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CES: Acer Liquid Z5 hands-on review

Affordable Android smartphone will struggle to compete with the Nexus 5 and Moto G
Mon Jan 06 2014, 10:34

LAS VEGAS: PC MAKER Acer avoided the initial CES madness by announcing its latest product lineup days before the event kicked off, but we hunted the firm down in Las Vegas to get some hands-on time with the Liquid Z5 smartphone.

The Acer Liquid Z5 will arrive in Europe later this month priced at €169, and this mid-range price is reflected in the handset's middling specifications. With devices such as the Google Nexus 5 and Moto G fetching not much more with higher-end specificatons, we took the Liquid Z5 for a spin to see if it can match its competitors.

Despite its budget price, the Acer Liquid Z5 is not a bad looking smartphone. Set to launch in black and white, the phone comes wrapped in a plastic unibody casing, which although it feels a little cheap to the touch, isn't particularly unattractive and sits nicely in the palm of the hand.

At 8.8mm thick it's compact too, although the large bezel surrounding the handset's touchscreen does add some unnecessary bulk to the phone.

Acer Liquid Z5 has a plastic unibody design

Perhaps the most interesting design feature of the Acer Liquid Z5 is its rear-facing shortcut key, similar to that found on the LG G2. Placed where the forefinger naturally rests, a short tap on the rear-facing button will open your favourite app, while a long press will open the camera app, even when the device is locked. Speaking of cameras, there's a 5MP shooter on the rear and a VGA video calling camera on the front of the device.

It's not often you'll find a 5in smartphone costing less than £200, but the handset's low price is reflected in the quality of the phablet-sized screen. The 5in display has 480x854 resolution, which means some text appears fuzzy around images, and when placed next to an iPhone 5, the overall lack of display quality was clearly apparent.

Acer Liquid Z5 has a 5in display

However, when used in a sunny Las Vegas hotel room, the screen proved resistant to glare and offered decent viewing angles.

Software and performance
Another issue with the Acer Liquid Z5 is its software. The phone arrives running the Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean mobile operating system. Given that Android 4.4 Kitkat is now available, this makes the handset seem immediately ageing.

Acer has coated Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with its own custom user interface, and has added a handful of custom apps to the Liquid Z5. Chief among these is Float Apps, Acer's take on multitasking, which allows you to open floating apps on top of another. For example, if you're writing an email and need to access the calculator, this can be done without having to close the email screen.

Quick Mode is another of Acer's custom features. This turns the handset into an Android-powered imitation of a Windows Phone device, switching the traditional app screen for a boxy tiled alternative.

The Acer Liquid Z5 comes with a dual-core 1.3GHz processor. While this doesn't sound like much on paper and pales in comparison to the Nexus 5's quad-core processor, we didn't notice any performance issues during our time with the handset, with apps loading quickly and scrolling smoothly.

Acer Liquid Z5 with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean

The processor is backed up with 512MB of RAM, and the Liquid Z5 comes with only 4GB of internal storage. However, unlike the Nexus 5 this can be expanded via microSD card up to an additional 64GB.

As for connectivity, there's no 4G, but you will find HSPA+ support, 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 3.0.

First impressions
Despite its low price, we don't have high hopes for the Acer Liquid Z5. The handset's backdated software along with its low resolution screen and lack of standout features means that its unlikely to convince buyers not to choose a Nexus 5 or Moto G instead. µ


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