One of the first written reviews of the Acer Liquid – Shaun from PDA247 has the following to say.
The HTC Hero and Motorola DROID have received much praise in recent months and are considered to be the best Android powered handsets on the market. They are indeed impressive, but the DROID does not have the best design in the world and the Hero has a slight quirk in its design which is not to everyone’s taste. However, they have proved to be tough competition for any new entrant into the Android smartphone world and it would take something special to compete with them, let alone beat them. Is the Acer Liquid A1 a worthy contender?
The very first impressions are surprising indeed. Gone is the standard Acer feel of fairly cheap plastic and boring design which has been replaced with a sleek shape created out of high quality materials which come together perfectly. It sort of feels like a slimmer Palm TX and although this version is in white (not a preference for me) the screen dominates everything about the look. Build quality also feels very good indeed and there are no moving parts to offer a sense of insecurity in use. It is all a bit slippery in the hand, but the white plastic means that fingerprints do not show up at all.
The buttons below the screen are completely flush, but do work well enough which lots of spacing around each to ensure accurate thumb pressing. The power key is on the left, not the best place for it, and on the right you have the volume keys and the camera shortcut key lower down. This setup is almost more suitable for left-handed people who would tend to hold the phone in the right-hand, but it is not a killer problem. The microUSB port is at the bottom and is protected by a swivelling rubber flap which is great for stopping dust getting, but slightly awkward when you are charging the phone.
I have to say that from a hardware perspective the Liquid A1 is a seriously smart piece of kit and one of the nicest smartphones I have held in my life. It looks fashionable in a way that is not obvious i.e. it is so cool that this kind of look has not been taken onboard by the majority of manufacturers yet. It is the kind of device that would look good in smarter establishments and not necessarily in an office. When the black one is available it will look great everywhere.
This is the first smartphone I have used that has the singular feel of the iPhone in that it really does feel like one slab of material that is honed together perfectly and I would go as far as to say that it has much more style. The use of plastic is a curiosity because some metal here would take it to a whole new level.
This is just a quick first look, but the Liquid immediately feels better than the HTC Hero in many ways.
The Acer Liquid A1 has continued to impress in ways which I never expected. It manages to pull off the trick of being a reliable workhorse while offering some excitement which is rare these days. We tend to see devices which can do one or the other well, but rarely one that does both. The fact is that Android is a joy to use given the right hardware and Acer has managed to intensify the sensation by including a WVGA capacitive screen which looks fantastic indoors and which works well in bright conditions. When HTC invented Sense UI many of us felt that it would be needed to enhance Android use, but the Liquid A1 proves otherwise. Let’s look at the individual features-
General Performance 8/10
The speedy 768Mhz processor works alongside 512MB of ROM and 256MB of RAM and in my experience so far feels slightly quicker that the HTC Hero. Without all of the fancy pages that HTC offers there appears to be little room for areas where it will lock up and so far I have not experienced any slowness at all.
For completeness I will cover the screen again and this is without doubt the highlight of the device. It is as good as any I have seen to date and feels immediately responsive to touch. There is a slight quirk when inputting data in that you have to press slightly harder on the lower onscreen keys to register input. This is obviously because they are near the edge of the screen, but is something you will need to adjust to when you start typing- I am guessing a software fix could solve this.
Judging battery life over a few days is never easy because they tend to take time to bed in and produce optimum performance. However, I managed 2 hours of calls on the first day and some intensive Wi-Fi use with the battery dropping down to 60%- I am guessing that heavy users will need to charge every day, but this is not unusual for touch screen devices now. I will follow the battery rating up in a week or so.
The hardware buttons are often overlooked when reviews are done of smartphones, but they are very important during day to day use. The side buttons are neatly positioned albeit preferable for left-handers and the virtual buttons below the screen are highly responsive. I am not a fan of virtual buttons, but I am growing to like these and thus they just about receive a thumbs up from me.
Music and video are now more important than ever before and you shouldn’t be making a smartphone with a 3.5” screen and then implement poor entertainment capability. Acer has jumped up to a new level with the A1 and produced a phone which easily rivals the iPhone in the quality of music and video playback. I have never seen this on any other phone before, but this one is a rival to the iPhone in this area and I could go as far as to say it is slightly better.
The inclusion of Spinlets brings a world of streamed music and video to the equation and is well implemented. You can also share your personal media with others at the click of a button. Playing music and video on the Liquid A1 is a beautiful experience. Now I have picked myself up off the floor I will move on with the rest of the review…
The goodness keeps on coming with a web browser that is super quick and exceptionally easy to use. It is all too easy to compare to Safari running on an iPhone, but I will do so and proclaim it to be just as good. The lack of finger zoom is strange at first, but the way it handles pages and zooming actually has some advantages here- clicking the zoom (+) key will make the text bigger without ruining the layout of the page and I found it quick on almost every site I used. The web experience is second only to the entertainment side.
The PIM side is more important to me than almost any other which is why I use a BlackBerry every day. The calendar view is lovely and cleanly shows everything that is coming up and is one of the few that comes close to the simplistic visuals of the early Psion experience- adding new entries is not the easiest though and too many fields are required in my view.. Contacts is as you would expect- it looks nice and just about does what it needs to and is similar to the efforts on other operating systems such as iPhone and Windows Mobile. Tasks takes a similar line and offers basic management, but remember that there are many third party enhancements available so you have room to experiment.
Data Entry 6/10
You will never get a high rating for data entry from me unless it has a physical keyboard. The data entry setup on the Liquid is similar to the Hero and most other touch screen devices and landscape typing is supported throughout. Haptic feedback is included and suggested words so you will know what to expect. It’s as good as the rest and is usable, but my personal issues with onscreen keyboards leaves me airing on the negative side.
The voice quality is not good, especially the speakerphone which is not very loud and which breaks up when you attempt to crank it up to its loudness setting, which as I said is not very loud anyway.
It reminds me of the quality of some of the lesser Windows Mobile units and is the main drawback with the Liquid A1.
The 5MP camera with auto-focus is acceptably good and produces some decent snaps, but the process of taking pictures can be slow. This is not a camera that you can whip out of your picket, capture the moment and then carry on- it takes some effort to reproduce good quality snaps.
Video capture is better than I expected, but the sound appears to be limited to just those noises near to the phone. This camera setup reminds me of many others- works OK for most purposes, but could be better.
The Acer Liquid A1 has surprised me in so many ways and is a complete departure from what Acer has made before. Acer has a habit of making competent phones which have advanced features and which somehow fail to inspire. The A1 is completely different and the screen makes Android come to life in more ways than I thought possible.
From the fashionably cool design through to the screen and the general speed of the unit I have struggled to find significant failures. The entertainment capabilities take it to a whole new level and make it a genuine competitor for the HD2 and iPhone. Indeed, it is sort of a marriage of the two- you get lots of expansion, a highly customisable OS and iPhone style entertainment.
The words ‘iPhone killer’ are far too often written, but in this case I would go as far as to say that the A1 is close. The voice quality is the main issue, but that is because I am seeing it on a unit which does almost everything else near perfectly.
The A1 is without doubt the best Android device I have used to date and the mixture of all of the parts (hardware, OS and software) make it better than the HD2 in my opinion, and even the iPhone. It truly is an excellent smartphone and much better than I ever expected. Acer is finally in the game.
You can purchase the Acer Liquid HERE