Acer at Computex 2014: New smartphones and tablets hands-onBy Tim Schiesser
Acer had several new products on show at this year's Computex, here's our hands-on look at their expanding mobile range destined for European and Asian markets.
While Acer has continued to see success with their PC products, they see an opportunity to grow their portable device business, hoping that a new selection of mid-range products will attract consumers. Before the main show kicked off I had a chance to try four of Acer's upcoming smartphones, as well as a new tablet and smartband.
Acer Liquid Jade
The Liquid Jade is the smartphone that caught my eye the most at Acer's pre-show event. It's a sleek mid-to-high-end handset that's set to go on sale in Q3 2014. It looks decent, but more importantly felt awesome when I picked it up for the first time. It's very thin (6.8mm) and very light and Acer promises long battery life despite not much room to pack in a battery.
A 5.0-inch IPS LCD display with a resolution of 1280 x 720, which doesn't match the 1080p resolutions we're used to, but keep in mind this isn't meant to be a high-end device. The display looked great, with fantastic viewing angles, vibrant colors and tiny bezels, although the paper-like quality we're used to from 400+ PPI displays just wasn't there.
The back of the device is made from slippery, glossy plastic - similar to Samsung's previous Galaxy devices - which is far from ideal, although a representative from Acer assures me the material will change to something less fingerprint-sensitive in final shipping models.
There's also a 13-megapixel camera on the back, sporting an impressive f/1.8 lens and 0.3 second focusing time. The lighting conditions at Acer's pre-show event were pretty poor, and from what I briefly used of the camera, it seemed to cope reasonably well. There's a small LED flash on the back of the device, which will assist with low-light photography where necessary.
Internally there's an unspecified quad-core MediaTek SoC, which handled a close-to-stock Android 4.4 without a hitch. There's also 1 GB of RAM, up to 16 GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot. The microSD card slot is paired with a nano-SIM on the same tray, and Acer tells me that in the dual-SIM model you'll be able to use the space for the microSD for your second SIM.
The Liquid Jade, which Acer claims is the world's most compact 5-inch smartphone, will be available for under 300 euros when it goes on sale in the coming months.
Acer Liquid Leap
Accompanying the Liquid Jade is the Liquid Leap, Acer's new smartband designed to take on the likes of the Samsung Gear Fit and Fitbit Force. It's a compact band with a 1-inch touchscreen black-and-white OLED display, available in a range of colors including white, black, blue, pink, and orange.
There's nothing crazy about the Liquid Leap: it's a simple, functional smartband meant for tracking fitness. Swiping across the display reveals data such as how many steps you've taken and the amount of calories that you've burned, all which are synced to your accompanying smartphone. At the end of the data displays you'll find a small selection of apps, including an app that controls music playback over Bluetooth.
Acer hopes to provide an API for the Leap sometime in the future, which would give developers the ability to produce apps for the platform. The Leap also shows SMS and call notifications, again functionality that could be expanded through an API.
The smartband is light, IPx7 waterproof and reasonably stylish, only taking up a fraction of the space of the Gear Fit. It's more limited than the Fit though, as it doesn't have the full functions of a smartwatch, but Acer hopes to have it available for under 100 euros when it's released in Q3 2014.
Acer Liquid E700
Acer's mid-range smartphone designed with battery life in mind. I would hardly describe the E700 as sleek, especially up against the Liquid Jade, but it has a functional and comfortable design that's constructed with soft-touch plastic. At 9.9mm it's not thin either, but it does manage to pack in a 3,500 mAh battery, which should be plenty of juice for a device of this calibre.
Internally we're once again looking at an unspecified quad-core MediaTek SoC, plus 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. Behind the removable back cover is a microSD card slot, plus a whopping three SIM card slots, making this device one of the few tri-SIM handsets on the market. I'm not sure who needs this, but the functionality is there.
The 5-inch IPS LCD display with a resolution of 1280 x 720 is adequate for this class of smartphone. You'll find dual DTS Studio Sound-enhanced speakers above and below the display, plus there's a front-facing flash so you can take better selfies. The concept of a flash flanking the front camera is interesting, but understandable considering selfies are all the rage, and front camera's tend to have small, weak sensors.
The black model I handled has pleasant red highlights, including the top power button and volume rocker, but the design is nothing too special. Below the rear camera is a dedicated hardware button that's used for Acer Rapid functionality, which allows you to program the button to launch applications and perform tasks with one easy press. The Rapid button is in a comfortable location, but I wonder how often it'll get used.
The Liquid E700 will be available in Europe, the Middle East and Africa starting in August for 199 euros.
Acer Liquid E600
The cousin of the E700, the Liquid E600 is a handset with LTE capabilities that'll also be available for 199 euros sometime in August. The smartphone has a nice, almost unibody plastic design that feels okay in the hand; nothing more than you'd expect from a typical mid-range device. Disappointingly this phone only comes with a 5-inch FWVGA (480 x 854) display, which lacks the clarity of the other 720p panels Acer had used in the other smartphones on show.
Individual pixels were definitely discernable and color quality didn't appear to be fantastic, although this is a mid-range phone that's meant to be an affordable large-screened LTE option. Internally there's a quad-core Qualcomm SoC, most likely a Snapdragon 400, although this time Acer didn't mention what RAM or storage capacity we're dealing with.
Underneath the back cover you can see a microSD card slot plus two SIM slots, but no removable battery. Again, Acer claims the battery life from this phone is very good, but it won't be as good as what you'll get from the E700.
On the back of the handset is an 8-megapixel camera with an f/2.0 lens, below which is the same Acer Rapid button found on the E700. The button can be set to quickly capture an image, which Acer highlight as part of product demonstrations.
Acer Liquid Z200
The final smartphone Acer had on show is the Liquid Z200, an entry-level device with a 4-inch WVGA display and a dual-core MediaTek SoC. The phone is available in a range of bright pastel colors, and the plastic construction feels decent for a handset that'll cost just 79 euros when it launches in August.
An Acer representative talked up the fact that the company had been spending time optimizing the handset to run smoothly, and during my short time playing with the device I didn't encounter any unexpected performance hiccups. Obviously you're not going to get high-end performance from the dual-core SoC inside, but the Android 4.4-powered handset shouldn't be frustrating to use.
There's only a 2-megapixel camera on the back, which is disappointing even for a low-end device, although Acer did cram in their Rapid button I talked about previously. DTS Studio Sound is available on the Z200 as well as dual-SIM functionality.
Acer Iconia Tab 8
The last product I was able to play around with, the Iconia Tab 8 is an unremarkable 8-inch Android tablet with a decent 1920 x 1200 IPS display. There's nothing special about the design or features of the Tab 8 with Acer likely relying on its cheapness to sell.
The Tab 8 is powered by an Intel 'Bay Trail' Atom Z3745, which is a new 1.33 GHz quad-core x86 part that became available last month. The tablet performs well, as it should considering the powerful Intel SoC, and promises battery life around eight hours.
The Iconia Tab 8 will be available starting mid-July for 199 euros, which will likely translate to $250 when it reaches the United States.