The 11-12 inch screen size is perfect for mobile productivity and with processing power on the rise and design slimming down it gets more interesting every week. Intel’s Core M has a lot to do with the amount of activity in the sector and it might just be responsible for the new Acer Aspire Switch 11 V that got announced today. There aren’t many details available though as Acer only revealed that it would have improved ergonomics and more processing power. There’s one image available too.
Core M is a product borne of the feature that was Scenario Design Power (SDP) which itself was an extended ability to monitor and react to processor and product temperature by changing clockrates across CPU and GPU cores. I called it smoke and mirrors at the time because Intel never actually revealed what ‘scenario’ they were talking about. The scenario was actually a continuation of what Intel had done with the Ultrabook project. Touch, 2-in-1, responsive, mobile and, ultimately, fanless systems with Core-class features and enough power to cover mainstream users scenarios were to be the next generation consumer PC.
Early products based on the Y-series Core CPUs were poor. I remember testing the first Yoga 11S and seeing performance levels at half of what an Ultrabook could produce. A Fujitsu Q704 down-clocked by about 50% when you took it out of the keyboard dock to improve battery life and cut case temperature. A fanless HP Pro X2 410 was so sensitive to ambient heat that I could speed it up by pointing a desk fan at the rear of the tablet.
Like the Ultrabook project (which made us suffer with high prices before it finally worked out to be a game-changer,) the road to fanless has been rocky but were there now and Core M is exactly the marketing relaunch that Y-series and SDP needed.
Core M enables
Core M enables more than just new designs. It’s one of the smallest Core processors that Intel produce and with that comes cost reductions. It’s also a gift to designers as it reduces component count and allows flexibility in thermal design. It enables mainboards to sit close to other components. It reduces the need for big, expensive batteries.
In 2012 we were seeing 45 Wh batteries in Ultrabooks laptops but today’s Core M designs are based around a 35 Wh design and still offer over 5 hours of battery life. In 2007 it took 10-12 watts of energy to drive a web browsing experience. It’s now down to 5-6W now and if someone can work out how to cut the energy required by a screen backlight we’ll be down another 30%. Sealing a battery inside a casing also reduces the need for certified batteries casings and prevents people tinkering. Reducing support costs, shipping costs and storage costs are all part of the plan.
Ideally a consumer tablet is easy to hold and the tablet PCs of the past were a pathetic offering. The Samsung XE700 broke the mold in 2011 with a 826 gram 11.6-inch specification and since then we’ve seen 11.6-inch tablet weights come down to just over 700 grams. In the 10-inch space it’s reached 550 grams which is more than acceptable. As we move towards the removal of most physical ports, a further reduction in battery size, storage size and a slimming of the screen layers we’ll see larger tablets at the same human-friendly weight. With larger tablets comes more space to build a better keyboard and with Core M you reach a point where processing power is at the consumer PC level. Being able to deliver the perfect consumer tablet along with the most flexible operating system, the power to do everything and a keyboard that is as productive is possible is real 2-in-1. Bigger products generally command a higher price too so the 12.5-inch size we’re seeing are hitting the sweet spot in many ways.
The Acer Switch 12 shows us that there’s another generation to go before we hit all the sweet spots though. This low-cost design (plastics, styling, weight, size) is too heavy to be a consumer tablet but Acer have focused well on making this a very usable tablet in other ways. It’s a great laptop and if you have time you can think of some crazy ways to use it…
The digitizer brings in more tablet value and the removable wireless keyboard is simple but very, very effective. The Acer Aspire Switch 12 is a good product now and a true 2-in-1 that anyone would be happy to have as an office PC but just think about how the design could improve by being lighter and more stylish. This is a $699 laptop today with the power of a basic Ultrabook of 2013 that cost $999. You’ll see this at $649 or less soon and this time next year we’ll be talking about 20% improvements in power, battery life, weight and again, price. We might also be talking about a wire-free experience. That stand could turn into a removable WiGig breakout box.
