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Acer Aspire Switch 12 Alpha SA5-271-56HM Convertible Review

Nino Ricchizzi, Stefanie Voigt (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 06/27/2016

Absolute silence. A liquid cooling system in a convertible does not work? Of course it does! For the first time ever, Acer has installed a silent cooling technology in a high-performance convertible based on Intel's Core i5 and i7 processors. This innovation is not the only reason that it is going to get rough on the competition.

For the original German review, see here.

Acer introduced its new Switch Alpha 12 Windows convertible at an onsite press conference. The Switch Alpha 12 does not only find a place among convertibles in the future, it  stands out with innovative technology and low price. The main focus is the "LiquidLoop Cooling System", a kind of liquid cooling system. High-performance Intel Core i processors should run quietly without a loud fan.

Another interesting aspect for customers is Acer's price policy. The highest-performance model features an Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of working memory and a 512 GB SSD. This configuration is currently priced at around 1300 Euros (~$1435) in the price comparison. By comparison: Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 based on a similar configuration costs 1550 Euros (~$1711; +150/~$165 Euros keyboard dock). Optionally, a higher maximum working memory capacity of up to 16 GB can be selected in the Surface lineup.

We are testing the lowest priced model of Acer's convertibles costing 800 Euros (~$883). It came with an Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB of working memory and a 128 GB SSD. We are curious as to how the new cooling system of the considerably lower-priced alternative model fares in the convertible premium range. We will bring in some opponents during our tests, such as Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 and Pro 3Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 and HP's Elite x2 1012. And obviously, the popular HP's Spectre x2 and the 1000 Euro (~$1104) Lenovo's IdeaPad Miix 700 should not be omitted.

Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM (Aspire Switch Series)
Processor
Intel Core i5-6200U, two cores TPM 15 W
Graphics adapter
Intel HD Graphics 520, Core: 400 MHz, Memory: 930 MHz, 20.19.15.4454
Memory
4096 MB 
, DDR3L
Display
12 inch 16:9, 2160 x 1440 pixel 216 PPI, capacitive, multitouch, native pen support, Panasonic VVX12T041N00, IPS, glossy: yes, detachable screen
Mainboard
Intel Skylake-U Premium PCH
Storage
Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2, 256 GB 
, 128 GB SATA 3.1
Soundcard
Intel Skylake-U/Y PCH - High Definition Audio
Connections
2 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: combo audio, Card Reader: micro-SD, Brightness Sensor
Networking
Atheros/Qualcomm QCA6174 (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.1
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 11 x 291 x 201 ( = 0.43 x 11.46 x 7.91 in)
Battery
37 Wh Lithium-Polymer, 2 cells
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64 Bit
Camera
Webcam: 720pSecondary Camera: 1.44 MPix
Additional features
Speakers: stereo speakers, Keyboard: chiclet, Keyboard Light: no, keyboard, 12 Months Warranty, fanless
Weight
1.29 kg ( = 45.5 oz / 2.84 pounds), Power Supply: 330 g ( = 11.64 oz / 0.73 pounds)
Price
800 Euro
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Case

The Switch Alpha 12 looks quite similar to the competing products. As with the comparison devices, the convertible is made up of a tablet and a slim, magnetic keyboard unit. An aluminum component adorns the rear. The kickstand is also made of light metal, and resembles that of HP's Elite x2 1012. A rubber lining coats the middle for better grip. However, it is quite loose at the edges and thus it might show signs of wear after a while. Although we feel some rough edges and more irregularities than on a Surface, overall, we like the casing of Acer's Switch Alpha 12. We do not find many points of criticism in terms of our review sample's build. If only the kickstand could close a little tighter in the device. Due to the presence of a magnetic lock, only one side is fixed  quite loosely on the casing.

The tablet alone weighs 920 grams (~2 lb), and thus the 12-inch review sample is not a flyweight. Working in Tablet Mode for a prolonged period of time could get unpleasant. Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 is whole 170 grams (~6 oz) lighter. The Surface lineup is on par with the ThinkPad. The Switch Alpha weighs almost 1.3 kilograms (~2.9 lb) with the keyboard. Thanks to the comparatively high weight and low height of 0.9 to 1.1 centimeters (~0.35 to ~0.43 in); the casing makes an overall stable impression. As with most convertibles, the maintenance options are extremely limited. It is not intended that the end user performs any maintenance in Acer's Switch Alpha. At a first glance, it looks as if a maintenance hatch has been installed in the rear; two screws are hidden behind the unsightly tape strips. This hatch is very difficult to remove, and thus we had to abort opening to prevent unintentional damage to the shop device.

