Average user rating
- High-quality screen
- Fast processor
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HSPA, GPS
- 3.5mm headset jack
- Poorly located microSD card slot
- Average camera
- Build quality could be better
- Uninspiring widgets and Android skinning
Acer's entry into the smartphone sector began with a range of Windows Mobile devices that were launched last year: the most recent we've looked at is the neoTouch. The company's foray into Android territory comes with the Liquid. Despite its consumer-friendly styling, the Liquid offers much to attract business users. Our review sample came from Clove Technology.
The Liquid's physical design includes a snazzy black-and-white chassis with a consumer friendly appearance. This won't suit every businessperson but does make the device stand out from the crowd.
The Liquid is quite large, measuring 64m wide by 115mm high by 12.75mm thick, but light at 135g -- partly because the chassis is made from plastic. This is not the most robust device, and heavy-handed users may want to give it a miss.
The Liquid has a good-sized 3.5in. screen, and those with smaller fingers may struggle to stretch all the way across it in one-handed use. Its 480-by-800-pixel resolution is as high as you get in a smartphone these days, and the screen is as sharp and bright as any we have seen.
The display is capacitive but does not support multi-touch, so those who hanker for pinch-to-zoom will be disappointed. However, the screen is very responsive and we found it comfortable to use.
Beneath the screen is a flat panel containing four touch-responsive buttons: Search, Menu, Back and Home. There are no Call and End buttons, but there's a link on the main screen to the phone dialler so it's pretty straightforward to make a voice call.
The left side has just one button: on/off. On the right side there's a volume rocker and shortcut for the camera. These side buttons are a little tricky to use at first, because the long edges of the casing are beveled and the buttons are on the underside of the bevel. They're not very tactile, so you have to tilt the Liquid in your hand to see the buttons, which becomes irritating after a while.
The bottom edge of the device houses the Mini-USB connector for battery charging and PC connection. On the top edge, the ideal location, is a 3.5mm headset connector -- a 3.5mm jack, so you can use your own headset if you wish.
The top and bottom edges of the Liquid are black, while the top edge also sports three LEDs. One blinks when you have unread messages, another when you have missed calls, and the third blinks when you're charging the battery.
The Acer Liquid ships with an AC adapter, a PC connection cable, a one-piece stereo headset with flat in-ear buds, a 2GB microSD card, a screen protector, a printed quick-start guide and a CD containing the full user manual.
The Acer Liquid runs Android version 1.6, although we understand that an update to version 2.0 is in the offing. There is 256MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM, augmented by a 2GB microSD card. The card is welcome, but the slot's location isn't ideal: it sits under the battery cover, and you'll need to remove the battery to get at it. Those who like to hot-swap microSD cards will find this annoying.
There's another card-related irritation: the camera software refuses to shoot images or video until you have put a card in the slot.
Before its release, the Liquid was widely reported as running a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. In fact, the CPU's clock speed has been capped at 768MHz. This does not seem to have had a detrimental effect on the device, though, which ran smoothly for us during testing.
Like other Android based handsets the Liquid boasts a good range of connectivity features. It's an HSPA device supporting downloads at up to 7.2Mbps and uploads at up to 2Mbps. Bluetooth (2.0) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) are integrated, along with GPS so you can take advantage of Google Maps and other location-aware services.
The Liquid's 5-megapixel capability sounds fine on paper, and it takes a decent enough picture in good lighting conditions. However, the lack of flash means that picture quality suffers in low-light conditions. As usual with Android phones, once you have taken a photo you can easily share images via a variety of online services including, in this case, Picasa, Google Mail, the Acer Share service and email. There is no front facing camera for making two-way video calls.
HTC has customised the look of the Android operating system to some degree, although not nearly as much as HTC did with its Hero. There are the standard three home screens, which you move between with a finger-sweep. All three can be populated with widgets and Acer provides some of its own.
Acer's widgets include a media viewer for pictures, music and movies that puts a carousel of thumbnails on-screen for you to pan through. Another carousel called Web Player offers internet shortcuts. These look pretty, but they take up a lot of space and don't leave a great deal of room for additional widgets.
Acer also includes Spinlets, a service that streams free media content to the Liquid. When we tried it the service was only offering music, but it has the potential to include video and even TV content too. There is also a graphics-rich media player called nemoPlayer for accessing pictures, music and video footage.
Performance & battery life
As a phone the Liquid performs well, with clear calls at both ends of a conversation. Acer says you should get up to 5 hours of talk, 400 hours on standby from the 1,350mAh battery. Battery performance is comparable with other Android handsets we've seen: continuous music playback for 7 hours and 15 minutes from a full battery charge is perfectly acceptable, and with careful use you might manage to go for two days between charges.
Acer's first Android handset is good, but not perfect. As far as 'skinning' Android is concerned the leader remains HTC's Hero, and Acer could do better in this respect. Acer's add-ons, including the Spinlets, aren't really up to much either. But the processor zips along, the screen is good, and the connectivity features are all present and correct.