Acer has been in the mobile game for quite some time now but truth be told, I’ve not been too impressed with what they’ve had to offer. Their Liquid series of Android powered devices, while definitely good looking had issues with overall functionality while nevertheless offering quite a bit of features. Their latest is in the form of yet another in the range called Liquid Metal and here’s a closer look.

Form Factor
Although it’s not really bad to look at, it’s merely a sleeker version of their existing Liquid Android mobile handsets. It features a 3.6-inch touchscreen with a 480 x 800 pixel resolution with 16 million colors making details quite vivid. What’s a real Switch Off about it is that the slightly curved glass seems to be a little too far from the capacitive display which plays havoc with the response time and accuracy of the system. It’s also not very resistant to scratches, so without a Screen Guard you’re bound to wind up with a few nicks very quickly. Acer has gone with touch sensitive keys below the display with a micro USB/charging port located at the bottom, a 3.5mm handsfree socket at the top near the power/screen lock button and volume/zoom keys and a camera shutter release located on the right side.

Side scrolling menus

Side scrolling menus

The Liquid Metal comes with 512MB of internal user memory and microSD card support which, unfortunately, is not in the form of a hot swap option. The 5MP autofocus camera is provisioned with an LED to be used as a flash. The bundled cables proved to be of quite decent quality and the handsfree was comfortable to use. The Liquid Metal also features small icons that light up on top of the handset to indicate messages waiting. The icons are cleverly hidden under the chrome exterior and light up when necessary.

The lack of a hot swap for memory is sorely missed

The lack of a hot swap for memory is sorely missed

Features and Performance
Interface

Even with its 800 MHz Scorpion processor and Adreno 205 GPU on a Qualcomm chipset running Android 2.2 (Froyo), the Liquid Metal proved to be a bit of a disappointment when it came to the smooth flow of the UI. Acer has incorporated their Breeze 4.0 interface which is really well designed. One oddity you’ll have to get used to is the Android access bar that’s placed at the bottom instead of the drop down version at the top. It’s quite uncomfortable as accessing messages, emails etc. from this portion requires very precise accuracy and with my stubby fingers that proved to be quite an issue. The UI also features a cover-flow type system to display running apps and media with a two line section at the bottom of the screen with frequently used shortcuts. The main menu can be accessed by sliding up and is a side scrolling version.

Acer Breeze 4.0 is a breeze to use

Acer Breeze 4.0 is a breeze to use

What I really liked about the layout is that the widgets are located on top of this single screen UI and forms a sort of dual layer system. When you lock the screen and unlock it, you immediately have access to multiple desktops and regular Android widgets while the secondary Breeze UI underneath is equipped with all of your main features. It might seem a tad redundant at first but comes in really handy after prolonged use. As functionally sound the UI comes off, it's way to sluggish to enjoy.

Froyo and all its goodies

Froyo and all its goodies

Response time is very slow and screen calibration is not very well managed making typing a bit of a chore even in landscape. Multi-touch zooming was also a bit slow for response.

Media
When it comes to media functionality, the Liquid Metal is well equipped – multiple players are provided. Aside from the standard Android player for audio and video, Acer has preloaded Nemoplayer that reads virtually all video file formats including DivX and XviD. However, playback was a bit off as un-converted videos in the .AVI format framed quite a bit. Even Rockplayer, which has served me well on many Android handsets, couldn’t seem to manage playback smoothly leading me to believe it could be more of a hardware issue than software related.

5MP with LED flash and a slick finish

5MP with LED flash and a slick finish

Audio quality was also not up to par Even with a Dolby mobile sound engine to enhance the quality of audio, I found the volume levels to be quite low and quality to be just average. Highs tended to crack a bit at the edges and sounded a little too sharp for my taste, bass could have been a little bit stronger and the decibel level should have been much higher. The lack of an FM radio could also be an issue for some. Dolby only really kicks in when you’re hooked up to external speakers.

Could have used higher decibel level for audio

Could have used higher decibel level for audio

Acer has also thrown in the Spinlets apps for accessing music online. Think of it as an online visual radio station with quite a few great tracks to listen to. However, if you’re not on 3G or Wi-Fi, it’s not really an easy service to use on the fly. MusicA is another app of Shazam, TrackID or Music ID for recording music snippets from external sources and providing data about the song by accessing an online database. It was quite accurate.

At least call volume was a non issue and the added facility of Active noise cancellation with dedicated microphones did help make call quality quite good.

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