With its keyboard unit, Acer's new convertible resembles ...
With its keyboard unit, Acer's new convertible resembles ...
... Microsoft's Surface models.
The kickstand is stable enough.
A magnetic lock ...
... holds the keyboard.
Laptop Mode
Rear-facing 5 MP camera
Switch Alpha in Tablet Mode

Connectivity

As with the opponents, the diversity of interfaces is also restricted. Only a USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 Type-C port are found in the review sample. Both are located on the left of the tablet unit and are easy to access. The ports are sufficiently spaced. The option of a wireless WiGig docking station is interesting. The recently introduced Asus Transformer 3 Pro is rather more communicative with an HDMI-out and Thunderbolt port.

Right: Combo audio, USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Type-C, power-in
Right: Combo audio, USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Type-C, power-in
Front
Front
Left
Left
Rear
Rear

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Communication

A 2x2 MU-MIMO dual-band Wi-Fi module is installed for wireless communication. The adapter by Qualcomm has a maximum gross speed of 867 Mbps. The IEEE 802.11 WiGig standard is also supported, making it possible to connect wirelessly to the optional dock. While the manufacturer lists Bluetooth 4.0 on its specification sheet, the specification of the QCA6174 module leads us to believe that it is a Bluetooth 4.1 communication interface. This is confirmed by the device manager. Finally, we test the Wi-Fi speed in the author’s personal setup. A random 5 GB binary file that is placed on a NAS is transmitted via a Fritz!Box 7490. The router is one story below the review sample, which equates to a straight line of 3 to 4 meters (~10 to ~13 ft). As with the Apple iMac 5k, Acer's Switch Alpha achieves roughly 61 MB/s.

Accessories

Not a matter of course: Acer ships the new Switch Alpha 12 with keyboard. Microsoft takes a different and more expensive approach here. A keyboard for the Surface will cost an additional  150 Euros (~$166). However, the stylus for our convertible has to be purchased as an extra, although so far it has not been listed on the manufacturer's website. Currently, the wireless docking station is not available, but it will probably cost around 300 Euros (~$331). It comes with an Ethernet socket as well as several USB 3.0 / 3.1 Type-C ports and HDMI-out.

Maintenance

As mentioned in Case section, two screws are found on the rear's lateral sides, but unfortunately, they do not help removing the rear-sided aluminum part. We will have to wait and see whether and to what extent maintenance is possible. Apparently, the manufacturer does not really support this.

Warranty

Acer includes a two-year warranty. In addition to a pick-up and return service, the manufacturer offers an International Travelers Warranty. Only the Aspire laptop warranties that extend the warranty period to three years (60 Euros/~$66) and four years (80 Euros/~$88) are found for convertibles on Acer's shop page. We will also have to wait and see whether products specifically designed for the review sample will be available.

Input Devices

The keyboard is included in the price
The keyboard is included in the price

Keyboard

The installed chiclet keyboard has a relatively sleek surface texture. Nevertheless, the typing sensation is extremely satisfactory for the small keyboard unit. The pressure point could be slightly more accurate since the drop is very even up to the stroke point. However, it is pleasing that the single keys have a smooth drop. Unlike the Microsoft rivals, Acer has not installed a backlight in its new convertible. A somewhat unfavorable solution: The loop for the optional stylus is already attached. Customers have to remove the glued strap manually if they do not need the stylus. Another point of criticism: The magnetic lock mechanism tilts the keyboard and thus hovers slightly. As a result, typing and using the touchpad is not exactly silent. This issue can be solved easily by placing the keyboard flat on a surface.

Touchpad

The touchpad below the keyboard is the second of four input devices. Its size of 9.5 x 5.3 cm (~3.7 x 2.1 in) is similar to that of the Surfaces, and it is acceptable for conventional use. Its sleek surface ensures good gliding qualities and the integrated keys provide a crisp click feedback. The click noise level is rather high, but not too loud and distracting. All inputs, even multitouch gestures, are recognised and implemented impeccably.

Touchscreen and Stylus

The stylus was not included with our shop device. Supposedly it has 256 pressure levels. This rate is equivalent to that of Microsoft's Surface 3. The new Surface Pro 4 has four times as many pressure levels. Therefore, sketch artists should test both devices before buying.

The capacitive screen does not give any reason for complaint. The screen responds smoothly and implements our inputs as intended. All ten fingers can be detected simultaneously.

