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Grow Your Business Technology

Acer Aspire Switch 11 V (2015) Review: Is It Good for Business?

Acer Aspire Switch 11 V (2015) Review: Is It Good for Business? The Aspire Switch 11 V earns 3 out of 5 stars. / Credit: Jeremy Lips

Hybrid laptops promise to give users the best of both worlds, providing a keyboard and mouse when you want to get down to work, and a tablet interface for more casual activities. The Aspire Switch 11 V achieves that feat flawlessly, with a comfy keyboard, fast performance, and a sturdy magnetic connection between the detachable tablet and keyboard dock. 

But like other detachable hybrids, the Switch 11 V is too top-heavy to serve as a practical laptop replacement if you plan to actually use the device on your lap. Relatively short battery life, a comparatively hefty design and a stiff touchpad also hurt the Switch 11 V's prospects as a mobile work machine. So are its positive qualities enough to make the $500 Switch 11 V worthwhile, or should workers instead opt for a more stable folding hybrid like the HP Pavilion x360 11?

[For more information on how we test mobile devices, visit our testing methodology page.] 

An aluminum lid with a handsome crosshatch pattern makes the Switch 11 V feel more premium than its midrange price tag would suggest, especially compared to the device's numerous all-plastic rivals. The Switch 11 V's interior, including the keyboard deck, is made from matte gray plastic, though. Overall, the machine feels extremely rigid and sturdy, without a hint of flex in the lid or deck.

The Switch 11 V is as hefty as it is sturdy. At 3.2 lbs., it outweighs most competing laptops, including the Surface 3 (1.97 lbs.), Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200 (2.61 lbs.), Dell Inspiron 11 3000 (3.07 lbs.) and Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 (2.9 lbs.). The HP Pavilion x360 11 is equally heavy, though, also weighing 3.2 lbs. The bottom line is that the Switch 11 V will weigh you down a bit more on your daily commute than will most other 11-inch hybrids.

But among those machines, only the Surface 3 and Switch 11 V offer tablet displays that detach completely from the keyboard deck; all of the others instead offer 360-degree rotating hinges. But while the Surface 3 relies on a kickstand to prop up the display, the Switch 11 V sports a sturdy hinge that holds the tablet up, no kickstand required.

Well — sort of. The truth is that the device could probably benefit from a kickstand. Since all of the machine's components are located in the tablet portion, it's too top-heavy to serve as a very practical laptop, especially when balanced on your lap. Tipping the display back by more than 25-30 degrees causes the whole thing to topple backward. That's a generous enough viewing angle for comfortable desktop use, but I felt constantly paranoid that my review unit was going to go tumbling to the floor when typing with the Switch 11 V on my knees

At least detaching the tablet portion is easy; just grip one corner and pull upward to separate the tablet from the keyboard. Other detachable hybrids rely on cumbersome switches and latch mechanisms. Attaching the keyboard again is equally easy, thanks to some sturdy magnets that guide the peripheral back into place. The connection is so stable that you can actually pick the machine up by the display, and the keyboard will hold tight.

As a bonus, the tablet can actually be attached to the keyboard in the reverse orientation. That could come in handy for getting better access to the touch screen in cramped quarters, such as on an airplane tray table, for example.

The Switch 11 V's full-HD touch display is the hybrid's best feature. The 1080p panel offers more resolution than you get on rival machines like the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 and HP Pavilion x360 11. This makes working on an 11.6-inch display feel less claustrophobic, especially when multitasking with two windows side by side. The Surface 3's screen is about as sharp as the Switch 11 V's, though it's smaller, at 10.8 inches.

Text looks crisp, and viewing angles are very good on the Switch 11 V; the picture doesn't wash out at all when the screen is tipped back or viewed from the side. 

Acer's machine also comes with a brighter display than you get on competing hybrids. Topping out at 409 nits of brightness, the Switch 11 V's screen outshines the display on the Transformer Book (243 nits), Inspiron 11 (308 nits) and Pavilion x360 (227 nits). A bright screen is easier to view outdoors or in direct sunlight.

