The Acer Liquid – Acer’s debut Android handset – certainly looks the business with its 3.5-inch screen and 5-megapixel camera but does it deliver the goods?
What we like
Acer definitely got the name right with this phone – flicking through menu screens on the Liquid’s 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen is incredibly fluid. You could be forgiven for flicking back and forth between the three main menu screens for a good few minutes once you’ve set it up for the first time. The screen itself is bright and colourful and photos taken on the 5-megapixel camera look stunning. Cranking the brightness up to 100% on the settings should probably come with a health warning – the screen is so colourful it’s practically radioactive.
The display isn’t the only smooth thing about the Liquid; downloading apps from the Android Market was an effortless affair, even over an iffy EDGE connection.
We like the three notification lights mounted on the top of the phone. These are for calls, messages and battery life, so if you’re in a meeting or in the cinema and need to keep your phone on silent, a quick glance will tell you if you’ve missed any calls or texts.
Traditionally, Android handsets haven’t come with particularly good cameras, but we like the Acer Liquid’s 5-megapixel camera. You can adjust the contrast and brightness of the shots, change the white balance, shoot in a range of standard photo effects (such as mono, sepia, negative etc) as well as change the resolution to take Full HD shots.
We tested out Spotify and Acer’s own Spinlets music platform – there’s a 3.5mm audio jack (joy!) so we happily plugged our own headphones in and the music playback was totally fine on the Acer Liquid. We were able to blast out some of our favourite tunes at a decent volume with no noticable distortion.
What we don’t like
The lack of a trackball or trackpad may also be an issue for seasoned Android users who come from the T-Mobile G1, HTC Magic or HTC Hero. Whilst the large capacitive touchscreen is super responsive and easy to use, we felt that not having an extra directional tool to be a real hindrance when entering logins and correcting typos.
The dedicated camera shutter button is stiff and unresponsive and undermines the whole camera aspect of the phone – you have to press down on the button pretty hard. So hard in fact that you’re in danger of moving the phone too much, thereby blurring the picture you’re trying to take. There is also no virtual shutter key on the touchscreen itself so you have to use the physical key – which half the time will result in blurred shots. This is a real shame the camera itself is really good.
The four menu keys (Home, Search, Back and Menu) located underneath the touchscreen are also not hugely responsive. It’s very frustrating having to press something three times in order for it to work.
The concertina-style shortcuts on the sides of the left and right-most menu screen are nice to look at, but they take up a whole half of a screen and we couldn’t find a way to customise them.
Spinlets is a cool idea, but it needs work. It’s best thought of as a mobile-only Spotify (currently exclusive to the Acer Liquid) only with (at present) a rather limited selection of tracks. If Acer could bolster the number of tracks available then this might be something to shout about. At the time of writing we found just two Lady Gaga tracks and absolutely no Journey.
The Acer Liquid is a good phone and it’s obvious that a lot of love has gone into making it. However we felt that it was really let down by three major things: the lack of a trackball or trackpad, the unresponsiveness of the four menu keys and the camera shutter key. It’s a shame as the Liquid is fast and you can have a lot of fun with the apps from the Android Market but we’d be unlikely to choose this over an HTC Desire.