Display

Switch Alpha pixel grid
Switch Alpha pixel grid

Acer's latest convertible uses a QHD IPS panel with a resolution of 2160x1440 pixels. The 3:2 aspect ratio is familiar from the Surface lineup. The resolution is also familiar from Microsoft's Surface Pro 3. The new Surface Pro 4 has a resolution of 2736x1824 pixels on a 12.3-inch screen. Both the resolution and the brightness are the same as those in the Surface Pro 3. We measured an average of 238 cd/m², which is considerably lower than that of the Intel Core i7 version of the Surface Pro 4HP's Elite x2 and Lenovo's IdeaPad Miix 700 are both on a similar level as our review sample. The contrast of Acer's new convertible is a decent 908:1. Only Microsoft's devices outshine these rates here.

An important note for mobile use: The screen's brightness is not dimmed in the battery mode.

314
cd/m²
329
cd/m²
326
cd/m²
323
cd/m²
345
cd/m²
326
cd/m²
323
cd/m²
341
cd/m²
325
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 345 cd/m² Average: 328 cd/m² Minimum: 18 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 91 %
Center on Battery: 345 cd/m²
Contrast: 908:1 (Black: 0.38 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 8.4 | 0.4-29.43 Ø6.2
ΔE Greyscale 4.3 | 0.64-98 Ø6.5
96% sRGB (Calman 2D) 62% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll 3D)
Gamma: 2.63
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM
HD Graphics 520, 6200U, Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Samsung PM871 MZYLN256HCHP
HP Elite x2 1012 G1
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Liteon L8H-256V2G
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
HD Graphics 4400, 4300U, Hynix HFS128G3MNM
Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Samsung MZNLN128HCGR-000L2
Response Times
-24%
-17%
-72%
-26%
Response Time Grey 50% / Grey 80% *
20 (5, 15, detail 5 schraffiert)
28.4 (11.2, 17.2)
-42%
33.2 (15.2, 18)
-66%
46 (17.2, 28.8, plateau, spikes in between)
-130%
30 (11, 19)
-50%
Response Time Black / White *
34 (15, 19, [email protected]% mit/ohne PSU)
17.6 (3.6, 14)
48%
22.8 (10.4, 12.4)
33%
31.2 (6, 25.2, Spikes in between)
8%
16 (4.4, 11.6)
53%
PWM Frequency
1000 (100)
222.2 (49)
-78%
50 (50)
-95%
200 (18)
-80%
Screen
-15%
-6%
17%
3%
-7%
Brightness middle
345
342.4
-1%
322
-7%
413
20%
355.3
3%
341
-1%
Brightness
328
315
-4%
319
-3%
396
21%
338
3%
318
-3%
Brightness Distribution
91
85
-7%
97
7%
87
-4%
91
0%
87
-4%
Black Level *
0.38
0.744
-96%
0.42
-11%
0.36
5%
0.33
13%
0.36
5%
Contrast
908
460
-49%
767
-16%
1147
26%
1077
19%
947
4%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
8.4
5.33
37%
6.02
28%
3.09
63%
4.72
44%
6
29%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 max. *
11.9
9.25
22%
10.06
15%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
4.3
5.36
-25%
6.29
-46%
3.92
9%
6.53
-52%
8.12
-89%
Gamma
2.63 84%
2.12 104%
2.4 92%
2.3 96%
2.17 101%
2.23 99%
CCT
7368 88%
7671 85%
7712 84%
7333 89%
6707 97%
7011 93%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
62
57
-8%
47.8
-23%
61
-2%
59.37
-4%
63.4
2%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
93
73.2
97
97.4
Total Average (Program / Settings)
-20% / -17%
-12% / -8%
-28% / -7%
3% / 3%
-17% / -12%

* ... smaller is better

The rates determined up to this point are impressive. However, the CalMAN analysis is very mediocre. An extremely light bluish tint is obvious with a DeltaE deviation of 4.3 in the grayscale levels. The colors deviate even more strongly with 8.4. The color space coverage of 96% in the sRGB space is superb, and it is on par with the more expensive Surface Pro 4. Only 62% of the larger AdobeRGB space is covered.

CalMAN Grayscale
CalMAN Grayscale
CalMAN Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN ColorChecker
CalMAN ColorChecker
sRGB color space coverage
sRGB color space coverage
AdobeRGB color space coverage
AdobeRGB color space coverage

Outdoor use is possible in shaded or somewhat darker environments. However, the glossy screen cannot defy direct light sources. Using the device under clear skies in sunlight is impossible.

