If you're in the market for a Windows tablet that is able to match the performance of the slimmest and lightest notebook, while running really quiet, Acer Switch 5 SW512-52 is probably the best value option out there. Make sure you really want this form factor from a traditional laptop or even a 2-in-1 convertible, as it is more convenient to use tablet mode to compensate for smaller batteries and reduce functionality as a notebook.
- well built and nice looking
- surprisingly good keyboard and decent trackpad
- keyboard folio and pen included
- excellent performance with everyday tasks
- fanless and completely quiet
- well priced (the i5 model, especially in the US)
- not a fan of the kickstand's design
- the screen is not as nice as on other tablets
- gets hot with demanding loads
- slow wireless at range
- there's only a 39 Wh battery inside
- tinny speakers
If you are interested in Microsoft Surface Pro, you should also check the products covered in this article, Acer Switch 5 SW512-52.
Just like Surface Pro, this one is a Windows tablet with a similar form factor, a kick-stand on the back and a keyboard folio that can be attached. It gets a 12 inch 3-inch IPS touchscreen with pen support and all components tucked behind it, inside a well-installed metal chassis.
Unlike most other 2-in-1, Acer puts a passively cooled Core U processor on this device, so Switch 5 offers the power needed to handle everyday activities and multitasking, but without the fan's sound spinning.
This is not the only non-fanless Windows Core U-tablet out there, but there's still very little, in addition to Microsoft Surface Pro 5 (Core i5 version only) and Acer Aspire Switch 12 Alpha. Most other options are cooling fans, such as Asus Transformer 3 Pro, Lenovo Miix 720, HP X8 2017 or Dell Latitude 12 2-in-1.
The fanless aspect is a significant selling point, and considering a much more affordable price than its Surface, Switch 5 will attract a lot of attention. We have collected all of our impressions below, with details about the strong points and drawbacks, so at the end of the article you will know whether this is the right device for your needs (or not) and how the tariff is against the competition.
Specs as reviewed Acer Switch 5 SW512-52
Design and first look
It is important to reiterate that Acer Switch 5 is a mid-range product and thus much cheaper than Surface Pro 5. The i5 configuration with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB SSD is registered at $ 799 in the US and about 1000 EUR in Europe (keyboard and pen included), while a similarly configured surface sells for $ 1300 (without pen and keyboard), while the HP Specter X2 2017 sells for $ 1250 (with pen and keyboard). I have mentioned both of these because they are the best handsome and congenital device with this kind of tablet form factor.
Back to Switch 5, it does not mean badly made or ugly, but not as good and polished as carefully as the other two. The tablet itself weighs about 2 lbs and its exterior is made entirely of metal. It does not bend or squeak when used, and is quite comfortable to hold as well, thanks to the rounded edges and rounded corners.
The only questionable aesthetic option is the jagged side on the front side, which looks rather cheap. This is a small detail and I hope most will be fine with it.
After a quick glance at this Switch, you will see that the back is very simple and only accommodates the camera, while the front is almost completely covered with glass and accommodates two narrow speakers on the grill.
All other buttons and ports are placed around the edges. There is a volume rocker and power button (with integrated fingerprint reader) on the right side, there is USB A full size, USB-C (gen 1, without Thunderbolt 3) and headphone jack on the right, next to the PSU screen, while on the upper lip Acer places a microSD card reader flanked by two pin microphones. Of course there is no intake and exhaust grills on the side, because the device is cooled passively.
The absence of Thunderbolt 3 can drive some of you away, but Switch 5 can still connect to a 4K 60 Hz screen despite the USB-C port and, although I have not tested it, you can also charge the battery via USB-C based. on some of the comments I've read online.
Also, let's talk about kickstand and it's an unusual mechanism, different from other OEMs that use their similar computers. The twist is built in the back and stands out a bit, which actually means the tablet will not completely rest on the metal back when thrown down, which should prevent it from scratching, to some extent. Socks are a bit stiff though and not easy to open, because there is no fold for the finger to be taken off the finger, so your fingertips and nails may feel. This is not the main feature.
This kickstand opens to a fixed position that keeps the screen at an angle of 110-120 degrees. From here you just have to press the screen and kickstand will glide smoothly to the desired position, but if you lift the device it will immediately return to the fixed position at the top. I can live with this approach on the table, while watching a movie or imitating a laptop, where the device is placed on a fixed surface and I do not need to move it. The rubber feet in the kickstand and actual slate place also help the overall stability on the table, even if not so grasping.
I found Switch 5 uncomfortable to use on the lap though, where the kickstand constantly pushed the screen back to its original position even with my slightest movement, and I had to constantly push it back to the desired position. As far as using it while leaning on the couch or in bed, well, I find it almost impossible to use this way. There is a video on Youtube that better shows how this kickstand works.
As a tablet Switch 5 is also pretty good, although the price is slightly larger and larger than other options. It also gets a slightly smaller screen, which translates with bezels that are quite thick, but at least sturdy. The screen includes a digitizer and pen support, and we'll talk about it in the next section.