A few years ago I bought an Acer W510. This Clovertrail-based 10-inch tablet was light but weak. It served well on holidays and I experimented with it as a desktop but for mainstream users it was far from the mark. Today we’ve reached a refinement called Core M that’s making 2-in-1’s extremely attractive as, well, a true 2-in-1. Windows 10 might just get the praise it needs too and if the Windows Store becomes a first-class citizen of the ‘apps’ world then the stars will align.
For me the stars have already aligned. I love the Switch 12 and I want to keep it. If I didn’t have a Surface Pro 3 here (on long-term loan from Intel) I’d probably order one. I’ve tested video encoding, gaming and I’ve seen some excellent AC WiFi speeds in my office. 20 MB/s file transfers from the local NAS? Yes please! It boots Ubuntu from a USB stick without issues and that’s a security bonus in my opinion. I love the ergonomic and presentation possibilities of the removable keyboard and digitizer. I adore the screen. Most of all I love how I can do everything I need without any noise whatsoever.
If you’re thinking about the Acer Aspire Switch 12 too then you need to remember that the ASUS Transformer T300 Chi is coming soon, for the same price. It’s likely to have a better keyboard and it will definitely have a lighter tablet. It will probably perform as well as the Switch 12 and it has a sensible clam-shell design. It looks a lot more stylish. The built-in stand on the Acer Switch 12 does it for me though and there’s one more thing you need to know. The Acer Switch 12 is more lappable than most laptops.
Update: The full review is now available. Go give Notebookcheck (and my review) some love!
Think about 2013-level Ultrabook performance with no fans, more flexibility and a good market-start price. The Acer Aspire Switch 12 weighs 1.1 KG…until you add the keyboard which takes you up to 1.4 KG. Because of the always-exposed screen Acer have done the right thing and provided a nice case but when you put the bundle together with the power supply you’re carrying over 2 KG. Despite the weight I like the Switch 12 for a couple of reasons. 1) It’s more stable on the lap than many other solutions because of the rear stand and mid-mounted screen. 2) It’s fanless and is returning performance scores well above what you’ll find with Baytrail-based solutions. There’s also a fast SATA-connected SSD inside which makes this one of the cheapest full-HD 128GB SATA SSD solutions out there. Add AC WiFi, USB 3.0 and a good keyboard that can be pulled away from the unit and you’ve got a productive setup. Comparisons must be made to the Surface Pro 3, Lenovo Yoga 3 11 and the HP Envy 13 X2 which is even more hot-desking focused.
A preliminary set of performance results, battery life figures, confirmation that there’s a digitizer and other information can be found over at Notebookcheck.net where I’ll be publishing the full review. Let me know if you’ve got any questions and I’ll try to get them answered in the full review.
The Acer Aspire Switch 12 – a Core M-based 2-in-1 laptop – is coming, and it starts at just $649. Promotional and hands-on videos are starting to appear in YouTube.
There’s one device I didn’t manage to get a good hands-on with at IDF and IFA last year and that’s the Acer Aspire Switch 12. I wish I had because I’m intrigued having read one of the first reviews, watched a number of videos and having just drafted a piece on hot-desking with the Surface Pro 3. The Switch 12 weighs 1.4KG in total which is above our 1.3KG limit here but as the keyboard is removable there’s an operating weight of well under 1300 grams. Still, you’re unlikely to be carrying this without the keyboard so it sits on the borderline.
Over the last three weeks I’ve been working with three laptops and a number of phones while travelling across the width of Europe. I sit down here now with just two items. The Nokia Lumia 830 and the Acer E11 are the perfect low-cost partnership for multimedia reporting, weighs just 1500 grams including cables and, thanks to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, work very well together. The total cost of the setup is just $500.