In addition to serving as a secure base for the tablet portion of the device, the Switch 11 V's keyboard dock also delivers a pretty good typing experience, with good feedback on each keystroke and above average key travel of 1.6 millimeters. Deeper keys provide a more comfortable, desktoplike feel, but you don't always get them on ultraportable laptops like this one. 

The Switch 11 V's touchpad, meanwhile, is probably the hybrid's single worst component. Cursor control feels smooth and accurate, but the pad's clicking mechanism is far too stiff and requires too much force to click, especially toward its middle and upper portions. Of course, you can simply tap the pad to register left and right clicks, but users who prefer to click are sure to be annoyed.

The Aspire Switch 11 V has fewer ports than do rival notebooks. Notably, it has just one USB 3.0 port (located on the keyboard dock, not the tablet). In comparison, the Pavilion x360 11 and Dell Venue 11 3000 offer two full-size USB ports each. The Switch 11 V also provides a micro HDMI port (compared to a full-size HDMI connector on those competing machines), as well as a microSD card slot for expanding the notebook's internal storage. 

The Surface 3 offers a similar collection of ports. Two key differences are that the Surface's USB 3.0 port is on the tablet itself instead of on the keyboard dock, and it has a mini DisplayPort connector instead of micro HDMI.

The Switch 11 V delivers pretty good performance for daily work tasks, though it's not cut out for processor-intensive tasks. It's powered by an Intel Core M 5Y10c processor with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage. I noticed the occasional delay when switching between apps and tabs during moderate multitasking sessions, but the machine provided mostly smooth performance during my testing period.

On the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, the Switch racked up a middle-of-the-road score of 3,945. That's pretty good for the price, and it's about on par with the Pavilion x360, which scored 3,992 with the same processor. Cheaper rivals like the Inspiron 11 (3,406), Satellite Radius 11 (1,725) and Transformer Book (1,315) scored lower.

Short battery life means the Switch 11 V can't stray far from a power outlet for long. The machine lasted a scant 5 hours and 19 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. 

That's shorter than the Pavilion x360 (6:26) and Dell Venue 11 3000 (6:42). The Surface 3, meanwhile, blew past the competition, running for 8 hours and 1 minute on the same test. It's worth noting that nonhybrid ultraportable laptops tend to last longer on a charge, averaging about 8 hours and 11 minutes.

We reviewed the low-end Aspire Switch 11 V, which offers an 800-MHz Intel Core M 5Y10c processor with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage, all for an affordable $500.

A higher-end model is also available, offering identical hardware in the tablet portion, but with an extra 500GB hard drive on the keyboard dock.

Acer also sells an optional active stylus, which lets you take notes on the tablet's screen with full-pressure sensitivity, available for $30.

The Switch 11 V is an affordable work machine with plenty of good qualities, but it's not the best detachable hybrid you can get for $500. That distinction belongs to the Surface 3, which offers much longer battery life and, crucially, a handy kickstand. This props the tablet portion up, so it doesn't tip over when you take your hands off the keyboard dock, which is a plus, even if balancing a kickstand on your knees takes some getting used to.

But in my opinion, workers should consider a nondetachable hybrid like the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200 ($334), which offers twice the battery life at a lower price, even if it's not as speedy as the Switch 11 V. The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 ($300) and HP Pavilion x360 11 ($350) are also good alternatives, offering plenty of power and good battery life, though their low-res displays hold them back.

That said, Acer's Aspire Switch 11 V is still worth recommending to the right workers: those who can't live without a detachable tablet, want a high-res display and don't plan to use the device on their laps — or away from a power outlet — very often. 

[For more information on how we test mobile devices, visit our testing methodology page.] 

Brett Nuckles

Brett Nuckles has been a working journalist since 2009. He got his start in local newspapers covering community news, local government, education and more before he joined the Business News Daily staff in 2013. He graduated from Ohio University, where he studied Journalism and English. Follow him on Twitter @BrettNuckles.