Is it just a coincidence that Acer and Asus, two companies that were the gorillas of netbook sales are back with the two most affordable and portable Windows 8.1 transformer style hybrids? We reviewed the Asus Transformer Book TF100 several months ago, and it was then the most affordable 10" to 11.6" tablet with keyboard dock on the market (among current generation full Windows machines). Acer's answer is now shipping: the Acer Aspire Switch 10-- catchy name for a great little PC companion. The Switch 10 starts at $379 for the 32 gig model and you get some nice stuff for the price: a 10.1" IPS touch screen, included keyboard dock, the latest quad core Intel Atom Bay Trail CPU inside and decent looks. We recommend the 64 gig model if you can afford it at $429 list.
The Switch 10 runs Windows 8.1 32 bit, and that means it can run any PC programs you wish; you know--those .exe programs like Photoshop, Visual Studio and MineCraft. Keep your expectations reasonable though, this isn't an Intel Core CPU and it's not up to the task of compiling 2 million lines of code or encoding 1080p video for export unless you have lots of patience. The Switch 10 is fine for everyday leisure and productivity work with the included MS Office 2013 Home and Student edition, web browsing, streaming video playback, email, editing photos and playing games from the Windows Store. No, it doesn't have the resolution or processing power of Microsoft Surface Pro 2 or Pro 3, but it's around one third the price.
The tablet has two gigs of DDR3 RAM, a 1.33GHz CPU with Intel HD graphics, 32 or 64 gigs of storage, dual band WiFi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0 and a 1366 x 768 display. The tablet has a microSD card slot, micro HDMI, 3.5mm stereo audio and a micro USB port that supports USB host (dongle adapter for USB peripheral not included). The keyboard dock has a full size USB 2.0 port, trackpad... and nothing more. There's no secondary battery, but Acer says they plan to release a version with a hard drive in the dock, which would be handy because internal storage is in short supply.
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Acer Aspire Switch 10 Video Review
The display won't win any awards for resolution, but it's actually a very good looking display that's as sharp and colorful as you'd expect from IPS. The zero-gap bonded glass is supposed to reduce reflections, but there's no getting around the fact it's a typical glossy touch screen that does have glare. It's certainly no worse than average, but I wouldn't call it wildly better. It responds well to touch, and given the relatively small size relative to resolution, text is clear and images look good. HD videos likewise look lovely on the panel, and the tablet has enough horsepower to play full HD 1080p video out through HDMI or Miracast wireless display. The panel is also very bright, another bonus for a budget tablet. Sorry, there's no digital pen option with Wacom or N-Trig digitizer, which would raise the cost too much.
It's hard not to like the Acer Aspire Switch 10: it's reasonably attractive and light, has the latest quad core Intel Atom CPU and a really well designed keyboard dock so you can use it like a netbook or in presentation and tent modes like a Yoga. Better yet, when you just want to use the tablet, you can detach the keyboard for less bulk and weight. While the Switch 10 offers a lot of value for the money and a classier, more versatile design than its direct competitor the Asus Transformer Book T100, it's not an ideal primary PC given the Atom's low-key performance. It does make a great affordable travel buddy for those who don't need to do heavy lifting on the road.