The Acer beTouch E210 is a mid-range Android smartphone that dispenses with a large touchscreen in favour of a smaller, landscape-oriented display and a full Qwerty keypad. It’s a curious blend of type-meets-touch, something which we’ve seen before and working well on the HTC ChaCha. It comes pre-loaded with the Documents to Go app, suggesting that it’s aimed at the more business-y side of things. We took the Acer beTouch E210 with us to lunch (at the Four Seasons with Cliff Huxtable) as well as home for the weekend to see how it fared.
What we like
The Acer BeTouch E210 is a hybrid touchscreen phone with a full physical keypad bolted on to it. It’s something we’ve seen before on phones from Nokia’s Touch and Type range and more recently HTC’s ChaCha. We really like these kind of phones as they give you the flexibility of thumbing through web pages and menus and the like on the touchscreen, while providing a solid typing/texting experience.
As for the Qwerty keypad itself, it’s really easy to type on. The keys have a nice cobblestone effect making it easy for your finger and thumbs to find the right letter. The keys also have a rubbery coating, giving them a bit of grip and the pad is partially backlit, meaning you’ll be able to see all the letters in the dark.
The shift and function key are intelligently positioned, so you’ll never have to struggle to capitalise letter or access certain symbols. We also liked that there’s a dedicated key to launch the text message editor and a shutter key for use with the camera.
You also get the Documents To Go app pre-installed on the beeTouch E210 which is nice – this allows you to access and edit Microsoft Office files and Google Docs on the go. This works fine and is just as well, as we couldn’t seem to get the Google Docs
The Acer BeTouch E210’s size and lightness combined with the easy typing makes it a joy to text and Facebook on. As it runs on Android 2.2, you can also benefit from being able to access Facebook Chat on the BeTouch E210.
Above the Qwerty pad sits an optical trackpad which can be used in conjunction with the touchscreen for scrolling through menus and pages. It’s pretty responsive (moreso than the touchscreen) and is also clickable, so it doubles as a confirmation/’OK’-style key.
There’s a single external speaker on the back which fared pretty well when we blasted some of our favourite tunes through it, on the standard Music player and the Spotify app. We also liked that YouTube videos automatically fullscreened once they started playing, presumably due to the landscape orientation of the 2.6-inch screen.
Call quality is pretty good, not amazingly crystal clear in a lot of instances, but not terrible either.
What we don’t like
As well as we got on with the BeTouch E210’s Qwerty keypad, we were less enamoured with its touchscreen portion. The 2.6-inch screen is resistive and not as responsive to the touch as most touchscreens you seen on phones today, which are capacitive.
Most of the time you’ll find that you can swipe and click on links, icons and menu folders just fine. But occasionally you’ll go to thumb left or right and the screen won’t register so you’ll have to swipe or tap on it twice in order to action something. There’s also no pinch-to-zoom action for web browsing either; to get closer to a page you’ll have to resort to using a virtual zoom tool on the screen, which, again, isn’t very responsive.
It can also make for awkward gaming – touch-based titles like Drop 7, Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds are a little trickier because of this.
The display itself is not great in direct sunlight, even with the brightness cranked to full. Web pages and photos also look blurry and grainy on the low resolution screen.
The 3-megapixel camera doesn’t come with a flash and is often slow to focus on objects, leading to blurred shots. Picture quality is generally grainy and not that good.
The central section of the BeTouch E210’s front is a real fingerprint magnet, and those four menu keys are altogether too small for our liking. In fact, sans the optical trackpad, we have a problem with virtually everything north of the Qwerty keypad on the BeTouch E210.
While we liked that YouTube videos would auto-fullscreen, commenting on videos from the BeTouch E210 is a little more difficult. You can only activate the standard view of the YouTube app by turning the phone ninety degrees, like in the pic above. You can see how, with the keys now at an odd angle, this makes commenting on a video tricky. We hope that this particular quirk gets ironed out in a firmware update.
As a phone to do the basics, the Acer BeTouch E210 is fine. Call quality is alright and the decent keyboard makes texting and emailing no hassle. The touchscreen and mediocre camera are our main bugbears of Acer’s BeTouch E210. While you can navigate the menus of the BeTouch E210 with the optical trackpad, having an unresponsive touchscreen limits the phone’s usefulness and appeal. Copying and pasting blocks of text, attempting to drag and drop on the touchscreen is fiddly, and games downloaded from the Android Market – the majority of which are touch-based – are often difficult/borderline impossible to play.