- Decent battery life
- Poor 5-megapixel camera
Acer has a been steadily carving out a niche of its own in the Android space for the past few years, focusing on affordability in the mid-range market and the Acer Liquid E1 looks to be no different.
This dual-core, dual-SIM handset totes a lot of bang for your buck, but we placed it under the microscope so we could see for ourselves whether such a claim lived up to expectation.
Acer Liquid E1: Design
There’s no escaping the fact that the first thing you notice about the E1 is that it’s plastic. The edging and backing of the phone is covered in a soft touch plastic, which although pleasant to hold, feels particularly cheap. At the same time, the plastic construction means it’s lightweight and rounded edges and corners provide ample comfort and grip in the hand.
As well as some red elements, the Acer’s frontage features a 4.5-inch display and a VGA front-facing camera. Ports are limited to a standard headphone jack on top with a microUSB port on the phone’s left side, whilst the right features a chromed plastic volume rocker which has three raised points on it, allowing for easy eyes-free operation.
There’s a pair of stereo speakers under metal grilles at both the top and bottom edges of the E1’s back cover with a centrally mounted camera positioned just underneath the top speaker.
Really the highlight of the design is in fact how well Acer has packed the contents in behind the removable back cover. Snap the plastic cover off and there’s a compact 1760mAh battery occupying the lower portion of the device, whilst beneath the camera sites two full size SIM slots and a microSD card slot.
Acer Liquid E1: Screen
Many of the market’s current mid-range handset crop offer up a resolution of WVGA (480 x 800), but this can be found on devices with screen sizes as big as 5-inches. Beyond the 4-inch mark, the low pixel density of WVGA becomes very apparent, seriously degrading the quality of a device’s user experience in the process. Thanks to foresight of Acer, we were pleased to discover that they’d opted for the perfect stop gap between WVGA and 720p HD – qHD resolution (540 x 960).
The Acer’s 4.5-inch qHD LCD panel certainly is a highlight of the device. The backlight isn’t particularly strong and thus outdoor visibility was pretty weak, but colour reproduction and clarity felt exceptionally high for a mid-range device such as the E1.
In fact it’s clear that Acer is proud of the E1’s screen, based on the inclusion of an HD Viewer app, which explicitly filters only HD content from YouTube.
Acer Liquid E1: Operating system
Although the physical design might feel a little tired, Acer has bestowed upon the E1 Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, which keeps it feeling current. The OS has also been tweaked and tuned, includes a few distinct Acer apps and widgets and has been geared to better operate with the phone’s dual-SIM capabilities.
There’s a good amount of customisation on offer with regards to lockscreen shortcuts and a wealth of homescreen transition effects as well as the ability to add and remove homescreens and change lock and homescreen wallpapers; all of which is encompassed in the My Style application.
By default many of the stock Android applications have been made available alongside some of Acer’s own apps, giving you an option from the get go. The advantage of opting for the Acer-made apps is that many, such as the Photos app, interact with the Acer cloud storage service, allowing you to easily pick your photos up from almost anywhere.
Using a dual-SIM device is an interesting experience as there are all manner of additional options and management tools required to cater for both SIMs simultaneously. The dual signal bars at the top of the phone’s display are colour coded – blue for SIM one, orange for SIM two. When placing or receiving a call, the caller I.D. bar is coloured either blue or orange to denote which number is being used, whilst texts can be sent from within the same thread but on either number.
From Settings you also have the ability to switch data usage between the SIMs which gives 3G priority to one SIM at a time and thanks to the settings shortcuts in the notifications drawer a user could even toggle SIM priority and data connection on the fly.
Acer Liquid E1: Camera and multimedia
The back of the Acer Liquid E1 showcases the majority of its multimedia prowess, with those dual stereo speakers and 5-megapixel camera on display. Bright natural light is the camera’s best friend, with sunny outdoor shots maintaining good colour reproduction. Having said that, high contrast scenarios such direct sunlight photos with shadow, highlights its poor dynamic range and contrast control.
In lower light situations the E1’s camera tends to overexpose images not only knocking out brighter detail but pushing noise. For the most part, clarity is weak with fine detail being lost in a range of environments except for one.
Macro shots even in low light are impressive. Naturally some of the general shortcomings which plague general shooting carry across but compared to less specialist shots, close-up or macro photography looks very pleasant.
The same can’t be said for rest of the AV experience. Video recording, which maxes out at 720p HD resolution is in fact terrible. The depth of colour and contrast as weak and detail is severely lacking. What’s more the stereo speakers – a key selling point of the E1 although clear, are extremely quiet.
A saving grace for the E1 is that thanks to the qHD screen and the ability to accommodate a 32GB microSD card, watching HD content is pleasant; we just recommend you use headphones to enjoy audible audio.
Acer Liquid E1: Performance and battery
We’ve already mentioned that the Liquid E1 offers decent mid-range power from a 1GHz dual-core processor which is accompanied by 1GB of RAM. In practice this serves as an adequate setup for the demands of the other hardware and services onboard. Had Acer skimped on the RAM the E1 might have driven us mad, but for the most part, navigating the interface was consistent; not buttery smooth as Jelly Bean’s ‘Project Butter’ would have hoped but wholly usable.
We can’t ask for a whole lot more the price either but simply clocking the E1 at a more racey 1.2GHz probably would have sufficed to create a more consistently smooth user experience.
The rather compact 1760mAh battery offers a day of general use, anything heavier and it’ll start to fall fairly sharply. Nonetheless we were impressed based on the reputation of other dual-SIM devices which sometimes struggle to power dual radios for two mobile networks at once.
Acer Liquid E1: Conclusion
Acer has created an enticing prospect – an extremely affordable dual-SIM Android smartphone with the ability to serve both a user’s personal and work lives on a daily basis. It carries just enough hardware clout to offer a user experience that borders on the enjoyable side rather than the frustrating side of capable and the implementation of that all-important USP is well executed too (although the quad-core based Acer Liquid E2 might serve as a more powerful alternative).
There are far more suitable alternatives at a similar price point for those after a more robust multimedia experience or a slicker user experience overall, such as the Nokia Lumia 520 which is available for £156.99 on sites such as Expansys.
Take away the dual-SIM capabilities and the E1 doesn’t have the same appeal. In truth whether you lay down the cash for an Acer Liquid E1 rests with whether or not you’d rather carry one phone, or two. Should the dual-SIM Acer Liquid E1 appeal, then head over to Expansys where it’s available for £164.99 SIM free.