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Acer Iconia W3 with Windows 8 hands-on review

We handle the first 8in Windows tablet
Thu Jun 06 2013, 10:37

TABLET MAKER Acer unveiled the first 8in tablet to feature the full version of Windows 8 at Computex this week, after it was accidently leaked on the firm's own website earlier this month.

Surprising nobody and pretty much confirming what we already knew, the firm's president Jim Wong took to the stage at a press event on Monday and told the crowd that the Iconia W3 aims to "bring the desktop into one hand".

The dock works well

One thing we didn't know at that time, however, was how the Iconia W3 fared in hand, so we went to the Acer booth this week to have a play with it.

Design and build
With Acer claiming the Iconia W3 is the first "one handed desktop" device, the first thing we wanted to do after getting our mitts on the tablet was the test this theory.

The microSD port for expanded memory

Held horizontally the Iconia W3's wide-screen 8.1in display means that you definitely need two hands to operate it properly. However, it's easy to hold comfortably in one hand in portrait mode and, with a weight of 540g, it is light enough to do this for long periods. Measuring 11.35mm thick it's rather bulky however, and though it compares in screen size to the 8in iPad Mini, which measures 7.2mm thick, it definitely isn't as slim.

Build quality also isn't as nice as the iPad Mini. The Iconia W3's plastic chassis feels sturdy in the hand but doesn't have a high quality feel, though at least it makes it much lighter.

What makes the Iconia W3 rather unique is its optional full-sized wireless Bluetooth keyboard dock, which the tablet snaps into so "you're ready to work fast anytime".

The keyboard feels cheap

At the Acer Iconia W3 press event on Monday, the firm boasted that the keyboard is similar in quality to those found on ultrabook devices, buty we found that it really isn't. Like the Iconia W3 tablet itself, the keyboard seems to be low quality and when we bashed out a few words on it, we were disappointed with both its feel and travel. The space bar moved around in the keyboard case much more than we would have liked and the keys felt unstable when pressed hard.

However, we did like the idea of docking a tablet this size in a full size keyboard, which would make it great for working on, as well as the fact the tablet clips into the back of it. We also liked how easy the tablet docks into the keyboard. It's just a shame it doesn't have the same high quality as Acer's Aspire S7 ultrabook, for example.

It feels rather satisfying to clip it into the keyboard

The optional keyboard will be available for about £60 when the Iconia W3 launches in Europe, which we think is too pricey for an add-on of this build quality.

Screen and performance
The thing that really lets the Iconia W3 down is its display, which is an 8.1in WXGA multi-touch LCD display supporting 1280x768 resolution. Pixels are very visible on the screen, especially since we're used to seeing the full blown version of Windows 8 on notebooks, which generally have HD displays. A HD display would have been very welcome here.

The Acer Iconia W3's display also reflects light a little more than we would like, as the screen has a high gloss to it. However, this might have looked worse during our hands-on due to the powerful lighting used on the Computex show floor.

The screen reflects light a little too well

Powered by its Atom Z2760 processor and configured with 2GB of RAM with integrated Intel Media Accelerator 3650 graphics, the Iconia W3 performs operations swiftly. Swiping your fingers across the screen leaves fewer greasy smudge marks than you'd expect, and operations are fluid and responsive thanks to the speedy CPU, which ensures there is no waiting for it to complete simple tasks.

Opening apps proved very snappy on the Iconia W3 and we were impressed by its performance despite the screen being below par compared to our expectations.

Operating system and software
Acer said it targeted the professional segment of the tablet market by putting the full version of Windows 8 on the Iconia W3, as it also includes  icrosoft Office so "you can edit Word, Excel and Powerpoint docs on the go".

We were pleasantly surprised by this, as it isn't bundled with Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet, so is very welcome on the Iconia W3.

Some of the connectivity options on display

Storage, connectivity and battery life
The Iconia W3 will arrive in 32GB and 64GB versions running the full version of Windows 8 Professional. It also has a microSD card slot that can add up 32GB of additional space, and has integrated 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 along with microHDMI and microUSB 2.0 ports.

The side view showing headphone jack

Acer claims the Iconia W3 will run for approximately eight hours between charges, but we will have to wait for a review unit to in order to test this.

The Acer Iconia W3 32GB and 64GB models will be available in Europe sometime this month starting at €329 or around UK£280 and €379 or around UK£322, respectively. The optional keyboard will be available for €69 or about UK£60. µ


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