We review the Acer Liquid Jade S, a slender 5-inch mid-range mobile packing HD visuals and a 13-megapixel camera.
One of my favourite things about the Acer Liquid Jade S is its look and feel. With its nicely curved corners, narrow bezels and slim build, it’s a smart and attractive handset that’s also pleasingly comfortable to play with one-handed. The Jade S is noticeably more slender than rivals like the Moto G and I even attracted comments from mates about how good the thing looked when I whipped it out in the pub.
You can’t open up the Jade S, so your SIM card and memory card are housed in an all-encompassing drawer that pulls out of the right edge. No fiddly pin-hole mechanisms in sight, which is definitely a plus.
Screen and media
Acer’s 5-inch IPS panel might not be the brightest around but it’s a 720p HD screen that’s spacious and crisp enough to comfortably enjoy some movies on the go. In terms of sharpness and colour reproduction, it’s a decent rival for the Moto G’s benchmark display. Viewing angles are wide and the surface is thankfully resistant to smudges and scuffs.
You get 16GB of storage for your media, but the microSD memory card slot means you can expand by another 32GB to carry around more movies and music.
Features and user experience
Acer has tweaked Android 4.4 KitKat with its usual custom overlay and while it’s not a revolutionary interface, the Jade S is a perfectly friendly and usable phone.
Android fans will know what to expect. You can customise the desktops with widgets (although some of them aren’t quite as attractive as those from rival manufacturers), personalise your lock screen (sticking the likes of your next appointment there for quick reference) and access your latest messages and shortcuts by dragging down the notifications bar.
However, something we didn’t expect was the ability to multi-task by opening select apps in miniature windows on your desktop. So for instance, you can have a web browser on the top half of your screen and a maps app on the bottom, to help you navigate to an address on a website. You can even get the camera interface in a dinky box, to take snaps while you’re doing other stuff.
Acer has packed in a fair few own-branded apps, which a lot of people might dub ‘crapware’. And it’s fair to say that, unless you’re a business user, chances are you won’t touch a lot of it. There’s Acer’s own cloud service for backing up data securely, Acer Extend for pairing up with a laptop, plus the likes of abDocs and abFiles to stay productive on the go.
However, non-businessy folk are catered for by the likes of AcerNav, a surprisingly decent sat nav app that’s powered by TomTom. You can download offline maps for large chunks of Europe, not to mention SE Asia and Taiwan, which is great news if you’re driving abroad and don’t want to cane your data allowance.
Performance and battery life
The Jade S packs an octa-core MediaTek processor, which is designed to provide decent performance on a budget. For the most part, it does the job nicely. There’s very little slowdown when you’re buggering about with Android’s menus, apps load quickly and we even managed to play some fast-paced games.
Only occasionally did the Jade S struggle. For instance, one time when I tapped on Airplane Mode, the whole phone froze up for a few seconds while the various settings were changed in the background. I also found that the Jade S constantly crashed with an error message when I was browsing the widgets menu, something that’ll hopefully be fixed soon in an update.
However, considering you can multi-task your apps, the phone performs admirably well for a mid-ranger.
Battery life is fine, if not spectacular. I generally got a full day of use out of the Jade S, while streaming video killed it dead in about five hours (a perfectly average result). However, I also found that the handset took ages to fully charge with a standard USB cable, even when plugged into the mains rather than a laptop. A full charge takes around five hours, which is fine if you’re leaving it plugged in overnight but pretty terrible if you’re hoping to charge it up in the hour you have before you head out.
Thankfully Acer’s 13-megapixel camera is another highlight, and a strong offering for a mid-range mobile. The camera interface is rather cluttered and packed with lots of features that you’ll most likely never need or use (including good ol’ voice control), but the good news is that there’s a handy ‘favourite mode’ shutter button which automatically selects your prefered settings for a snap.
Ignore all the extra gubbins and stick with the trusty auto mode and you won’t be disappointed. With the exception of low light shots, which are grainy and ugly (thank god for that flash), I found my snaps were well lit and pleasingly crisp. The lens copes well with tricky lighting outdoors, refusing to saturate your shot even when partly shooting into a bright sky. Even close-up macro shots came out well, packed with plenty of tiny details.
You can shoot 1080p video and there’s also a front-facing 5-megapixel snapper that shoots a respectable selfie.
Acer’s Liquid Jade S is a step above many mid-range phones thanks to its surprisingly solid camera, plus helpful features like the app multi-tasking. It’s a shame the battery only just scrapes through a day of use and takes ages to charge, but if you get in the habit of charging it overnight it shouldn’t be a problem.