Acer Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-39N9 12-Inch QHD Touchscreen 2-in-1 Laptop

Price: from 540$ to 570$
  • Article: Acer Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-39N9 12-Inch QHD Touchscreen 2-in-1 Laptop (Intel Core i3, 4GB, 128GB SSD, Windows 10 Home) laptop
  • Type: Study laptop
  • Operating system: Windows 10
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • CPU: Intel Core i3
  • CPU frequency: 2.30 Ghz
  • Diagonal display: 12.5 Inch
  • Display Resolution: 2400x1600 pixels
  • Type of hard disk: SSD
  • Hard disk size: 128 GB
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Touchscreen: Yes

How do you beat the Surface Pro 4? Well the Acer Switch Alpha 12 is cheaper and is fanless despite having a Core i processor thanks to liquid cooling.


At its global launch event in New York, Acer has taken the wraps off its new premium 2-in-1 tablet laptop which rivals the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. PC Advisor was able to attend so here’s our Acer Switch Alpha 12 hands-on review.

As with previous years, Acer launched a number of new products for 2016 including laptops such as the Aspire S13, smartphones, wearables and even a cycling computer. One of the most interesting is the Alpha 12 which is a direct rival to the Surface and arguable a clone.


Like the Aspire S13, the Switch Alpha 12 has a release date of May in Europe and the price is also 699 Euros. In the US it will be available in June with a lower price of $599.

As far as we’re aware, the keyboard cover is included so this is a cheaper option compared to the $899 Surface Pro 4 which does not. Other rivals include the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S and the Huawei MateBook which are both more expensive.


Being a Surface clone/rival, the Alpha 12 is a Windows 10 tablet which can operate like a laptop thanks to a keyboard cover. It’s something even Apple is getting in on with the iPad Pro.

At the back, like the Surface, is a kickstand which flips round a long way (165 degrees) so you can position the screen facing upwards. The kickstand is a metal bar, though, with a rubber section for gripping the surface it’s on.

Like the Surface and other rivals, the Alpha 12 comes with a keyboard cover. While there are differences in the design of the tablet itself, this attachment is essentially identical to the Microsoft Type Cover.

That’s not really a bad thing as it’s an excellent piece of design. The two attach satisfyingly together with magnets and metal connectors ensure you don’t need to fiddle around with Bluetooth.

Acer’s keyboard cover also features proper keys with 1.4mm travel and we found it a nice thing to type on. There’s a trackpad and a loop on the side with which to hold the optional Active Pen stylus.

As well as working flat, additional magnets mean you can angle the keyboard should you find it more comfortable. The regular model is not backlit but there is the option for this feature.

One of the interesting design points is that the Alpha 12 is fanless despite having a Core i processor – fanless rivals use the Core M chips instead. You can’t see it but a ‘Double LiquidLoop’ closed loop cooling system keeps on top of things where the heat circulates the liquid.

We like the brushed aluminium cover on the back of the tablet and although the Alpha 12 is thicker and heavier than the Surface Pro 4 at 9.5mm and 900g (without the keyboard) it’s not too much more.


As we just mentioned, the Alpha 12 comes with an Intel Core i processor. There’s a choice of Core i3, i5 or i7 6th-generation chip. There’s 4- or 8GB of RAM and a choice of 128-, 256- or 512GB SSD. You can add some storage of your own thanks to a concealed Micro-SDXC slot.

That’s impressive stuff but we’re not sure how much the top spec will set you back.

It supports 10-point touch but you can also use the trackpack on the keyboard cover instead or even plug in a mouse via the full-size USB 3.0 port. There’s also a reversible USB 3.1 Type-C port which supports speedy transfers and display output.

Acer has also made a USB Type-C Dock which provides DisplayPort, HDMI, audio in, audio out, two Type-C ports and three USB Type-A ports. There’s also an optional ProDock which supports 11ad Wi-Fi and another optional item is the Active Pen stylus.

Other features include front-facing stereo speakers, a webcam and a rear facing camera should that be useful. Battery life is touted as up to eight hours, according to Acer.

During our hands-on time with the Alpha 12 everything ran smoothly but there’s plenty to test further such as benchmark performance, whether the cooling system is up to the job and the battery life. Our first impressions are very good though.


It’s another Surface Pro 4 rival (or clone even) but it’s a quickly growing market where competition is a good thing. Acer has done a great job of packing in decent specs into a device with a nice design which hits a lower price point than rivals. It’s fanless with a Core i processor which is the most impressive thing.


The success of the Microsoft Surface has proved that there’s a market for tablets that can replace your laptop. We loved the Surface Pro 4 for its sharp screen, excellent Type Cover keyboard and precise Surface Pen – and it’s still the benchmark for Windows tablets today.

However, the Surface Pro 4 is not cheap. The Pro 4 starts at $899 (£749, AU$1,349), but configuring the tablet with a faster processor, more RAM and storage bumps the price up quite significantly. This doesn’t account for the extra money you’ll need to drop on the Type Cover and Surface Pen.