Reflections could intefere with use
Reflections could intefere with use
Reliable use is possible in shaded environments
Reliable use is possible in shaded environments

Display Response Times

Display response times show how fast the screen is able to change from one color to the next. Slow response times can lead to afterimages and can cause moving objects to appear blurry (ghosting). Gamers of fast-paced 3D titles should pay special attention to fast response times.
       Response Time Black to White
34 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 15 ms rise
↘ 19 ms fall
The screen shows slow response rates in our tests and will be unsatisfactory for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.8 (minimum) to 240 (maximum) ms. » 88 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is worse than the average of all tested devices (25.6 ms).
       Response Time 50% Grey to 80% Grey
20 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 5 ms rise
↘ 15 ms fall
The screen shows good response rates in our tests, but may be too slow for competitive gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.9 (minimum) to 636 (maximum) ms. » 8 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is better than the average of all tested devices (41 ms).

Screen Flickering / PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation)

To dim the screen, some notebooks will simply cycle the backlight on and off in rapid succession - a method called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) . This cycling frequency should ideally be undetectable to the human eye. If said frequency is too low, users with sensitive eyes may experience strain or headaches or even notice the flickering altogether.
Screen flickering / PWM detected 1000 Hz ≤ 100 % brightness setting

The display backlight flickers at 1000 Hz (Likely utilizing PWM) Flickering detected at a brightness setting of 100 % and below. There should be no flickering or PWM above this brightness setting.

The frequency of 1000 Hz is quite high, so most users sensitive to PWM should not notice any flickering.

In comparison: 53 % of all tested devices do not use PWM to dim the display. If PWM was detected, an average of 8929 (minimum: 43 - maximum: 142900) Hz was measured.

Unfortunately, our oscilloscope recorded pulse width modulation (PWM) even at a brightness of 100%. This brightness flickering appears at 1000 Hz, which is invisible to the human eye. It occurs both with and without power supply, and thus we can exclude power supply related flickering. This flickering is the reason for the "thick" line in the screenshots, and the detailed image below each one reveals consistent flickering. The panel might offer a higher brightness technically (genuine 100% without PWM), but Acer has reduced it in favor of battery life so that it shines at most with 90 or 80%. The lowermost PWM screen shows flickering at approximately 70%, also at 1000 Hz.

Thanks to the installed viewing angle stable IPS panel, views from different positions are not distorted. Inputting on the lap needs some getting used to due to the kickstand.

Viewing angle stability
Viewing angle stability

Performance

LatencyMon
LatencyMon

Put simply, Acer offers two differently powered models in this lineup. Our review sample creates the entry-level with an Intel Core i5 processor. It has enough power for routine applications and multimedia use, and even has some performance reserves. However, users who need more power could look at the Intel Core i7 version. Both models of this lineup can be configured with either four or eight gigabytes of working memory. Our review sample is the 4 GB version. Another configuration option is the SSD storage (128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB). Currently, our entry-level model with a 128 GB solid-state drive costs around 800 Euros (~$883).

Processor

Intel Core i5-6200U provides enough power for more sophisticated applications and multitasking with two cores. The CPU from the Skylake generation clocks at speeds from 2300 to 2800 MHz. The latter is achieved in the single-mode only. Both cores can clock at up to 2.7 GHz simultaneously. A look at Cinebench R15 reveals that the installed processor calculates exactly in the expected performance range. In the unfair race between the almost just as expensive Surface Pro 4 based on a Core m3, the Switch Alpha achieves an over 40% better score. Furthermore, the i5 Surface model does not do much better in the test despite a stronger Intel Core i5-6300U. The considerably more expensive rivalling convertibles by HP and Lenovo proved to have weaker performance due to the Intel Core m processor.

The review sample achieves the same score without its power supply, and the score does not decrease even after several Cinebench runs.

More comparisons and benchmarks can be found in our Comparison of Mobile Processors article.

Cinebench R15 - CPU Multi 64Bit
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Core i7
Iris Graphics 540, 6650U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
342 Points ∼100% +18%
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
306 Points ∼89% +6%
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM
HD Graphics 520, 6200U, Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2
289 Points ∼85%
HP Elite x2 1012 G1
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Liteon L8H-256V2G
255 Points ∼75% -12%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Samsung PM871 MZYLN256HCHP
234 Points ∼68% -19%
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core m3
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
206 Points ∼60% -29%
Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Samsung MZNLN128HCGR-000L2
200 Points ∼58% -31%
HP Spectre x2 12-a003ng K3D42EA
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Sandisk X300 SD7SN6S-256G-1006
177 Points ∼52% -39%
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
114 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
289 Points
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
41.06 fps
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
97.8 %
Help

System Performance

Convertibles follow the objective of merging the best properties of a tablet and a laptop. We can check this goal is achieved in terms of system performance. Thanks to the installed SSD, the Switch Alpha is highly responsive and provides enough power with its Intel Core i5 processor and dual-channel working memory. Our review convertible proves itself in PCMark 8 and confirms our subjective impression. It is on par with the opponents in the Work benchmark, and can almost keep up with the stronger i7 model of the Surface. The Home test scores are also praiseworthy. Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 with Intel's Core i5 CPU achieves over 500 points less than our review sample. Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 is also defeated and lags behind the Switch Alpha 12 by 300 points with 2976 points. HP's Spectre x2 and Lenovo's Miix 700 even present a 300 point lower score. However, the Spectre X2 12 outruns all rivals in the Work score.