I had a feeling that the Nokia 830 and the Acer E11 would be perfect for the job I’ve done over the last three weeks. I’ve trained young journalists in Ukraine where their monthly salary is just $200 and they can afford a low-cost laptop once every 4 years on average. They need to be mobile, connected, secure and multimedia capable and their old netbooks, some even running Windows XP, are due for an update. Chromebooks aren’t capable enough for these journalists so the best option is an 11.6-inch Windows laptop. For images, audio and video the only entry-level option is the Lumia 830. I also had a Lumia 930 with me but it’s too high-end for the target audience and the quality of the photo/videography on the still 830 beats much of what is used from their existing smartphones. Android is popular mainly due to having the best choice of chat and social networking apps but the Lumia 830 offers all that they need. I also had a Surface Pro 3 and a Chromebook with me but neither of those fits the bill. While the Chromebook is the best option for writing articles from a public hotspot (with HTTPS Everywhere and the Zenmate extension turned on) it can’t handle local image management very well. It’s a no-go when it comes to video too. While the Lumia 830 can trim, sequence and re-encode video clips it’s highly possible that the modern journalist needs more. PGP email encryption and Pidgin Messenger with OTR are also no-go areas on a Chromebook.
This low-cost setup isn’t just about low-income mobile reporters though because it’s a capable set of equipment. It’s simply at a price bracket that wasn’t possible a year ago so it opens up mobile computing to a huge range of people including students, low-income families and people, like myself, that don’t like to overspend on equipment. At about $20 per month over a 2-year period, this $500 setup is something that can even be a secondary ‘on the road’ kit for those that don’t want to be taking their $2000 setup with them. It’s a holiday kit, a train kit, an exhibition kit and training course kit.
Nokia Lumia 830
I’ve been very impressed with the Lumia 830 over the last three weeks. The image and video quality is excellent even if it has noticeably lower quality than the Lumia 925 or 1020 that I’ve also had. There’s a little light bleeding and flaring from off-frame light sources in some cases but the colors seem quite honest and it’s more than good enough for online usage. The flash is slightly lacking so for low-light photography the 1020 would be better but having said that, I was quite happy with the results I had in low-light without flash.
Daylight images are also good enough for publication…
And here’s an HDR Photo Camera application shot…
Audio quality is good from the microphones and video stability is impressive thanks to the optical stabilizer – a unique feature at this price which makes the Lumia 830 the best full-HD smartphone video camera there is, in my opinion.
Phone reception is spot-on and, once I had tweeked a few settings, I was getting 36-48 hours out of a charge which is better than my Lumia 1020 did. Performance is good and I had no problems with Web browsing speeds although the sunspider 1.0.2 scores are not class-leading at 1200 ms. Sizing is perfect for me and I like the removable battery and accessable MicroSD card slot. The snap-on rear cover is a little fidgety though.
One area where the Lumias score highly is in mapping and nvaigation. Offline maps are perfect for mobile users without continuous data availability and Here Maps came into its own while checking that our driver was taking a direct route between towns that we visited during our training in Ukraine. Points of interest appeared to be reasonably up to date.
When using public WiFi I like to make use of a VPN service. I’ve used HideIPVPN’s UK tunnel service and it’s been great. VPNs aren’t stable on this Windows Phone 8 however. I often saw lock-ups while trying to reconnect to WiFi with VPN enabled although once it was working it was stable. Other aspects of security and privacy are controllable but it’s difficult to find all the setting hidden in the Windows 8.1 phone operating system.
I used the OneDrive photo sync capability on Windows 8 Phone and it integrates well with OneDrive usage on Windows 8 laptops meaning you don’t have to connect the phone to get photos once you’ve had enough internet connectivity for images to synchronize. Bluetooth file transfer works well for the occasional shot too and of course you can always connect the USB cable if you need to. It’s that flexibility that helps make Windows a bit more useful than Chromebooks in some situations.
Overall I am really happy with the level of value, performance and quality available from the Lumia 830 and Windows 8 Phone. Prices are around $380 in the USA but much cheaper in the EU with prices in some countries lower than 300 Euro (250 Euro for businesses that don’t pay value-added tax.) UK prices are a little high now at 270 pounds but I expect this to drop to euro pricing levels soon. The Lumia 925 is also dropping in price but given that future operating system updates may not reach that one (consider Windows Phone 10 in 2015) the Lumia 830 is probably the better choice.
