At Kettle Tech, we’re trying to do things differently. Our reviews aren’t like the reviews put out by major Tech magazines: they’re devoid of most jargon, they’re designed to be accessible to those who want to buy the devices rather than those merely interested in the industry. That’s why we haven’t really focused on high end devices up to this point. We’d rather look at the affordable and the functional. And the Acer we’ve got this week embodies that.
For the past week and a bit, I’ve been using this thing. I’ll give it to you straight: it’s not an especially powerful laptop. It doesn’t have any blow away features. It has a screen that works but not much more, a processor that works (but not much more), a SSD (like a hard disk but faster and made of chips rather than a physical disk) which works…but not much more. It’s built well but not brilliantly. It’s fast but not blazing. It’s light but not featherlight. Every part of this device is an ode to mediocrity. But that’s OK. Because the price tag is also mediocre. You can pick one of these up for about £250, less online. Are you going to salivate at the prospect of owning one of these? No, of course not, it’s the Ryvita of laptops. Does that mean you shouldn’t get one? Also no. To the review:
It’s important to understand that we’re reviewing two separate pieces of hardware here – the tablet and the keyboard/trackpad attached. So let’s start with the keyboard piece: it’s not a MacBook. You’ll find no metal, no unibody, no precision machined edges. What you will find is a lot of plastic. But that’s passable. It’s good plastic, mostly. It’s finished in a sort of soft touch coat that seems to do a decent job, particularly in black, of not being a fingerprint magnet. The keyboard itself has a good amount of travel in the keys and they’re actually quite widely spaced – meaning you can really type on this. I pounded out a few essays. It’s got a USB port on the side too, so you can play with this like you would an actual laptop. This is smart design: it means the tablet itself doesn’t need to be thick enough to have a USB port. The keyboard has a hinge attached to it where the tablet mounts, and in that hinge is an electronic connector and a powerful magnet. The magnet is powerful enough to hold the tablet in virtually any position, including a variety that frankly make no sense to me. At the front of the keyboard is a small but functional trackpad: you need this to maneuver around precisely or highlight text quickly, but for everything else, just use the touchscreen.
The tablet itself is a slightly different story. It’s equally plasticky, but it’s a nicer, textured plastic. It has three buttons on one side: a power/sleep button, a volume rocker, and a ‘Windows’ home button that I never really used. On the other side, you’ll find a MicroSD slot to expand the inbuilt storage. There’s a mini HDMI port, a mini USB port for charging and a headphone jack. It’s pretty slim but you won’t be cutting fruit with it. There are cameras on the back and front. I’m sure they work, but I didn’t bother to test them, because if you use your tablet as a camera I have little respect for you. Apart from a strip at the bottom, the whole front panel is a sheet of Gorilla glass.Firstly, it feels super smooth. It doesn’t weight a great deal and I held it up in one hand for about 45 minutes on the Tube, without feeling any great strain.
It’s got 2GB of RAM, 32GB of memory and an Intel Atom processor. Those aren’t mind boggling internals: it’s about the same RAM as you’d find in a smartphone from last year, and about the same memory, and about the same processor. But then, it’s half the price of a smartphone. The reality of this setup is that it runs pretty fast as long as you don’t do anything too demanding. I installed Windows 10, which didn’t come preloaded, but probably does if you buy it from a shop. I then downloaded Chrome, and spent most of the week with multiple tabs open, editing a GDocs in one and playing some music through another whilst Wikipedia procrastinating in a third. This posed no problem. YouTube and Netflix both also ran fine. It seems to me you’ll get snappy performance for most day to day tasks. For what it’s worth, Windows 10 (without the disappointing Acer bloatware) ran rather faster than Windows 8.
The screen is a 10” affair. It’s past HD but not full HD, so it looks fine but not amazing. It goes from medium dim to medium bright, which is mostly fine. It’s very responsive as a touch screen. There isn’t all that much to say here. This thing has speakers but I don’t see when you’d use them. If you’re commuting, working in school or Uni, or consuming any kind of media: do the decent thing and plug in some buds.
My review unit came with Windows 8 and a load of Acer preinstalled stuff. This upset me. It had a sticker on it which said ‘Upgrade me to Windows 10’ so I did. I also binned the sticker, because that upset me too. Once I’d gone to 10, which was a breeze to install, there was no more Acer bloatware. This seemed to speed it up considerably. The moral of the story, Acer, is to stick to hardware.
So, let’s wrap this up, shall we. It works. In fact, it works damn well. It has its downsides for sure: I wish it was built in a slightly more classy fashion. I wish they’d stuck it with a full HD screen, which couldn’t possibly. cost a great deal more. I wish it hadn’t come with the inbuilt junk. But it’s cheap, Really cheap. If you need something to work on, that’s light, portable, and costs about the same as the headphones we’ll be reviewing next week, then I present to you, the Acer Aspire Switch 10E.