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Acer Liquid M220 Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Low price tag
  • Excellent battery life
  • Compact form factor

The Bad

  • Underpowered
  • Terrible screen
  • Poor cameras
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Acer extends its reach into Microsoft’s world with the Liquid M220, the company’s return to Windows Phone ahead of the big shift to Windows 10.

Whilst the review sample we’ve been looking at comes running Windows Phone 8.1, we glimpsed a version that had already been pushed up to the Windows 10 Preview earlier this year and that’s really what this phone is all about. That and affordability.

Small and simple

The hardware is reserved both internally and cosmetically. Unlike the company’s Android-powered Jade lineup, the more utilitarian-sounding M220 packs a design to match. It adopts a squared form factor; if it’s curves you’re after, the M220 is at the other end of the scale. That said, in essence it does mirror the Live Tile interface of Windows Phone more closely, so at a stretch, that might have been something the design team was going after.

M220 front M220 back

Before we whale away on the aesthetics of the M220 too much however, they do actually perform their function very well. The removable back, which is designed to mimic the appearance of fabric, features a ridged texture offering plenty of grip and paired with the faux-knurled silver plastic skirting the phone’s sides, you’d be hard-pressed to fumble with this thing when pulling this out of your pocket or bag – ideal for those with butter fingers.

Dead on or bust

In a world of increasingly gargantuan handsets, the diminutive M220 is actually a nice return to a simpler time. The 4-inch display is surrounded by deep bezels, but the handset still boasts a small overall footprint whilst remaining legible, which could be a big bonus for those smaller-handed folk tired of stretching their thumbs or double-fisting a device just to reach the top of the screen.

M220 screen

Whilst the screen’s size is convenient however, the technology used is less so. The M220’s 800×480 LCD has some of the narrowest viewing angles around, bringing on poor visibility indoors and outdoors, weak contrast and extreme colour distortion, unless you’re looking at it dead on.

M220 screen 2

If you’re worried about how the content on-screen looks, this might be one handset to avoid, if you plan on checking texts and emails, looking up directions or basic web browsing however, such shortcomings won’t really affect you.

In the waiting line

The biggest issue with reviewing the M220 at this point in time is that we’ve already tasted the sweeter fruits of Windows 10 that owners of this device are currently unable to enjoy.

Acer has placed stock Windows Phone 8.1 OS on this handset, which in truth actually translates as a robust smartphone experience out the box. MSN apps cover key facets of current affairs such as news, finance, health and travel, plus you have access to Office apps like Word, Excel and OneNote.

Windows Phone still serves as a brilliant choice for first time smartphone users thanks to a clean, clear tile-driven interface. Windows 10 strays back towards written lists and more complex layouts, but it too retains a strong design direction that ensures whatever device you’re running it on is relatively easy to navigate.

The promise of universal apps will also quell the current issues with the poorly stocked Windows Phone app store as developers will be able to program one application to run across phone, tablet and desktop.

Juice for days

The impressively low price of this handset hits the internals fairly heavily. Compared to the rest of the current smartphone market, the M220 lags behind with an aging 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 quad-core processor, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. It does in fact handle simple 3D games without too much trouble, but it’s also an inconsistent performer.

That claustrophobic amount of internal space also pushes you to add a microSD card from the moment you take it out the box. Unless of course you never plan on downloading apps, saving attachments or taking pictures that is.

M220 back off

Acer has said that following the arrival of Windows 10 they may well boost the M220’s innards to accommodate 1GB of RAM and 8GB of inbuilt storage, but in the model we tested, it felt restrictive and a little sluggish.

Conservative hardware does however facilitate excellent battery life and if that’s a key concern, the M220’s stellar three days of use per charge in considerably more appealing than essentially any other smartphone currently on offer.

Grainy

The cameras on the M220 are, unsurprisingly terrible. The silver lining is that having both a front and rear-facing snapper ensures you can partake in video calls should the moment grab you (Skype comes pre-installed).

Beyond that however the quality of stills from the 2 and 5-megapixel sensors are near enough laughable. Noise rears its head at any sign of contrasting light and shadow, not to mention capturing content is already hard enough, thanks to the phone’s poor display.

Budget or bust?

At £60 you get a considerable amount of bang for your buck and the simplicity of the Acer Liquid M220 lends itself to first-time smartphone users, technophobes, the budget conscious and the mal-coordinated we mentioned earlier.

M220 handheld

Yes, the hardware feels slow, the screen and cameras are pretty atrocious, but for the price there’s still a full-blown smartphone at your disposal here. If you’re looking for an inexpensive way of staying connected to the wider world or join the fun of Windows 10, this no-frills option should suffice, but it might be worth forking out a little more cash for a better Lumia instead.

Specification

Screen size4-inches
Screen resolution800x480
Weight119 grams
OSWindows Phone 8.1
Rear Camera5-megapixel
Front camera2-megapixel
Processor1.1GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200
Memory512MB
Storage4GB. Expandable via microSD up to 32GB
4G LTENo
Bonus featuresOn-screen buttons, removable battery, flip cover (sold separately)

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