This weekend at the Acer Live Blog in Glasgow, I’ve had the opportunity to fiddle with the Swift 7, Acer’s ultrathin and super portable laptop that’s under 1cm thin. It’s a truly impressive machine, but at £999.99 it could be a little pricey for some.

Acer’s Microsoft Surface competitor on the other hand — the Acer Switch Alpha 12 — is far more affordable at £600. It’s a 2-in-1 device that’s great for productivity when the keyboard is attached, and a playful/casual device when used in tablet mode.

Acer Switch Alpha 12: display & tablet mode

Coming from a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 the Switch Alpha 12 feels familiar. Without the keyboard you’re left with a 12-inch IPS display (with a high resolution of 2160 x 1440) that looks fantastic from any angle.

Around the back of the device there’s a kickstand that’s adjustable to a 165 degree angle, and thanks to a rubberised base the Switch Alpha 12 won’t be sliding around your desk. It’s quite a thin kickstand which initially had me concerned, but after a little testing I found it strong enough to support the device and not move around too much.

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The Switch Alpha 12 has a very good, rubberised kickstand

Acer’s bundled ‘Pen’ (or stylus) definitely has a high quality feel, but in practical use I have mixed feelings about it. There’s no easy way to customise the two buttons on it (all I know is pressing down the bottom one and then tapping the display is ‘right click’), and it refuses to scroll up and down pages which feels pointless. So far, it’s an impressive tool for creative work like drawing but very limiting for basic tasks.

Acer Switch Alpha 12: keyboard & trackpad

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Acer’s Switch Alpha 12 shares the same design style as Microsoft’s Surface Pro range

Like the Microsoft Surface, Acer’s included keyboard doubles as a keyboard and cover for the Switch Alpha 12’s display, and admittedly it’s quite a nice one at that. A magnetic hinge connects effortlessly to the main display the typing experience has been wonderful. Keys are well spaced out, they’re backlit (a big bonus), and have a comfortable amount of travel for satisfying presses.

Acer’s touchpad is good enough for most tasks, but it can lack responsiveness at times. Cranking up the pointer speed helps but as with most Windows-based touchpads I’ve used, it lacks accuracy and responsiveness.

Acer Switch Alpha 12: connectivity & specs

Unlike super portable machines like the Acer Swift 7 that need to compromise on ports for the sake of thin design, the Switch Alpha 12 packs a good mix: a USB-C port, USB 3.0, a power port for charging and the good old headphone jack. There’s even a microSD card slot, hidden on the right side of the unit.

The Switch Alpha 12 has a couple of cameras (one front and one rear) that are adequate for video calls, but as you may expect, I wouldn’t suggest using them for vlogging or anything too demanding.

In the specification department, Acer offers a range of specs to choose from ranging from i3, i5 and i7 processors, 4 or 8GB of RAM and the choice between 128GB or 256GB of solid state storage. The unit I have here is an i3 processor with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. It’s difficult to evaluate its performance just yet, but in this short time the Acer Switch Alpha 12 seems to be responsive and quick enough for basic tasks. (That said, the 4GB of RAM would become limiting for more intensive, power-hungry applications like photo editors, video editing etc.)

Acer Switch Alpha 12: first impressions

Acer have created a great value bundle here. For under £600 on Amazon, you can pick up the i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD with keyboard and pen. You could pick up an entry level Microsoft Surface Pro 4 for the same price, although it ships with a weaker i3 processor and is a little more expensive on the Microsoft store — so the Switch Alpha 12 seems the better value option.

If you’re open to a traditional laptop design you have strong options elsewhere, but if you’ve got your eye on Microsoft’s Surface then the Switch Alpha 12 2-in-1 is definitely worth a consideration.