Acer Iconia W4 review: Affordable 8-inch Atom-based Windows tablet

Acer Iconia W4 review: Affordable 8-inch Atom-based Windows tablet

Summary: This affordable 8-inch Atom-based (Bay Trail) Windows 8.1 tablet has a nice IPS screen and delivers all-day battery life under light usage modes. Limited screen size, internal storage and processing power will prevent it from being more than a companion device for mobile professionals though.

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  • Editors' rating:
    7.7
  • User rating:
    5.4
  • RRP:
    £208.33

Pros

  • Decent performance
  • Microsoft Office (Home & Student) included
  • Good battery life
  • Good-quality IPS screen
  • Supports USB storage

Cons

  • Ergonomics for business productivity could be better
  • Short on internal storage
  • Not suitable for demanding workloads

Acer has produced a small-format, affordable Windows 8 tablet in the £250 (inc. VAT, £208.33 ex. VAT) Iconia W4. It comes with Microsoft Office Home & Student, and the implication is that with an external keyboard it can deliver real productivity. There aren't very many 8-inch Windows 8 tablets around, so it could be very appealing.

Design

If you're looking for a svelte tablet, this probably isn't a good starting place. The Iconia W4 is a relatively heavy, thickset, plastic-clad tablet that's short on anything resembling stylishness.

acer-iconia-w4-main
Image: Acer

The silver-grey backplate looks like metal if you give it a sideways glance, and it has a brushed-metal-style finish that helps with the illusion. But you don't need to look too closely to realise that the material used is plastic. There's quite a bit of airspace behind the backplate, which depresses readily under even slight pressure. This is a thick tablet at 10.8mm, and also a relatively heavy one at 415g. The 7.9-inch iPad mini with Retina Display, by comparison, weighs 341g and is just 7.5mm thick.

The screen sits oddly in a raised surround, almost as if it were stuck on as an afterthought. Beneath the screen, a ledge about 9mm deep houses the Windows button.

The screen may be small, but it's very nice. The 8-inch IPS panel has a native resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels, giving a pixel density of 189ppi — respectable, but no match for the iPad mini with Retina Display's 324ppi. Viewing angles are good, something that Acer proudly proclaims with a sticker on the front of the device.

The Zero Air Gap technology that Acer highlights at its website as minimising reflection is perhaps a little overstated, as we found reflection to be a noticeable problem. One of the uses of a small tablet like this is sitting next to a desktop PC or desktop-replacement notebook for some quick web work, diary checking or other content-consumption task. In our experience that was hampered by reflected light from a nearby window.

The touchscreen is very responsive to taps and prods, and Windows 8.1's tile-based interface is easy and efficient to work with. However, there's an inevitable problem with the 8-inch screen size when you move to the traditional Windows desktop, where everything is unfeasibly small. Hitting radio buttons and drop-down menu selections accurately is a chore, for example. You can adjust scaling and text size in the Control Panel's Display applet, but it's hardly an optimal solution.

None of this will help much if you're using the on-screen keyboard to create text. At the native text size you can only see about twelve lines when working in landscape format, which we don't think is enough. The keyboard is slightly cramped to use, too: we had to work relatively slowly to type text, and felt hunched over the tablet. If you want to be truly comfortable with writing, you'll need to use an external keyboard.

Features

There are two versions of the Acer Iconia W4, our review unit having 64GB of internal storage. The second model has 32GB of storage, but is otherwise identical.

Even 64GB is on the sparse side for serious working. Out of the box, before we installed any additional applications or data, we had 37.1GB free. If you need to install significant amounts of data or apps, this may be a deal breaker.

You can augment the storage in three ways. Cloud services, including OneDrive and AcerCloud are on hand. There is a Micro-SD card slot on one long edge of the chassis, and we were able to access data stored on a card with ease. You can also access USB-based storage via the Micro-USB connector — we used the (64GB maximum) Kingston DataTraveler Micro. If you want to use more capacious external storage devices, you'll need a dongle to convert the Micro-USB port to a standard-size connector.

There is a Micro-HDMI port on the same edge as the Micro-USB connector, along with the volume rocker and microphone. The power button is on the top edge.

