Acer’s latest is also their very first Android powered handset, the Liquid. The Liquid is Acer’s attempt at capturing today’s mobile audiences with a user friendly design concept and of course we can’t forget the open source operating system. But even if it looks good and uses a generally competent UI does it deliver on all fronts? That’s what I’m here to tell you. Take a closer look.

Form Factor
The Acer Liquid is a large handset, to the extent that it can sometimes be quite a handful, in literal terms I mean. One of the first things that will catch your eye is the very luxurious finish of the body. The smooth curves would have made it quite shapely if it were a little thinner though. On the other hand, its dimensions are almost identical to the iPhone 3G’s, yet Apple’s offering is still sleeker. Nevertheless the Liquid is still a good looking handset. The 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen bears quite a high resolution at 480 x 800 pixels and 256K colors. It makes for very easy viewing even in direct sunlight.

The Proximity sensor turned out to be quite the dud. While on a call one would expect the sensor to shut off the display when talking but immediately switch it back on if you bring it round front again. Didn’t work here. To end a call I had to unlock the screen and then hang up. The speaker phone is way too low to have a decent handsfree conversation unless you’re in an absolutely silent environment. The use of standardized modes of connectivity like a mini USB port (bottom) and the 3.5mm handsfree (top) are definitely positive points; however another downer is that the Liquid does not have a hot swap microSD card slot.

Features and Performance
Interface

The Liquid uses a 768 MHz processor Qualcomm Snapdragon processor to run Android’s Donut i.e. v1.6 UI. Needless to say it’s not slow enough to raise any red flags expect when it comes to saving images. That does take a few seconds longer than a few other handsets. There aren’t any special additions to the UI that Acer has incorporated other than a shortcut to the ‘Acer Settings’ menu which is essentially access to just a few of the most used functions viz. switching on Wi-Fi, GPS or BT, Network settings etc.
The accelerometer works just fine.

Since Acer has gone with touch sensitive menu keys if you’re not careful your finger just might graze either the Main Menu shortcut or Return key and interrupt your typing. But by holding the Main Menu option you can access all features running in the background, including your message, email etc. The UI also supports a ‘Gesture Unlock’ system similar to Samsung’s. This one however merely acts as a security feature. You can create a pattern in the settings and to unlock the handset the pattern must be correctly run. 

Media
The native Android music player is still lacking just one small aspect, EQ settings. Other than that, the audio quality is still as good as the best music players on the market with clear crisp tones and a resounding ‘thump’ in the bass line. The bundled handsfree is comfortable enough but you can of course use a better set if you have one. The lack of an FM radio can be considered a drawback to most but let’s face it we thrive on our radio here in good old Mumbai. The video player doesn’t support DivX or XviD formats but the resolution and large display still makes it easy to watch videos. 3GP and MPEG4 formats including iPhone and iPod touch friendly versions play without a hitch though and also supports a resume-play function if played from the Nemo Player not the native.

As a desktop widget, Acer has designed and included a media wheel. It sits at the edge of the display and allows you easy access to all your media from a scroll-wheel interface. The problem is with this widget activated no other will fit on the same desktop except shortcuts. It is nevertheless quite handy.
Acer has also loaded Spinlets application that allows you to stream music off the internet. It has a database of really good music spanning quite a few genres and also comes with a search option. While you can listen to the music online you can’t download but you can share it with others via email or post it to your Facebook, MySpace, Gtalk Ids. You may not always find what you’re looking for but there’s still quite a bit of music to listen to.


Connectivity
3G connectivity is available for whenever that gets here for all users, in the meantime you’ll have to settle for either EDGE/GPRS for Wi-Fi for internet access. The Android OS is very email friendly so setting up mail accounts is a snap. The browser has always been a plus point and the larger the screen the easier and better it makes the net look and feel. Like the media wheel widget Acer has also designed one for internet bookmarks.

Of course there’s plenty of social networking opportunity as your contacts database can sync with your Facebook and other accounts. The integration isn’t as well laid out as HTC’s versions but it’s still workable. Uploading images etc. to your various accounts is also quite simple and since it’s Android, any chat application that isn’t preloaded can be downloaded off the Android Market. Acer has preloaded a ‘UrFooz’ social networking application for Liquid customers. It’s relatively new but quite a bit of fun to use. It allows you to create an avatar right on the handset and use it in your profile for all your social networking accounts, blog etc. Everything is integrated into this one simple and fun to use interface which can also be attached as a widget to a desktop.

Through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth the handset also allows for media streaming through a Media Server app. Bluetooth also supports A2DP. A YouTube app is also present. RoadSync for backing up data and RoadSync email apps are also preloaded. For its GPS module it uses the latest version of Google Maps with ‘Latitude’, Buzz and layer integration. A-GPS helps speed up the process for getting as much real -time information for chatting etc. 

Misc. Features
Like any other normal handset all the basic are covered. Those include a calendar to keep appointments and schedules, calculator, Alarm clock, tasks, Voice recorder etc. The extras thrown in by default include a ‘read-only’ version of Documents to Go with a PDF reader as well,  Speech Synthesis for Text-to-Speech and Acer Sync for Google and other options. Obviously there’s plenty more where that came from via the Android Market.

Camera
The 5 megapixel camera loaded onto the Liquid is sans flash. Its feature set includes White Balance, GeoTagging, ISO levels (up 800) and a self timer. When it comes to images, the picture quality is not bad at all. The camera seemed to have one very major glitch in functionality – it only focused on the lower portion of every frame while blurring out the rest. This was consistent throughout my testing. The portion that appeared focused was clear as ever though, but that's not nearly good enough a reason to absolve the Liquid's camera faux pas. Indoor shots in artificial lights didn't seem to have this problem though. Another issue is that it takes too long to save images and even longer to geotag locations onto them.

Battery
Acer estimates that the Liquid should dish out about 5 hours of talk time thanks to its 1350 mAh Li-ion Polymer battery. In reality it will offer you about 4 hours and about 10 minutes. That’s still really good.

The Bottom Line
The Acer Liquid Android Mobile comes with a price tag of Rs. 24,900 (MRP) (package includes a 2GB memory card). That’s actually a very reasonable price. It has quite a bit to offer in terms of connectivity for emails and social networking. The handset’s media capabilities are also quite good from the music player to the 5MP camera. The Liquid does have its drawbacks but on the whole it’s a good handset for the price. It may not be the cheapest Android handset on the market but it’s certainly one of the better options in its range.

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