Sleek body and sharp display. Fanless design with discrete graphics. Clever kickstand. Included stylus. Comfortable detachable keyboard. In-glass finger sensor.
High starting price point. Build doesn't feel quite as premium as the Surface Pro.
- Bottom Line
The Switch 7 Black Edition looks to be a thoughtfully designed, powerfully equipped detachable tablet that can give Microsoft's Surface a run for its money.
Microsoft's Surface line may have kicked off the 2-in-1 craze, but the American giant is not the only company offering attractive solutions. Acer unveiled the Switch 7 Black Edition ($1,699) at IFA in Berlin, a (you guessed it) all-black detachable machine with a clever kickstand and nice display, and the honor of being the first fanless 2-in-1 with discrete graphics. With that pricing, it's more of a premium machine akin to the Surface rather than one of the cheaper alternatives out there, but I saw a lot of positives during my hands-on time.
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Physical design and dimensions are even more important for a tablet hybrid than traditional laptop, as it'll spend a lot more time in your hand. With a 13.5-inch display, the Switch 7 isn't going to set size records, but it's still pretty light, weighing just under 2.5 pounds without the keyboard. This weight, combined with its slick brushed-aluminum body, felt nice to hold. It didn't feel quite as high-end as the Surface Pro's metal build, which really gets across a premium feel and heft in an effective way (even though it has less expensive configurations), but it's nicely made nonetheless.
Much of what makes the Acer special is happening out of sight: The Dual LiquidLoop cooling system means there are no fans, so it ran nice and quiet. While I wasn't able to extensively test heat and performance over the long term during my limited hands-on session, cutting out fans while including discrete graphics is certainly a feat. The Nvidia GeForce MX150 isn't a high-end card by any means—don't pick this up as your gaming system—but it's able to play simpler or less demanding titles better than systems with integrated graphics, and importantly can speed up other multimedia tasks that rely on 3D capability. Add to that an eight-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, and this should be a very solid performer.
One feature you definitely can see is the kickstand, which has a few useful innovations. There's a pressure button along the tablet's spine that triggers the kickstand, so that when you push it down against the table while opening the clamshell (pulling the keyboard away from the screen to open it), the kickstand automatically extends.
It was smooth enough that I missed it the first time around while demoed, and when I went to try myself, tried to claw out the kickstand from its groove the usual way before being corrected. Once you know it's there and remember to push the button against the table, it's a very preferable method compared to manually pulling the stand out with your finger. The tablet can be reclined with one finger as it requires very little pressure to push back (but seemed sturdy enough that it won't move unless you mean it). It's also clever when you're standing the tablet back up from an inclined position, cleverly regaining its rigidity automatically to stand again once you hit a certain point.
Crisp, Vibrant Screen
The 13.5-inch display is of course the Switch 7 Black Edition's centerpiece, bearing a 2,256-by-1,504 resolution and In-Plane Switching technology. IPS allows for a sharper image and better viewing angles, so you don't get distortion if you're viewing the screen from the side—useful if you have it propped up on the stand and have multiple people gathered around. I found the picture quality to be crisp and vibrant, plenty bright even in a well-lit room, and the touch technology was responsive.
To take further advantage of the touch capability, a stylus with Wacom EMR technology comes with the Switch 7, featuring 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support for shading. It slots right into the outside edge for safe keeping when not in use and has no battery, removing a potential inconvenience. The stylus should be more useful than in the past following the Windows 10 Creators Update, as it will have integration with built-in Windows Ink features.
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The keys on the detachable keyboard had a nice feel and good key travel, particularly for this type of keyboard. Given the slim, fold up nature on a softer deck, sometimes the typing experience suffers, but the keys felt good to use. In Surface-like fashion, it can fold up and clip to the bottom edge of the screen to create an angle so you're not typing flat against the desk or your lap. I'd need more time say whether it's better than the Surface's keyboard, but at first use it was definitely comfortable.
Another neat inclusion is the Switch 7's fingerprint sensor. While far from the first such scanner on a Windows machine, this one optical-based sensor is located under the glass on the tablet's bezel, blending in nicely rather than marring the design by interrupting the smooth glass. It's helpful in that it supports Windows Hello for sign in, but also packs useful Power on Authentication, so you can power it on and be signed in with just a touch.
We'll put the Switch 7 Black Edition through its paces in our labs once it's available for testing, which will allow us to get a better idea of its battery life (Acer predicts up to 10 hours) and its 3D capability, but it's a very promising first look.
Matthew Buzzi is a junior analyst on the Hardware team at PCMag. Matthew graduated from Iona College with a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism. He interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming. He has written about technology and video game news, as well as hardware and gaming reviews. In his free time, he likes to go out with friends, watch and discuss sports, play video games, read too much Twitter, and obsessively manage any fantasy sports leagues he's involved in. More »
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