Acer Aspire E11 (ES1-111M)
The Lumia 830 was launched as a ‘budget flagship’ phone but the Acer Aspire E11 is nothing more than an entry-level Windows 8 laptop. It’s light (1.2 KG, the same as a Surface Pro 3 with keyboard cover) and silent but it comes with a few compromises that you need to know about before buying. There’s only 32GB of on-board storage, a cheap plastic casing and a non-IPS 1366×768 screen. I don’t have a problem with any of those ‘issues’ but some might. I occasionally have an issue with the processing power though as the N2840 isn’t really ‘desktop’ capable. Office runs, PowerDirector 12 runs and browsing speed is totally acceptable but if you’re coming from a ‘Core’ laptop you’ll notice the difference. For bloggers and multimedia journalists it will mean that you’ll have to be careful about how you work with video. Fortunately there’s a video trimmer and simple video editor on the Lumia 830 that will help. Image editing on the Lumia makes sense too. The Acer E11 is good enough that it can be used as the place where all the media comes together and I’m happy to say that the keyboard is good enough for long sessions of typing. the touchpad, however, is a little temperamental. It’s locked up on me twice and responsiveness can tail off sometimes. Two-finger scrolling isn’t smooth. Clearly there’s a firmware or driver issue here that needs sorting out.
A full-size SD card slot (not deep enough to hide a card permanently) is provided along with two USB ports (3.0 and 2.0) and a useful Gigabit Ethernet port. A full-size HDMI port provides digital A/V output and Miracast wireless display is supported. Battery life is great – 9 hours in this typing situation. You’ll easily get 6 hour browsing out of this and about the same when watching H.264 videos using the Windows 8 Video player.
Unfortunately there’s no way to upgrade the storage (a more expensive model comes with a 500GB hard drive that could be swapped for an SSD but I’m happy with the extra security of a soldered SSD. I’ve enabled SecureBoot and added a BIOS password that should keep my data safe if the laptop is lost. The RAM can be upgraded after dismantling the mainboard from the casing. [Video unboxing includes mainboard removal here.] The plastic casing might look cheap but I get the feeling it’s quite rugged and it stays very cool.
The Acer E11 certainly has its limits and these can be obvious if Windows 8 is doing some background work with its anti-virus, updates or indexing but once that’s out-of-the-way (the first few days with the E11 were certainly worse than now, 4 weeks on) it’s a smooth experience and well ahead of the sort of laggy experience we had on netbooks of 2008-2010, thanks to a relatively fast eMMC SSD. Remember to keep the system clean of large files though and you might want to limit Windows updates to essential security items only.
100 GB of free OneDrive storage (2 years) was a welcome bonus and once you get used to using OneDrive you probably won’t run into storage issues. I’ve added a 32GB MicroSD card to the Lumia 830 and carry an extra card with me to be sure that I’ve got enough storage for my original source videos. A USB3.0 external SSD drive might be quicker when it comes to transferring data though.
I really like the Acer E11 but it’s not the only option at the $200 laptop price bracket. I’ve got an HP Stream 11 here (being tested for Notebookcheck) and it’s also looking like a good machine. The ASUS X205 is the other choice in this bracket. It runs a tablet platform and I believe it has disk encryption enabled although I haven’t been able to confirm that. It’s also a quad-core system and might be more powerful in some situations. Single core performance (applicable to web browsing) is higher on the E11 and Stream 11.
If you only have $250 per year to spend on computing and multimedia I can’t think of a better-value way to do it than with a two-year strategy and the Nokia Lumia 830 and the Acer E11. The Lumia offers some of the best 1080p video for the price and you really can do everything on the Acer E11 if you’ve got a little patience. If you don’t have much patience then it’s a big jump up to something with more CPU power. $150 more will take you up to the N3840-powered (4-core) Acer Aspire V3-112P. (with touchscreen.) If you’re ready to take a larger screen size (and weight) then the Acer Aspire V3-371 offers a Core i3 processor and a 13.3-inch screen but the price is well over $400. The other option at this price is the Lenovo IdeaTab Miix 2 11 tablet PC with 128GB of storage, a Core i3 and full HD screen. Again though, this is in a different price bracket.
For those that want an Android smartphone instead of a Windows smartphone you haven’t really got much choice because you really need to be looking at a phone with optical stabilizer. The LG G2 is an option but I haven’t tested it fully to be sure that it covers all the ground that the Lumia 830 does.