PCMark 8
Work Score Accelerated v2
HP Spectre x2 12-a003ng K3D42EA
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Sandisk X300 SD7SN6S-256G-1006
4078 Points ∼100% +2%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Samsung PM871 MZYLN256HCHP
4058 Points ∼100% +2%
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Core i7
Iris Graphics 540, 6650U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
4052 Points ∼99% +1%
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM
HD Graphics 520, 6200U, Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2
3996 Points ∼98%
HP Elite x2 1012 G1
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Liteon L8H-256V2G
3932 Points ∼96% -2%
Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Samsung MZNLN128HCGR-000L2
3837 Points ∼94% -4%
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
3697 Points ∼91% -7%
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core m3
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
3186 Points ∼78% -20%
Home Score Accelerated v2
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Core i7
Iris Graphics 540, 6650U, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
3394 Points ∼100% +3%
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM
HD Graphics 520, 6200U, Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2
3281 Points ∼97%
HP Elite x2 1012 G1
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Liteon L8H-256V2G
2983 Points ∼88% -9%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Samsung PM871 MZYLN256HCHP
2976 Points ∼88% -9%
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
2770 Points ∼82% -16%
Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Samsung MZNLN128HCGR-000L2
2733 Points ∼81% -17%
HP Spectre x2 12-a003ng K3D42EA
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Sandisk X300 SD7SN6S-256G-1006
2675 Points ∼79% -18%
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core m3
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
2426 Points ∼71% -26%
PCMark 8 Home Score Accelerated v2
3281 points
PCMark 8 Work Score Accelerated v2
3996 points
Help

Storage Device

CrystalDisk benchmark
CrystalDisk benchmark
AS SSD benchmark
AS SSD benchmark

A 128 GB SSD is installed in our entry-level model. The read-only memory comes from Kingston's RBU lineup and communicates via a SATA 3.1 interface. The write speeds outclass the Surface Pro 4 lineup in CrystalDiskMark. Lenovo's ThinkPad X1, however, defeats it with sequential write rates of 304.6 MB/s. Our review sample clearly lags behind Microsoft's opponents, but overall we are satisfied with almost 520 MB/s. The total score of 918 points resulting from the rates of the AS SSD benchmark is on par with the 200-Euro (~$221) more expensive Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700. The more expensive HP Spectre x2 has to be satisfied with a total score of 722 points too.

Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM
HD Graphics 520, 6200U, Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Samsung PM871 MZYLN256HCHP
HP Elite x2 1012 G1
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Liteon L8H-256V2G
HP Spectre x2 12-a003ng K3D42EA
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Sandisk X300 SD7SN6S-256G-1006
Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Samsung MZNLN128HCGR-000L2
AS SSD
25%
15%
6%
-17%
-0%
Score Total
918
1190
30%
997
9%
864
-6%
722
-21%
913
-1%
Score Write
228
239
5%
316
39%
338
48%
223
-2%
227
0%
Score Read
460
645
40%
450
-2%
351
-24%
333
-28%
459
0%
CrystalDiskMark 3.0
9%
10%
15%
0%
5%
Write 4k
76.83
101.5
32%
73.58
-4%
90.27
17%
53.52
-30%
95.48
24%
Read 4k
29.3
28.51
-3%
32.36
10%
28.31
-3%
27.4
-6%
36.2
24%
Write Seq
199.9
154.2
-23%
305.6
53%
297.2
49%
316
58%
153.5
-23%
Read Seq
518.1
666
29%
420.3
-19%
500.5
-3%
410.1
-21%
497.9
-4%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
17% / 16%
13% / 12%
11% / 11%
-9% / -7%
3% / 3%
Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2
Sequential Read: 518.1 MB/s
Sequential Write: 199.9 MB/s
512K Read: 374.9 MB/s
512K Write: 201 MB/s
4K Read: 29.3 MB/s
4K Write: 76.83 MB/s
4K QD32 Read: 272 MB/s
4K QD32 Write: 197.1 MB/s

Graphics Card

The integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 graphics chip is supported by the dual-channel working memory. Its most important features are decoding H.265/HEVC videos and DirectX 12 support. It has enough power for most common multimedia applications. Users can pass the time if they are happy with older games. The graphics unit presents itself as extremely performance ready in 3DMark 11. With a proud 1585, it belongs to the upper half of the comparison devices based on the same graphics chip. Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 achieves an identical score. The other rivals cannot keep up due to a weaker Intel HD Graphics 515.

