Bay Trail quad, versatile keyboard dock power $380 Acer 2-in-1

Despite its drawbacks on the desktop, Windows 8.1 is perfect for "2-in-1" convertibles capable of switching seamlessly between notebook and tablet modes. Acer just revealed that its latest interpretation of the breed, the Aspire Switch 10, is coming in late May. The Switch sports a quad-core Bay Trail-T processor, a $379.99 starting price, and a Transformer-style keyboard dock that's more than meets the eye.

The tablet mates with its sidekick via a Snap Hinge mechanism that promises "smooth switching" and "latch-free keyboard docking." It sits on hooks jutting out from the dock, while magnets complete the connection. The magnets are strong enough to hold 6.2 lbs (2.8 kg), Acer says.

Thanks to its symmetrical design, the docking system allows for a range of different operating modes. This one's a quadruple-changer, folks:

In addition to a standard notebook config, the Switch offers a display mode that flips the screen in the opposite direction. Bending that config over backwards yields a tent mode well-suited to watching movies in cramped quarters. The tablet can also be folded flat for a "pad" mode, and it can presumably ride solo, without the dock in tow. I guess that's a fifth operating mode.

The dock combines a chiclet keyboard with a decent-sized touchpad that supports six "core" Win8 gestures. Acer is also prepping a version of the dock with a 500GB hard drive tucked inside. Surprisingly, though, neither the press release nor the product teaser page mention USB 3.0 connectivity. There's one USB port visible in the dock, and I hope it's of the Gen3 variety.

On a system this inexpensive, something usually has to give. Here, it's the 10.1" IPS panel, which is limited to a relatively low 1366x768 display resolution. On the bright side, the display has a special, LumiFlex mode optimized for outdoor viewing. Also, there's no air gap between the display and touchscreen layers, a perk that's claimed to improve color vibrance.

The Switch's 2GB memory configuration is a little lean, and the integrated flash storage maxes out at just 64GB. I hope there's an SD slot onboard, but I don't see any evidence of one. There's also no word on battery life, but the Switch at least looks relatively thin and light. The tablet is 0.35" (8.9 mm) thick and 1.29 lbs (0.59 kg), while the duo is 0.44" (20.2 mm) thick and 2.58 lbs (1.17 kg). This looks like an intriguing competitor to the Asus Transformer Book T100 convertible we reviewed last year. We may have to get our hands on one to see how it measures up.

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