Stay tuned for my thoughts on the HP Stream 11 (with touchscreen.) The non-touch version of this has been popular at Amazon.com and first thoughts are that it might have a better keyboard and touchpad.
Thanks Nokia for the loan of the Lumia 830 and 930. The E11 was privately purchased.
The Acer Aspire E11 (ES1 in some areas) is one of a new-wave of 200-euro / dollar Windows netbooks entering the market as both a response to low-cost Chromebooks and part of a continuing drive to cut the cost of entry-level laptops. It’s made possible by a low-cost Intel System on Chip and tight motherboard integration, low-cost storage and the removal of the fan. Just 32GB of SSD storage is offered so there are some limits to how you can use the ES1. Look at it as a cloud-computer though (100GB of free One Drive is included) and it’s easy to see how it might fit into schools, bedrooms and living rooms in many houses across the world. The Acer Es1 can boot Linux too so if you feel like trying XBMC , Tails, Ubuntu or other distros, you can. A full unboxing and test video is embedded below, after my words on the first 48 hours with the Acer Aspire E11 ES1-111M.
I briefly mentioned the Acer Aspire ES1 in an article about the Acer Chromebook 13 last week but I think it’s worth taking a closer look at it now because this could be the next $199 Windows laptop. Given the specifications it also hints at a widening of the free Windows OS offer from Microsoft.
I wrote yesterday about the ARM-powered Acer Chromebook 13. Today I want to talk about the 11.6-inch version of this. The Acer Chromebook 11, or CB3-111, runs on the same Atom/Celeron N2830 as the ASUS C200 but it’s cheaper. 219 Euros for the CB3-111 vs 249 Euro for the ASUS C200. Pricing in the USA is likely to have the same differential.
Once again – 219 Euros. That’s just about the cheapest laptop you can buy with a current processing platform. OK, the Acer ES1-111 is available for the same price and it’s got more storage, Windows 8 and a Gigabit LAN port but it’s close.
In terms of comparison with the ASUS C200, a Chromebook that I really like, there aren’t many differences in the specifications. AC wiFi is there along with USB3.0, HDMI, 16GB of storage and the 1366×768 screen resolution but this one is non-glossy. The only significantly different specification is that battery which is 36Wh – about 75% of the capacity of the 48Wh battery on the ASUS C200. Battery life is likely to be 3/4 of the figures we’ve seen there. Weight is 1.25KG.
There’s the potential for a few surprises here. Upgradable RAM and SSD is something we’ll be looking out for but the screen brightness, WiFi performance and keyboard will have to be good just to keep up with the ASUS C200.
In Munich today, NewGadgets got some hands-on with the Acer Chromebook 11 / CB3-111 and if you look closely at the information stand you’ll see a 4GB option listed along with ‘up to’ 32GB of storage. That matches the offering from ASUS with the C200.
Chromebook, NewsComments Off on Acer’s Chromebook 11 gets some hands-on
I’m not one to pass on rumours but I have always believed, since I tested the Switch 10, that an 11.6-inch version would be even better. An article at TabTec takes some previously unseen model numbers and predicts that an 11.6-inch Acer Switch, the SW5-111 and SW5-171, will arrive at IFA.
There’s literally no more information other than the new model numbers that were found on an Acer website but if you follow Acer’s model numbers it would make sense that an SW5-111 would be an 11.6-inch with Atom/Celeron and that the 171 would be running a Core CPU (I’d guess at a Haswell Y-series.) They would be a natural replacement for the Acer Aspire P3 range which runs on 2nd-generation Core.
If an 11.6-inch Acer Switch 11 to be launched there would need to be some improvements over the Switch 10 to make it interesting. A Full-HD screen, larger battery (or additional battery in keyboard) would be the first on the list. A good price would be expected too.
I’m at IFA (from 3rd Sept) so will be able to being you some more information then, unless Acer launches the Switch 11 beforehand.
NewsComments Off on Acer Switch, with an 11-inch screen. This rumour makes sense.