As in processor performance, the graphics score is maintained in battery mode. More comparisons of different graphics units can be found in our Laptop Video Graphics Cards - Benchmark List.

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM
HD Graphics 520, 6200U, Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2
1585 Points ∼100%
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
1565 Points ∼99% -1%
HP Spectre x360 15-ap012dx
HD Graphics 520, 6200U, Sandisk X300 SD7SN6S-256G-1006
1565 Points ∼99% -1%
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
HD Graphics 520, 6200U, Samsung SSD PM871 MZNLN256HCHP
1372 Points ∼87% -13%
HP Elite x2 1012 G1
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Liteon L8H-256V2G
1334 Points ∼84% -16%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Samsung PM871 MZYLN256HCHP
1283 Points ∼81% -19%
Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Samsung MZNLN128HCGR-000L2
1109 Points ∼70% -30%
HP Spectre x2 12-a003ng K3D42EA
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Sandisk X300 SD7SN6S-256G-1006
1098 Points ∼69% -31%
3DMark 11 Performance
1585 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
5608 points
Help

Gaming Performance

As we have briefly mentioned, somewhat older games should be used. Current games that might run with smooth reproduction options on the installed graphics unit can be looked up in our benchmark column. For example, "Rise of the Tomb Raider" cannot be rendered smoothly even in minimum settings. "BioShock Infinite" offers a different outlook: Smooth frame rates are easily achieved in minimum settings.

BioShock Infinite - 1366x768 Medium Preset
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Core i7
49.1 fps ∼100% +72%
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
30 fps ∼61% +5%
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM
28.6 fps ∼58%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet
25 fps ∼51% -13%
HP Elite x2 1012 G1
24.6 fps ∼50% -14%
Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700
18.5 fps ∼38% -35%

Legend

 
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM Intel Core i5-6200U, Intel HD Graphics 520, Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2
 
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB Intel Core i5-6300U, Intel HD Graphics 520, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
 
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Core i7 Intel Core i7-6650U, Intel Iris Graphics 540, Samsung MZFLV256 NVMe
 
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet Intel Core m7-6Y75, Intel HD Graphics 515, Samsung PM871 MZYLN256HCHP
 
HP Elite x2 1012 G1 Intel Core m5-6Y54, Intel HD Graphics 515, Liteon L8H-256V2G
 
HP Spectre x2 12-a003ng K3D42EA Intel Core m7-6Y75, Intel HD Graphics 515, Sandisk X300 SD7SN6S-256G-1006
 
Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700 Intel Core m5-6Y54, Intel HD Graphics 515, Samsung MZNLN128HCGR-000L2
low med. high ultra
BioShock Infinite (2013) 54.428.624.26.9fps
Battlefield 4 (2013) 45.831.419.76fps
Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016) 1710.86.1fps

Emissions

System Noise

Acer's Switch Alpha 12 does not make a sound. The convertible is silent even when Intel's Core i7 processor is loaded. This makes using performance-driven programs possible, even in quiet surroundings such as a library, without the fan's permanent noise driving the neighbor crazy.

Temperature

Acer Alpha Switch in the stress test
Acer Alpha Switch in the stress test
Rear
Rear

Acer's magical word is LiquidLoop Cooling System. For the first time ever, a liquid cooled model is installed in a convertible. We want to closely examine this extremely exciting innovation. The review sample always stayed pleasingly cool during idle mode i.e. enabled energy-savings profile and two hours of activity without further use. The hot spot is just 29.5 °C (~85 °F) at an ambient room temperature of 22 °C (~72 °F). The temperature is distributed rather unevenly in load situations. With an average of 35 °C (~95 °F), the left area is much cooler than the right with a temperature of around 47.8 °C (~118 °F) on the display's surface. Unpleasant temperatures of up to 51 °C (~124 °F) are reached on the rear, which prevents using Tablet mode. The actively cooled Surface Pro 4 (Intel Core i7) does a much better job with maximum temperatures of 45.4 °C (~114 °F). However, the Surface Pro 4 version with Intel's Core i5 reaches much higher temperatures on average than our review sample. A reason might be the CPU's efficiency in load conditions. A frequently throttled CPU produces less waste heat due to the lower clock ratio. Throttling is a daily issue, at least during extreme load, which is due to the convertible's slim build.