All in all Switch 5 is a well-made and nice hybrid, and makes laptops and tablets good in most scenarios. I'm not a fan of kickstand design, I prefer mechanisms on Surface.
As most other devices with the same form-factor, the Switch 5 gets a keyboard folio. It looks and even feels a lot like the folios on the Microsoft Surface Pros and Asus Transformer Pros, with a felt-like finishing and plastic inner chassis. Our unit came in gray and I’m not sure if Acer plans to offer it in other colors as well. The felt finishing feels alright to the touch, but I can’t tell how it’s going to age and whether it will wear-off after a while.
The keyboard attaches magnetically to the tablet and only works when connected, as it is supported by the slate itself. It can be arranged in two positions, completely flat on the table or slightly raised, as the position is slightly tilted and more ergonomic. Both are standard options on all existing detachables with keyboard-folio.
Folio is made of plastic and is also quite thin and light, so it is not surprising that it is somewhat flexible in the lifting position. Even so, the experience of typing is very good.
The keys have the right response and feedback, even when pressed on the sides, and there’s none of that spongy feedback I’ve encountered on the older Alpha 12. This is still a short stroke keyboard and not the fastest to type on either, but for me it proved to be one of the most accurate I’ve got to try lately.
The keyboard is also backlit, but the keys only light up when pressed and not while swiping fingers over the clickpad.
Speaking of it, the clickpad is rather small and made out of plastic. It is however a Microsoft Precision surface and works fairly well out of the box. I found it a tad slow for my liking, which can be addressed from the settings, and I’d say that its responsiveness with very precise swipes could also be improved, but these aside I have nothing to complain about. I also didn’t run into any issues or noticed any quirks during my time with the computer.
The Switch 5’s physical Power Button also doubles as a finger-sensor, and works alright with Windows Hello. It doesn’t always register the print from the first try though, so the experience of logging in is not as seamless as on other devices with finger-sensors.
I’ve read a few other reviews of this Switch 5 and all of them critique its screen. Yes, it’s not as bright, as uniform, as color accurate or even as sharp as the panel you’ll get on the Surface Pro 5, but I fell that it’s not that bad either.
Acer went with a 3:2 12.0-inch screen and an IPS panel made by WST (code name KL.1200W.004), with a resolution of 2160 x 1440 px. It’s sharp enough for this screen size and the slightly lower resolution actually pairs nicely with the hardware inside and helps with battery life to an extent. You’ll find more about this panel in the data and pictures below:
- Panel HardwareID: WST (KL.1200W.004);
- Coverage: 95% sRGB, 66% NTSC, 71% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 306 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 6410:1;
- White point: 7700 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.50 cd/m2.
I did not get any obvious light bleeding on my sample, but I've read some complains in other reviews, so you should be aware that uniformity can be a matter of luck with this device.
All in all, yes, you can get much better screens on other tablets out there, but given the Switch 5's mid-level price, I'd say most of you should be fine with the panel you do not draw a short stick at the lottery panel and end up with bright spots or light bleeding. Make sure to buy from a place that handles returns well, just in case.
This screen includes a digitizer (made by ELAN, from what I can tell) as well and supports Acer enhanced Active Pen with 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. It's a powered pen that works with an AAAA battery and is included with the Switch 5. It's not the same pen Acer bundled with the older Switch 12 Alpha, and as far as I can tell it works smoother than the older model.
This pen feels good in the hand and the color is light, as clear as the active pen. You can connect it to a special loop on the keyboard folio when not in use, but there is no way to store it in the actual slate. My experience with the pen is somewhat limited, as I do not use it every day, but I find this is fine for sketching and it is worth taking notes. Tracking can be fixed, because I feel it can be faster and more precise, but the palm rejection works well. Be sure to read other impressions as well, I am not the person who enters the pen and maybe you can find opinions from the people who actually take note on the touch screen every day.
I will also add that the Pen on Surface Pro 5 feels more accurate and handles pressure 4096, and even with the NTrig digitizer on the latest surface, the drawing and drawing experience they give is superior.
Hardware and performance
Acer sells the Switch 5 with either a Core i5-7200U or a Core i7-7500U processor, 8 GB of LPPD3 memory and an option for a 256 GB or a 512 GB SSD. We got to test the base Core i5 model which offers the better value for the money imo.
It came with a fairly fast Intel SSDPEKKW256G7 PCIe x4 SSD that it better than I would have expected for the mid-tier segment where this Switch 5 competes.
I recommend purchasing the configuration you need from the beginning, because getting into this computer is more complicated than traditional laptops and most of the components are soldered. I did not open my sample, but the SSD should be replaced with a compatible M.2 80 mm drive if you want to insert a larger one into it. Take this with a grain of salt though, I can not be sure because it can be replaced because I did not go in.
