Acer's Iconia W3: Most important Windows 8 tablet yet

The anticipated 8-inch Windows 8 tablet has been announced and it's a slate that finally brings Windows into the true tablet space.

Image credit: Acer

It's long been expected to see smaller Windows 8 tablets appear, and the Acer Iconia W3 looks to be a significant entry into the mobile space. With a display of 8.1 inches, the W3 will bring Windows 8 into the true tablet space.

Acer is packing an Atom processor, 2GB of memory, and either 32GB or 64GB of storage in the small W3 with the 8.1-inch display. That screen is not high resolution but the 1280x800 should be a solid entry into the small Windows 8 segment at just $379. That price is especially nice as Acer is preinstalling Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 on the W3.

When rumors first appeared about 8-inch Windows 8 tablets, I admit I didn't think they would be practical. Then I realized that as a firm believer that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to mobile devices, the smaller size may be just what some consumers want.

I have two 8-inch tablets and like them both so I'm anxious to get my hands on the Acer W3. I've been promised that will happen in a few weeks, so I'll have to be patient.

The Acer Iconia W3 tablet is a signficant entry in the Windows 8 arena. The smaller tablet is perfect for using in the hands so it's the first true tablet with Windows 8. The larger Windows 8 tablets often have keyboards included, or are marketed heavily to be used with them. The W3 is designed to be a handheld device, and it will finally bring Windows 8 to the real tablet space.

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Acer will sell an optional keyboard dock to be used with the W3 so it's not totally removed from keyboard use. I'm surprised that Acer chose to use a full-size keyboard on the dock, which isn't as mobile as a slightly smaller model would have been. I guess Acer is thinking W3 owners will leave the dock at the desk and take just the tablet on outings.

Running Windows 8 on such a small display and resolution will have to be tried to see how well it works. I think it will be fine but will require hands-on use to get a feel for it. The narrow dimension of the 1280x800 resolution concerns me the most, as that is pretty narrow for a multi-tasking OS like Windows. I hope it will handle snap view on Windows 8.1 as it won't currently on Windows 8.

UPDATE: It's been confirmed that snap view will indeed work on low resolution devices like the W3.

The Atom processor should provide plenty of performance for the W3, with decent battery life. The tablet seems a little heavy (1.1lbs) compared to other 8-inch tablets, so it may feel a little dense in the hand for extended periods. That extra weight must be the price of having a full Intel PC inside the small package.

The price of the Acer Iconia W3 should make it easier for Windows 8 enthusiasts who are sitting on the fence for a smaller tablet. My experience with tablets this size is that some who are opposed to small slates often find them to be great mobile devices once they try them. That's easier to do when the price is right.