We first max out the processing power via Prime95. The clock frequency remains stable for 20 minutes with Turbo. Subsequently, the clock drops to 2500 to 2600 MHz. The CPU calculates just above its base clock of 2.4 GHz after approximately half an hour. The CPU recurrently fluctuates between 2.3 and 2.5 GHz. We cannot provoke throttling up to this point. The processor first has to clearly drop below its base rate after starting FurMark, where it clocks at only 1.1 - 1.2 GHz on average.

The review sample throttles only in the stress test, which causes a load that is unlikely to be produced in real world use. According to 3DMark 11 the Switch Alpha 12 can retrieve its full performance as soon as Prime95 and FurMark are closed.

Overall, Acer's new convertible presents itself with a well-designed and noiseless cooling system.

Max. Load
 33.4 °C
92 F
43 °C
109 F
46.7 °C
116 F
 
 34.4 °C
94 F
44 °C
111 F
46.2 °C
115 F
 
 37.7 °C
100 F
43 °C
109 F
44.4 °C
112 F
 
Maximum: 46.7 °C = 116 F
Average: 41.4 °C = 107 F
47.6 °C
118 F
43.5 °C
110 F
37.3 °C
99 F
51 °C
124 F
43.9 °C
111 F
37.4 °C
99 F
48.3 °C
119 F
43.4 °C
110 F
37.2 °C
99 F
Maximum: 51 °C = 124 F
Average: 43.3 °C = 110 F
Power Supply (max.)  44.4 °C = 112 F | Room Temperature 22.2 °C = 72 F | FIRT 550-Pocket
(-) The average temperature for the upper side under maximal load is 41.4 °C / 107 F, compared to the average of 30.4 °C / 87 F for the devices in the class Convertible.
(-) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 46.7 °C / 116 F, compared to the average of 35.5 °C / 96 F, ranging from 21.8 to 55.7 °C for the class Convertible.
(-) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 51 °C / 124 F, compared to the average of 36.6 °C / 98 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 28.3 °C / 83 F, compared to the device average of 30.4 °C / 87 F.
(-) The palmrests and touchpad can get very hot to the touch with a maximum of 44.4 °C / 111.9 F.
(-) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 29.2 °C / 84.6 F (-15.2 °C / -27.3 F).

Speakers

Frequency analysis of the installed speakers
Frequency analysis of the installed speakers

The installed stereo speakers do not excite us. Music sounds much too tinny, which makes a very scratchy impression in trebles. Music enjoyment is a foreign word for such treble-heavy sound. The frequency diagram shows an extremely uneven distribution. Unfortunately, it is not only the sound reproduction that is very restricted but also the volume. Using the headphone jack is recommended for daily Internet video sessions or music playback.

dB(A) 0102030405060708090Deep BassMiddle BassHigh BassLower RangeMidsHigher MidsLower HighsMid HighsUpper HighsSuper Highs2031.32531.73133.44030.45029.56328.98026.210027.212534.516031.220037.925039.531536.640046.750049.363058.680065.4100065.2125059.8160063.2200061.7250064.4315064.8400062.7500063.7630067.2800074.61000068.81250055.41600046.9SPL7868.7N3921.8median 59.8Delta10.837.536.637.239.838.639.136.936.639.536.941.746.752.756.261.666.366.164.862.46763.861.562.653.944.646.245.350.355.954.3median 54.38.6hearing rangehide median Pink NoiseAS Switch Alpha 12 Lenovo Miix 700

Energy Management

Power Consumption

Our review sample proves to be extremely power hungry, particularly during load. With a power consumption of 25.2 to 29.3 watts, it requires 6 to10 watts more than the i5 Surface configuration. The minimum idle consumption is also higher than that of Microsoft's Surface. This high energy requirement could have a very unfavorable impact on battery life.

Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM
HD Graphics 520, 6200U, Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Samsung PM871 MZYLN256HCHP
HP Elite x2 1012 G1
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Liteon L8H-256V2G
Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Samsung MZNLN128HCGR-000L2
HP Spectre x2 12-a003ng K3D42EA
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Sandisk X300 SD7SN6S-256G-1006
Power Consumption
20%
27%
20%
14%
26%
Idle Minimum *
7.3
4.4
40%
5.87
20%
3.7
49%
4
45%
4.5
38%
Idle Average *
10
9
10%
6.05
39%
6.8
32%
8.6
14%
7.7
23%
Idle Maximum *
10.15
10.7
-5%
6.13
40%
7.6
25%
9.3
8%
8.3
18%
Load Average *
25.2
19.6
22%
21.27
16%
22.5
11%
18.6
26%
19.8
21%
Load Maximum *
29.3
19.9
32%
23.03
21%
34.5
-18%
36.3
-24%
20.6
30%

* ... smaller is better

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.3 / 0.4 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 7.3 / 10 / 10.15 Watt
Load midlight 25.2 / 29.3 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Metrahit Energy

Battery Runtime

Linear depletion in idle
Linear depletion in idle

Acer has installed a two-cell, lithium polymer battery with a capacity of 37 Wh in its slim convertible. The manufacturer's stated possible runtime of up to 8 hours is one hour less than Microsoft's specifications for the Surface lineup.