Since the day I started Carrypad (the former name of this site) there’s been a continuous battle between ARM and X86 processing architectures. Remember the Nokia 770 tablet? How about the Raon Digital Vega?  Today that fight is mainly in the Android tablet space but it’s becoming increasingly rowdy in the Chromebook space too. I was very impressed with the ASUS C200 Chromebook recently (on Intel) and there’s a 13.3-inch version of that, the ASUS C300, which will go right up against something using ARM architecture that is launching from Acer soon. The Acer Chromebook 13 running the Nvidia Tegra K1 platform and will offer similar performance, similar weight, similar price and similar battery life. Where’s the differentiator?
The new Tegra-based Acer Chromebook 13 will come with a 1366×768 screen, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. So far that matches the ASUS C300. In terms of weight, 3.3 pounds matches the 3.1 pounds of the ASUS. AC WiFi can be found on both along with a full-size HDMI port, 48Wh battery, webcam and two USB ports. They’re both USB3.0 on the Acer but I doubt many will care much about that.
The ASUS C300 has been on the market for a few weeks now and the price has dropped down to $229 which is very attractive when you compare it to the more expensive Acer Chromebook 13 at $279. That launch price is sure to come down so I’ll ignore that as I continue my comparison.
The Acer Chromebook 13 has the longest-lasting battery life of all Chromebooks – up to 13 hours!
Is the battery life the differentiator? I can show you 13-hours on the ASUS C200 but possibly not on the ASUS C300 so it’s likely the Acer will win here but when you’re talking about all three Chromebooks lasting a full day on a charge does it make much difference?
Is it simply down to CPU brand? Is Tegra going to attract people? “192 Nvidia CUDA Cores” sounds good!
In terms of performance, assuming the SSD speeds and WiFi performance are similar, there won’t be much difference in web browsing speeds but one area where the Acer might have an edge is graphics. Gaming options on Chromebooks are rare so is the GPU really that important? There are two things to consider here. The first is GPGPU acceleration which could push up some HTML5 performance; The other is Android applications.
At Google I/O in June, Google demonstrated Android apps running on a Chromebook. Later, Google revealed that is was “done on a Chromebook Pixel running a standard development channel image and all Android code was running under Native Client.” The technicalities are still unknown but could it be that Google are building the libraries required to allow Android apps to run with mininal porting? Google admits that it’s a technical challenge but it’s clear that Google want to bring Android apps to Chromebooks. ““Our goal is to bring your favorite Android applications in a thoughtful manner to Chromebooks.” The Acer Chromebook 13 might not beat the ASUS C300 in 2014 but it might be the one to buy in 2015 when you take the possibility of Skype and Minecraft into account. It could break Chromebooks out of the simplicity-focused education market and right into a mainstream one. 
Android apps might be the reason that Gartner predicts that Chromebook sales are likely to triple by 2017. That brings the forecast total to 14.4 million units globally. If ART and the porting of applications happens in numbers we could see a platform that competes with low-cost Windows 8 laptops for mainstream customers and exceeds that forecast. Having looked at the ‘gaps’ in ChromeOS closely I think ART Android apps can make a difference. Even if Skype is the only application ported over in 2015 it will make a huge difference. Low cost Windows laptops will evolve too though so competition will remain strong.
My Acer C200 overview video:
This is a unique combination because the Nokia 770 was on Intel ARM and the Raon Digital on AMD X86.
 Corrected with additional research. Google has not officially announced that ART will come to Chromebooks. The incorrect section originally read:
“The first is GPGPU acceleration which could push up some HTML5 performance; The other is ART. ART is the new Android runtime that you’ll find replacing Dalvic in the up-coming Android-L release. Google has said it will build ART into ChromeOS and that really could be a game-changer for the Chromebook. ART means that, for the first time, there will be native, non HTML5, local apps on the platform. It means games can be ported over from Android to Chromebooks. The Acer Chromebook 13 might not beat the ASUS C300 in 2014 but it might be the one to buy in 2015 when you take the possibility of Skype and Minecraft into account. It could break Chromebooks out of the simplicity-focused education market and right into a mainstream one.”