Acer, capitalizing on the premium price of the Surface Pro 4, has created a rival device called the Switch Alpha 12 that is significantly cheaper. With a starting price of $599 (£599, AU$780) which includes a keyboard, the Switch Alpha 12 is a Surface clone that most of us can afford. But is good enough to be a Surface alternative? Let’s find out.

Design and display

There’s no doubt the Acer Switch Alpha 12 was designed to look and feel like the Microsoft Surface. Both tablets have kickstands built in, a thin removable keyboard and support styluses. While Microsoft chose to make the Surface into a single slab of magnesium with aggressive angles, Acer chose to give its aluminum clad tablet rounded edges and a kickstand frame.

The kickstand features a ton of articulation so you can choose the most optimal screen angle. There’s a rubber strip on the bottom of the kickstand to stop the tablet from sliding around. Overall, the kickstand hinge is very sturdy and did not flex when using touching the screen.

The screen of the Switch Alpha 12 is slightly smaller than that of the Surface Pro 3, 12 inches vs 12.3 inches respectively. The Switch Alpha 12 also features more prominent bezels that are about an inch wide, which is good for holding the tablet without triggering the touch screen but they can be a bit of an eyesore compared to slim-bezeled devices out there.

As for resolution, the Switch Alpha 12 features a 2160 x 1440 LED backlit display that makes colors pop, offers deep blacks and gets very bright for outdoor use. Contrast isn’t as good as OLED panels but you wouldn’t expect an OLED display on a budget machine like this.

For reference, the Surface Pro 4 features a slightly higher 2,736 x 1,824 resolution, something you’re not likely to notice in day to day use as text, images and video are crisp on both machines. Both tablets feature a 3:2 aspect ratio that makes the tablets ideal for design work and reading.

Keyboard and stylus

To get the Switch Alpha 12 to be cheaper than the Surface, Acer had to cut costs somewhere. That somewhere turns out to be the keyboard. Typing on the magnetically attached keyboard is pretty bad, featuring a ton of flex, rattling keys and a small trackpad.

It’s a stark contrast to Microsoft’s excellent Type Cover, which features a quieter – but, not silent – typing experience due to its increased rigidity. However, you will have to fork over $129 (£110, AU$199) for a Type Cover for the Surface Pro 4, whereas it comes included with the Switch Alpha 12. Microsoft also offers a more expensive Type Cover with a fingerprint reader, something Acer doesn’t have.

Other quirks of Acer’s keyboard include small Page Up and Down buttons that are placed frustratingly close to the left and right arrow keys. This led to many mis-presses when trying to select text.

While Acer includes a keyboard with the Switch Alpha 12, you’ll need to fork over $50 (£30, about AU$ 67) for the Acer Active Stylus. The Active Stylus feels great in the hand and acts much like a normal pen. It features 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, which you’ll notice when using apps like Fresh Paint to create different brush strokes.

Compared to the Surface Pen, the Active Stylus lags behind in accuracy and sensitivity. The Surface Pen features 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity and less of a delay than Acer’s pen. This translates to a more natural feeling writing and drawing experience on the Surface Pro 4.

Acer does include a few handy tweaks in its software though, allowing you to hover over the screen to quickly launch apps like OneNote and Windows Journal.

The Active Stylus is a nice accessory to have if you plan on handwriting or using it for illustrations, but it’s by no means a necessity.

Bring your dongles

Like the Surface, the Switch Alpha 12 has a limited port selection. You get one USB-A sized port with 3.0 speeds, a microSD card reader and a single USB-C port. Where the Surface features a mini DisplayPort for connecting a monitor to without a dongle, you’ll have to bring your own USB-C adapters if you want to hook up the Switch Alpha 12 to an external monitor.

Liquid core

While the Switch might pull a lot of inspiration from Microsoft’s legendary tablet, it makes a statement for itself as the world’s first liquid cooled tablet.

Thanks to this cooling method, the Switch forgoes the cooling vents found on most other Core i-powered tablets while featuring a similar fanless design seen on the HP Spectre x2 and Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700. However, as a trade off the Switch is also a denser and larger than most rival slates and other devices.

Acer’s 2-in-1 comes in relatively bulky 11.5” x 7.9” x 0.6” (29.21 x 20.06 x 1.52 cm; W x D x H) compared to the Surface Pro 4’s 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.33 inches (29.21 x 20.14 x 0.84 cm).

Compared to slim ultrabooks like the Apple MacBook Air, which comes in at 11.8 x 7.56 x 0.68 inches (32.5 x 22.7 x 1.7cm), the Switch Alpha is more compact and easier to transport. However, the convertible Asus Zenbook Flip UX360 is even thinner than the Switch Alpha 12, coming in at 12.71 x 8.66 x 0.54 inch (32.28 x 21.99 x 1.37 cm).

Acer Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-39N9 12-Inch QHD Touchscreen 2-in-1 Laptop 1 image Acer Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-39N9 12-Inch QHD Touchscreen 2-in-1 Laptop 2 image Acer Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-39N9 12-Inch QHD Touchscreen 2-in-1 Laptop 3 image Acer Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-39N9 12-Inch QHD Touchscreen 2-in-1 Laptop 4 image Acer Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-39N9 12-Inch QHD Touchscreen 2-in-1 Laptop 5 image

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