Twin speakers sit on the bottom edge of the chassis, below the Windows button. These deliver reasonable volume, but the audio quality is not particularly good. There is a headphone jack on the bottom edge, but unfortunately sound quality is not improved through earphones.

Wi-fi support is for dual-band (2.4GHz/5GHz) 802.11a/b/g/n, but not the latest 802.11ac, which may disappoint those seeking the fastest wireless connectivity. There is no mobile broadband option, so if you need a wide-area wireless connection, you'll have to do it via a Bluetooth link to your smartphone.

The Iconia W4 has a 2-megapixel front camera and a 5-megapixel rear camera. Neither has a flash, but both take perfectly reasonable photos if you're sensible about avoiding low light conditions.

The quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740 (Bay Trail) processor with 2GB of RAM delivers decent performance, with caveats. The tablet ran mainstream workloads one at a time with no problem, while web browsing was fast and efficient with no lag in page rendering. However, the system will struggle under heavy multitasking or particularly demanding applications. Like many tablets, the Iconia W4 is not really a suitable replacement for a mobile professional's notebook computer.

According to Acer, you should get a maximum of 8 hours' 'video battery time' from the Iconia W4's 2-cell 4,960mAh lithium polymer battery. What you get in everyday use will of course depend very much on your usage mode; anecdotally, we found that it powered a working day comprising web browsing, email and a little writing, plus a fair bit of YouTube and other casual usage during the evening, with juice to spare.

Conclusion

Good battery life should keep the Iconia W4 going through the working day, so long as you're not taxing it with over-strenuous workloads. With an external Bluetooth keyboard and mouse it could probably cope with more serious work than web browsing, email and light document editing/creation. However, as you ramp up the usage, you may find yourself squinting at the small screen and becoming hampered by limited storage capacity and processing power. The £208.33 (ex. VAT) Iconia W4 could be a useful adjunct to your workhorse notebook, but it's never going to replace it.

Specifications

General
Dimensions (W x H x D) 13.5 x 1.08 x 21.9 cm
Case form factor small form-factor slate tablet
Weight 0.415 kg
OS & software
Operating system Windows 8.1
Software included Microsoft Office Home & Student
Chipset & memory
RAM installed 2048 MB
RAM capacity 2 GB
Video
GPU type integrated
Video connections Micro-HDMI
Display
Display technology IPS multi-touch touchscreen
Display size 8 in
Native resolution 1280x800 pixels
Connections
USB Micro-USB 2.0
Flash card Micro-SD
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Bluetooth 4.0
Input
Pointing devices touchscreen
Keyboard on-screen only
Camera
2nd camera front
Flash No
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 2 megapixels
Main camera resolution 5 megapixels
Audio
Audio connectors 3.5mm audio out
Speakers stereo
Microphone yes
Miscellaneous
Accessories AC adapter
Battery
Battery technology Li-polymer
Battery capacity 4960 mAh
Estimated battery life (mfr) 8 h
Removable battery No
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.33 GHz
Processor manufacturer Intel
Processor model Atom Z3740
Solid-state drive
Capacity 64 GB
Expand

Prices

Price
Price AUD 449
Price GBP 208.33
Price USD 349.99

Topics: Tablets, Mobility, Reviews, Windows 8

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Talkback

14 comments
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  • Usual question

    6.0

    Does it have GPS? Interestingly I have not seen any windows tablets with GPS yet.
    paul2011
    • Seconded

      5.0

      Same question here. For real world use, GPS should be listed as a Pro and the absence thereof a Con.
      Sacr
    • It's not a full windows 8.X tablets

      4.0

      But the Nokia Lumia 2520 does have GPS and cellular radios.
      thewags05
      • it`s is a full windows 8 pro

        ....Even 64GB is on the sparse side for serious working. Out of the box, before we installed any additional applications or data, we had 37.1GB free. If you need to install significant amounts of data or apps, this may be a deal breaker.
        ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        i would never spend my money on a windows 8 tablet.
        uses to much space.no gps.no 3g or 4g.search around the net you will find a 10 inch tablet with hd display,3g,wifi.3g.micro sd.for around $199.
        http://www.chinavasion.com/china/wholesale/Android_Tablets/8-9_Android_Tablet_PC/9.7_Inch_Quad_Core_Android_4.2_Retina_Screen_Tablet_Revolution_-_2GB_RAM_1.6GHz_CPU_2048X1536_8000mAh_Battery_Black/
        BrazilMan2014gv
    • GPS