The dual-core i5-7200U processor is fast enough for everyday use (browsing, movies, music, text, etc.) and can handle multitasking well. It can also handle more complex loads, such as editing images in Photoshop or maybe playing lightweight games that can be handled by Intel HD 620 integrated graphics chips. However, do not forget this is a tablet with passive cooling, so it's no surprise if it can not get the best of included hardware.
It's very close though. The CPU runs fine with most everyday tasks, without overheating or experiencing problems in achieving maximum Turbo Boost speed. Details in the picture below.
It runs fairly well in benchmarks too, with only slight drops of 100-200 MHz of its Turbo Speeds noticeable with Cinebench (which puts a 100% load on the cores), that I’d expect could be corrected with undervolting. I even ran Cinebench in a loop without noticing a change in behavior, so overall this Switch 5 performs much better than the passively cooled Surface Pro 5, whose performance drops significantly in similar continuous loads (source).
Performance with games is limited though, as Acer had to force the CPU to clock down in order to allow enough power for the GPU, while keeping temperatures at bay. The pictures below show that the CPU’s package reaches temperatures of around 70 Celsius while running games, which is much lower than its TMax of up to 100 degrees, but the performance degrades with time as the computer heats-up.
The heat spreads much easier to the components and case with this kind of fanless design and thin build, which is the main reason Acer were forced to limit the frequencies in order to keep temperatures at bay. Even so, this computer gets very hot under load, as you’ll see in the next section.
We ran some benchmarks as well, if you’re interested in the physical numbers.
- 3DMark 11: P1678 (Physics – 4030, Graphics – 1535);
- 3DMark 13: Sky Driver –3846, Fire Strike – 866, Time Spy – 341;
- 3DMark 13 – Graphics: Sky Driver – 3714, Fire Strike – 939, Time Spy – 299;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 2710;
- PCMark 10: 3267;
- Geekbench 3 32-bit: Single-Core: 3147, Multi-core: 6805;
- Geekbench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 3711, Multi-core: 7154;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 43.43 fps, CPU 322 cb, CPU Single Core 115 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 112.41 fps, Pass 2 – 21.47 fps.
All in all this Switch 5 performs better than I was expecting from a Core U passively cooled tablet. In fact, it performs betters than many fan cooled ultraportables.
It handles standard chores fine and it should tackle more intense CPU loads alright as well. It’s not a computer that you should get for heavy loads or for games though, that’s why I wouldn’t recommend going for the Core i7 configurations hoping for extra performance.
Performance Battery life Acer Swicth 5 Sw5 12-52
There’s a 39 Wh battery on the Switch 5, which is a tad bigger than the battery on the Aspire 12 Alpha (37 Wh), but smaller than what the Surface Pro 5 offers (45 Wh).
Given its size, the hardware inside and the fairly high-resolution display, you shouldn’t expect this to be a marathon runner. It does alright though with daily use, as you’ll see below (we set the screen at 30% brightness, roughly 120 nits):
- 9.1 W (~4 h 15 min of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.3 W (~7 h 20 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 3.9 W (~10 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 4.9 W (~8 of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 14.8 W (~2 h 35 min of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 23 W (~1 h 30 min of use) – gaming on battery, High Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON.
You’ll get a little shorter runtimes with the i7 configuration, in case you decide to opt for it.
Acer pairs this laptop with a compact 45 Wh charger that weighs .155 kg/ .34 lbs (European Version). It lacks fast charging, and a full recharge takes a little under 2 hours.
Price and availability
The Acer Switch 5 SW512-52 is available in most regions as of October 2017.
I find the best value in the Core i5-7200U configuration with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage, which is listed for $799 in the US, with the pen and keyboard-folio included. The same configuration is more expensive in Europe though, starting at 1000 EUR. Expect to pay around $1100 in the US and 1300 EUR in Europe for the i7 / 8 GB RAM/ 512 GB SSD models.
At the end of the day, if you’re in the market for a Windows tablet able to match the performance of most thin-and-light notebooks, while running completely silent, the Acer Switch 5 SW512-52 is one of the best options to consider.
In fact, unless you have an unlimited budget, in which case the Microsoft Surface Pro 5 is the one for you, this Switch 5 is your best bet as of October 2017. Your pool broadens as long as you can live with a fan inside your computer (Asus Transformer 3 Pro, Lenovo Miix 720, the 2017 HP Spectre X2 or the Dell Latitude 12 2-in-1), but I for one would rather pick one of these fanless devices.
I’d personally aim for the i5 configuration of the Switch 5 which sells for $800 in the US and can handle everyday use very well and even tackle more demanding loads if needed, to some extent. You do have to understand that this is not the device to get if you’re after the best performer in a compact body. It is however the device to get if you prefer the tablet-like form factor with its compact design, reduced weight and the ability to take notes and draw with the included Active pen. On the other hand, the form-factor comes with some drawback, the important one being the smaller battery tucked inside.
the Acer Switch 5 SW512-52 is a best-buy in its niche of Windows running tablets, with an excellent price and few quirks. Let us know what you think about it in the comments section below, and get in touch if you have anything to add to our impressions or any questions, we’re around and ready to help out.
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