $900. To make up for the premium, there is tight integration with iOS, which is great for FaceTime and iMessage users.
The downside is no stylus or touch support on Macs.
Windows 8.1 is not perfect. It is like having a computer with multiple personalities. Perhaps, though, this is the point. For many productivity apps you can use it as a Windows 7 machine, but when you want to use touch apps, you can access the app store and take advantage of a different interface. It isn’t that unlike what many people do when they create documents on a laptop and then take a break to play Angry Birds on a phablet or tablet.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this device is the price. The computer can come bundled with Office Home & Student and starts at $350, meaning you are paying only $210 for a full-powered touch-enabled 10-inch laptop/tablet/hybrid which runs Flash and Office applications. The weight is also amazingly light at 2.6 pounds, and the tablet is just 8.9 mm thick. The iPad Air is 7.5 mm thick and costs $599 for the 32 GB model.
Even if you can afford a $900 MacBook Air, by the time you factor in software, you can buy almost three Aspire Switch 10s! Some might say there is just no justification for spending the extra money for the MacBook unless you must have the longer battery life. Ditto for the iPad Air.
Edited by Maurice Nagle