Our first endurance test is to determine the maximum runtime. We enable the review sample's energy-saving mode and run a read script using minimum brightness. With over 10.5 hours, it achieves 4.5 hours less than the i5 model from Microsoft's Surface lineup. The Wi-Fi test is used for a practice-relevant time measurement. We simulate Internet browsing with a medium brightness of approximately 150 cd/m². With 5 hours and 20 minutes, the convertible clearly lags behind the almost seven hours achieved by the Intel Core i5 model of the latest Surface. We would have hoped for a little more endurance, although the ThinkPad X1 shuts down 20 minutes earlier. HP's Elite x2 and Lenovo's IdeaPad Miix 700 are the leaders as they last almost 7.5 hours, thanks to Intel Core m.

Finally, we look at the minimum possible runtime. The review sample is once again loaded and the brightness is set to maximum here. The short two hours seem normal in view of the rivals.

Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM
HD Graphics 520, 6200U, Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Core i5, 128GB
HD Graphics 520, 6300U, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Samsung PM871 MZYLN256HCHP
HP Elite x2 1012 G1
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Liteon L8H-256V2G
HP Spectre x2 12-a003ng K3D42EA
HD Graphics 515, 6Y75, Sandisk X300 SD7SN6S-256G-1006
Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700
HD Graphics 515, 6Y54, Samsung MZNLN128HCGR-000L2
Battery Runtime
WiFi Websurfing 1.3
321
427
33%
300
-7%
443
38%
361
12%
440
37%
Battery Runtime
20%
2%
7%
49%
24%
Reader / Idle
640
899
40%
628
-2%
732
14%
954
49%
861
35%
H.264
468
432
-8%
450
-4%
Load
112
111
-1%
118
5%
130
16%
166
48%
157
40%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
27% / 24%
-3% / -1%
23% / 15%
31% / 36%
31% / 27%
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
10h 40min
NBC WiFi Websurfing Battery Test 1.3 (Firefox 47.0)
5h 21min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
7h 48min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 52min

Pros

+ performance readiness
+ fanless cooling
+ good input devices
+ solid build

Cons

- abysmal speakers
- battery life

Verdict

In review: Acer Switch Alpha 12. Test model courtesy of Acer Germany
In review: Acer Switch Alpha 12. Test model courtesy of Acer Germany

A silent story that leaves a loud echo: Acer's Switch Alpha 12 not only presents a challenge with its low entry price of 800 Euros (~$883) including keyboard dock but also with its well-conceived overall bundle with innovative cooling technology. The 12-inch convertible is housed within a well-built casing, and hardly lags behind some rivals that may be twice as expensive.

Slightly too heavy: The tablet could be rather lighter for everyday use. Its input devices are almost on par with the more expensive opponents by Microsoft. The screen in Acer's new convertible is also impressive. Naturally, the possible performance without an active fan is of particular interest. Despite its powerful Intel Core i5 processor, it does not have to shy away from fanless rivals. With this cooling design the manufacturer has possibly created a forward-looking technology for slim laptops and tablets. The competition will have a hard time if Acer improves battery life and audio playback in future.

We have taken a liking to Acer's new Switch Alpha 12. With a price of 800 Euros (~$883) not only is it an affordable alternative, but is also better in some aspects: Distracting fan noise is a thing of the past.

Users who cannot accept the battery life should certainly take a look at the Surface opponents and Lenovo's IdeaPad Miix 700. Comparing HP products, such as HP's Spectre x2, is also recommended.

Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM - 08/22/2016 v5.1
Nino Ricchizzi

Chassis
84 / 98 → 86%
Keyboard
85%
Pointing Device
91%
Connectivity
39 / 80 → 49%
Weight
80 / 35-78 → 100%
Battery
87%
Display
83%
Games Performance
56 / 68 → 83%
Application Performance
82 / 87 → 94%
Temperature
84%
Noise
100%
Audio
30 / 91 → 33%
Camera
47 / 85 → 56%
Average
73%
86%
Convertible - Weighted Average

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Acer Aspire Switch 12 Alpha SA5-271-56HM Convertible Review
Nino Ricchizzi, 2016-06-27 (Update: 2018-05-15)