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Acer Betouch E130 smartphone

Review Decent design, but it has to make do with Android 1.6
Fri Oct 08 2010, 13:08
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Product Acer Betouch E130
Website
www.acer.co.uk
System Specifications ST Ericsson PNX6715 416MHz processor, 512MB RAM, Android 1.6, 2.6-inch touchscreen, 802.11b/g wifi, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, 109g
Price
£199 including VAT


IF YOU'RE A FAN of candy bar handset designs, you're probably also disappointed at the lack of Android smartphones available in this format. Acer's here to save the day, though, with its forthcoming Betouch E130.

betouche130-front1When we first laid eyes on the handset, the first thing that hit us was its resemblance to the Blackberry Bold 9700. It's ever-so-slightly taller and wider than the Bold, but on the plus side it's also a few millimetres thinner. The black and white, two-tone finish on our review sample also made it look rather stylish.

One department where it outshines the majority of handsets in its class is the display. The 2.6-inch LCD QVGA has a touchscreen that, despite being resistive, is very responsive and provides a welcome second method of input. Acer has fitted the Betouch with a trackball that is easy to use, but not quite as good as the optical trackpad on the Bold. A number of buttons, including home, menu, back and search keys, flank the trackball.

Annoyingly, when the End Call button is pressed, the screen is automatically locked. During testing, this frequently proved frustrating as we often pushed the End Call button to exit an application, resulting in the device being locked. It took a while to resist the temptation to do this. The device feels well built generally, the only niggle being a plastic back cover that cheapens the handset somewhat; it almost felt like it was going to snap in half every time we tried to remove it.

The Betouch comes with Android 1.6 OS. However, with Android 2.1 freely available and 2.2 on the verge of being rolled out to the masses at the time of writing, it is fair to say that this device might be overlooked in favour of models with the latest interfaces. Whether it will get an upgrade to Android 2.1 or higher in the future remains to be seen.

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Acer hasn't really created much of an overlay, keeping it simple with five customisable home screens. A flick of the screen brings up a full menu of applications. Business types can sync with Microsoft Exchange via the pre-loaded Roadsync app. A trial of the Lite version of Documents to Go is also included, allowing users to view Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF files on the move. Those willing to pay more can upgrade to the full version of Documents to Go and gain the ability to edit documents on the move but, with a screen less than 3-inches in size, this isn't the most practical way to edit work and can be a time-consuming process. Gmail, Google Maps, Google Talk, Notepad, File Browser, Facebook, Twitroid and Nemoplayer also come with the device as standard.

Text input is generally good and users who favour physical qwerty keyboards are likely to find this keypad easy to use. The keys are quite large compared to most smartphones with physical qwerty keyboards, so it may suit users with larger thumbs. The buttons are long and similar in size and shape to the Nokia C3. They have a nice rubbery texture, and are comfortable to press.

betouche130-front2In our tests, we found that turning off the predictive text was an absolute must. Not only was it extremely distracting when typing, but hitting a wrong letter completely threw the prediction and resulted in having to correct the word anyway. Typing without the predictive text resulted in the odd misspelled word, but was hassle-free and actually speeded up typing for us.

Devices like the Betouch have not really been designed to provide a comfortable Internet experience such as the Samsung Galaxy S or the Dell Streak. The 2.6-inch screen means that web pages have to be viewed in segments, but the ability to use the touchscreen and trackball to home in on specific areas is welcome. With 3G and wifi connectivity supported, surfing the Internet is quick, and browsing on the Acer is generally better than on devices of similar sizes and specifications.

The Betouch supports micro-SD cards up to 32GB, significantly expanding the 512MB of internal storage. The device also comes with a 3.2-megapixel camera, minus a flash. Pictures are decent, but the lack of ability to zoom and autofocus is missed. Acer claims up to six hours of talk time, which is the same figure RIM touts for the Bold 9700. In our tests, we found the device can easily last two to three days with moderate use.

In Short
The Betouch E130 is remarkably similar to the Blackberry Bold 9700, albeit with an Android interface. The qwerty keypad performs well and it's priced reasonably, but the longevity of the Betouch will ultimately depend on its ability to upgrade to Android 2.1 and beyond. The Betouch E130 will be available in November, priced at £199. µ

The Good
Decent touchscreen performance, good qwerty keypad, stylish looks, reasonable price.

The Bad
Flimsy back cover, small screen not great for browsing, basic camera.

The Ugly
Android 1.6 OS.

Bartender's Score
6/10

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