Switch Alpha 12: Acer's convertible companion


  • TECH
  • Sunday, 19 Jun 2016

Versatile device: The full-sized keyboard has good key travel and a large trackpad.

Acer’s Switch Alpha 12 is essentially the company’s answer to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 – it runs on Intel’s latest sixth gen Core processor and even comes with a kickstand and a magnetic keyboard.

However, the Alpha 12 has some interesting tech under the hood, most notably a completely fanless design.

So does it stand up to scrutiny? Read on to find out.

Cool tech

Just about everything feels ­premium, from the nicely designed black box to the anodised gunmetal finish for the tablet. But it feels ­surprisingly heavy for its size – it’s actually 860g without the keyboard and about 1.25kg with keyboard attached.

That’s a little heavier than the Surface Pro 4, which weighs 786g without the keyboard.

Storage solution: The little loop built-in to the magnetic keyboard of the Acer Switch Alpha 12 allows you to slip the Active Pen in for storage.
The little loop built-in to the magnetic keyboard of the Acer Switch Alpha 12 allows you to slip the Active Pen in for storage.
 

Part of the reason why it’s so heavy is the LiquidLoop fanless cooling system. Yes, the cooling duties are handled by a very funky heatpipe system – liquid in the pipe absorbs heat from the processor which causes it to turn into gas. As it travels further along the pipe, it cools down and turns into liquid again, and the cycle repeats.

This is similar in concept to how a refrigerator works, although, of course, it doesn’t get quite as cold as a fridge.

In use, I found the cooling system to work quite well – the back got a bit warm when the processor was working hard, but never to the point that it was uncomfortable.

The main advantage of the ­system is that it’s very quiet, as there is no fan to make any noise.

This is quite an achievement – unlike the Core M processor which can work without a fan, the Core i7-6500U that the Alpha 12 runs on normally requires a heatsink and fan to keep it cool.

Good fit: The Acer Switch Alpha 12 magnetic keyboard has a two position angle just like the Type Cover on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
The Acer Switch Alpha 12 magnetic keyboard has a two position angle just like the Type Cover on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
 

The kickstand is similar to the one on the Surface Pro 4 and it allows you to position the device at almost any angle so you can even rest it on your lap comfortably.

Other than the usual 3.5mm audio jack and full-sized USB 3.0 port, the Alpha 12 integrates the newer USB 3.1 Type C port which makes it a little more future proof, as new accessories are likely to take advantage of it.

As the name suggests, it has a 12in (2,160 x 1440 pixels) screen which looks really nice – it’s sharp with good viewing angles.

The screen resolution is not quite as high as the Surface Pro 4’s, but chances are you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Keyboard and pen

The other cool thing about the device is that for the asking price you get the keyboard cover as standard. In use, the keyboard cover feels very good – the keys have very good travel and the trackpad is quite large.

The only issue I had was that the trackpad seemed to rattle about a bit when I lightly tapped it. It’s annoying but didn’t affect my use of it in any way.

Stylish stylus: The Acer Active Pen comes bundled with the Switch Alpha 12
The Acer Active Pen comes bundled with the Switch Alpha 12
 

Performance was pretty good, and I never experienced any slowdowns – it’s probably not ideal for hardcore gaming but shouldn’t have any problems handling ­simple games. We installed Adobe Photoshop and it ran smoothly on the machine.

Battery life was pretty good. Acer claims up to eight hours and we got about six to seven hours of actual use.

Another item bundled with the device is the Active Pen – again, it’s similar to what you get with the Surface Pro 4 and runs on a single AAA battery.

The stylus works as you’d expect and it senses pressure too so you will find it very appealing if you are into drawing or writing notes by hand.

Acer has also thoughtfully included an extra replaceable ­stylus tip.

Conclusion

The Alpha 12 is a very nice device – the screen looks good and it performs really well.

More importantly, at RM4,499 you get the high-end Core i7 processor, keyboard and Active Pen.

This makes it significantly cheaper than a Surface Pro 4 with similar specifications and keyboard.

The Alpha 12 is worth a serious look if you’re looking to buy a ­convertible tablet.

Pros: Nice looks; good performance; fanless design makes it very quiet.

Cons: A little heavy for its size; trackpad rattles a bit. 

Switch Alpha 12
(Acer)
Windows 10 convertible tablet
Processor:
Intel Core i7-6500U 2.5GHz
Memory:
8GB
Display:
12in (2,160 x 1,440 pixels) IPS LCD
Graphics:
Intel HD Graphics
Storage:
256GB SSD
Connectivity:
WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports/Slots:
One USB 3.0 Type A, one USB 3.1 Type C, microSD slot, 3.5mm audio jack
Battery:
4,870mAh lithium-ion ­battery
Dimensions (W x D x H):
200 x 292 x 15.2mm
Weight:
1.25kg
Website:
www.acer.com.my
Price:
RM2,499 (Core i3); RM3,499 (Core i5); RM4,499 (Core i7)
Rating:
Four stars
Review unit courtesy of Acer Malaysia, 1800-88-1288.  

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