      Look at the Asus VivoTab Smart. It has a built in GPS and Windows 8.
      BTW with 64GB and a 32GB card I've got plenty of storage. It's a tablet not my desktop. Plus I can always hook up a usb drive for movies etc.
      harrim47
    • GPS

      7.0

      The Lenovo Miix 2 has Windows 8.1 and a GPS
      Big Jim
  • Storage

    5.0

    "Out of the box, before we installed any additional applications or data, we had 37.1GB free. If you need to install significant amounts of data or apps, this may be a deal breaker."

    While I understand this, I don't understand how this leads to "short on internal storage" as a Con. The iPad mini form the previous generation is also 250£ and has less than 1/4 of that storage available, and no option to extend it with a 30£ microSD card.
    Sacr
    • less than 1/4

      Should be "about 1/4" not "less than". Originally I wanted to type less than half.
      We need an edit button, not a rating selector.
      Sacr
      • yes

        also we need a pic & video Option.ZDNET needs to improve this.this is a TECHNOLOGY NEWS SITE !!!
        BrazilMan2014gv
  • Silly

    I don't understand how users can rate something that they a) Have never used and b) That they are not even clear on what features it includes. Or are they rating the review? If not it should say something like 'User Impression' or you should verify ownership. Otherwise it is just plain silly. Just my thoughts :)
    SovereignTechnology
    • rating

      I didn't realize the rating was optional at first, and thought it was rating the article. I was wrong on both counts.
      Sacr
    • THERES LOTS OF REVIEWS ON THE NET ABOUT WINDOWS 8 PRO...

      and we all know that a full windows installation takes lots of GIGABYTES space.with apple and android is very little.both os`s was built from the ground up to be use less power,less space an less memory.thats why apple still uses 1gb memory for iphone/ipad.a full install of android takes less the 500mb on a smartphone or tablet.
      BrazilMan2014gv
  • Affordable?? These tablets are destroying Intel shareholder value.

    These are low cost tablets becasue Intel is PAYING massive rebates to OEMS to use Bay Trail. In fact Intel shareholder has taken a huge hit.

    Intel Communications and Mobile Group has lost $1.78 BILLION in 2012, $3.1 BILLION in 2013 and they are on track to lose $4 BILLION in 2014. By 2015 the Tablet and Mobile market will have cost Intel $9 BILLION dollars. This INTEL SHAREHOLDER VALUE WASTED, and it is why Intel is one of the top 10 shorted stocks on the NASDAQ.

    These losses are why Warren Buffet dumped Intel stock. If Intel was NOT selling cheap chips for tablets, it would have reported $0.50 per share rather than $0.38 and the stock would be close to $40.


    "In 2013, Intel's mobile chip division lost a hefty $3.15 billion, after posting an operating loss of $1.78 billion in 2012. In the first quarter of 2014 alone, the Mobile and Communications Group saw a $929 million operating loss on a meager $156 million in revenue, according to new financial results issued today by the company."

    http://www.theverge.com/2014/4/15/5618126/intel-is-losing-billions-every-year-on-tablets-and-smartphones
    RAV555
  • Samsung TAB Pro eats it's lunch

    Tablets are for entertainment; ebooks, movies, tv and music as well as communication, both email and VOIP. You can browse the intenet during happy hour to argue with or become Cliff Claven or you can use them as an electronic notebook.

    To buy a tablet for real work flows is absurd. Yes you can use Microsoft Ofiice, but not productively unless you buy a keyboard. If you do that then get a good laptop for gods sake. By the time you purchase all the peripherals you have spent more money and likely have more junk to carry around. As well as chargers for all those batteries.

    If you need to justify a tax deduction and you force a work flow well too bad for you. As an ex-pat I see folks world-wide using tablets for the above reasons and not for business work-flows. That is the tablet market. In the U.S. we are so blinded that we really do not see the world view.
    RAV555