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Acer Stream Review

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The Acer Stream boasts a 3.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen, a 5-megapixel camera and runs on Android 2.1 with an update to 2.2/Froyo due to roll out at the end of the year. The Acer Stream is shaping up to be Acer’s best phone yet – Android or otherwise.

What we like

The Acer Stream features a customised version of the Android user interface, it’s a very different flavour of Android, one that’s geared towards making things as easy as possible. It can be a daunting prospect if you’ve never used an Android phone before, so we appreciate what Acer have done here.

On the left hand side of the screen is a menu which makes it really easy to keep a track of what things you’ve got running: easily skip between apps, menus and web pages; it’s a lot like surfing the web with tabbed browsing in that respect.

The screen itself is also worth writing home about. The big 3.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen with its cool reflective finish is not only very fetching but it’s also really easy to type and text on. It supports pinch-to-zoom, allowing for easy browsing of web pages and it renders web pages and pictures vividly. The sharp and responsive display combined with the dark metallic finish of the phone’s front make the Stream is Acer’s best looking Android phone to date.

The Acer Stream is a super-capable media player as well. It comes with a sizeable 2GB of flash memory – much more than you get on other high-end Android phones like the HTC Desire HD – and you can expand this further with microSD cards (up to 32GB). This gives you ample space for storing music, pictures and apps.

At the base of the phone are three media keys allowing you to pause and skip tracks even when the screen is locked. The Acer Stream’s media player app, nemoPlayer, features Dolby Mobile enhanced sound. Music sounds good – really good – on headphones even with the volume cranked all the way up. The Dolby software automatically equalises sound levels for you but you can adjust treble and bass manually if you like. As well this you can choose from a set of presets for both music and video.

High quality YouTube videos look and sound amazingly detailed and crisp. Standard lower res videos don’t look as great but then that’s due to the quality of the videos themselves rather than the phone.

The 5-megapixel camera gives you a wide range of white balance, brightness and effect settings (mono, negative, sepia and aqua). The digital zoom is controlled by an on-screen slider which is easily adjustable. There are also extra anti-shake and macro shot settings which help stabilise shots if you’ve got a shaky hand and allow you to get up close and personal for some finely detailed snaps.

Our review model came with On from Orange pre-installed. This allows you to back up all of your numbers and contact info to a central server. While you get this kind of functionality with Android anyway (your contacts are automatically synced to your Google Account) this would be useful if you moved to a different non-Android phone (and were planning on staying with Orange) as you’d be able to save all your contacts.


What we don’t like

If you’ve used an Android phone before, there’s a chance that you might not get on well with the Stream’s custom UI. The safety net-style approach will irritate those who are used to adding loads of widgets and big panoramic wallpapers to their Android devices.

Widgets can be added to the second translucent ‘layer’ which sits on top of the main homescreen. You can quickly access this second layer by holding down the Home key for a couple of seconds, and switch back to the main homescreen by tapping the Back key.

While this transparent layer certainly looks cool and you soon get used to flipping between layers, we found this two tiered system to be counter productive. It means that your widgets, including Google Search which you’ll probably want to use a lot, are kept separate from the apps on your homscreen and vice versa so you’ll spend a lot of time jumping between the two levels.

For those who prefer standard Android there’s the option to switch between the basic Android UI and Acer’s custom UI in the Settings (Settings > Applications > User interface). You’ll have to restart the Stream though, but this shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.

The camera, for all it’s good points doesn’t have a flash. On lower-end and mid-range phones we could overlook the omission of a flash on a camera. On a high-end super-powered smartphone like the Acer Stream though it’s a cardinal sin, especially when the camera is as good as it is here. The shutter button on the side of the phone is also rather stiff. So much so that taking pictures with one hand sometimes results in really blurry shots.

Conclusion

The Stream is Acer’s best phone to date. It has a gorgeous screen, is very easy to use, boasts great sound and video quality and is generally a great all-round device. We can’t help but lament the lack of a flash on the camera, but otherwise this is a seriously powerful piece of kit with a great design. Easily up there with the likes of the HTC Desire and Google Nexus One.

Specification

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