Acer Liquid Mini (E310) Review : New gizmos, Gadgets gazette Blog

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Acer Liquid Mini (E310) Review

Look around and you’ll see no shortage of smartphones with huge screens, but what about the people ready to get their first smartphone that don’t fancy something the size of a DVD case in their back pocket?

Sony Ericsson recently told What Mobile that the rapid move by the phone industry from feature phones to smartphones was leaving a large number of people struggling to find something comparable to replace their old phone.

To satisfy this market, Sony Ericsson brought out the Xperia X10 mini and X10 mini pro models. They did exceptionally well too, proving these people existed, prompting two new models that will come out later this year.

Unsurprisingly, it has also prompted other manufacturers to get in on the action with their own ‘mini’ models, including Samsung (Galaxy Mini), HTC (Wildfire S) and now Acer with the Liquid Mini.

The first miniaturised Sony Ericsson smartphones had low-resolution screens and lacked power, and Acer has taken the same approach by using a rather sluggish 600MHz processor, albeit with a decent amount of RAM (512MB). By comparison, the two new Sony Ericsson Xperia mini models will have the latest-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, running at 1GHz, and with the latest graphics co-processor.

This does mean the Liquid Mini is going to find it tough going in a market where anything below 1GHz is going to be associated with being entry level, or for people on a tight budget.

The otherwise impressive five-megapixel camera is fixed-focus (using an Enhanced Depth of Field sensor) and it lacks an LED flash. On the video side, it also lacks HD, but it can record at 720×480 pixels at 30 frames per second. Not bad, but not great either.

If you assumed the Liquid Mini was a smaller version of the latest Liquid Metal, think again. The Liquid Mini isn’t actually that small. It has a footprint that is slightly bigger than a Motorola DEFY, although it is slightly thinner. Compared to Samsung’s Galaxy S II, LG’s Optimus 2X or Sony Ericsson’s Xperia arc it is small, but Acer has perhaps missed the point slightly.

The screen resolution is higher than an Xperia X10 mini, at 320×480 pixels (the same as the new Sony Ericsson Xperia mini) but it has to be given it is 3.25-inches. The X10 mini got away, just, with QVGA (240×320 pixels) because it had a much smaller screen. It was also released a year ago.

But, size aside, the phone doesn’t look bad, with a nice curved design and rounded edges. The mix of black and silver works well, and you can also get other side and rear colours if you prefer – although the front always remains black. It’s minimalist, inoffensive and has a decent balance between the screen and its surrounding bezel.

It’s good to see a dedicated camera button too, making the camera easily accessible even if the lack of autofocus and a flash could discourage you from using the camera very often.

What is a lot less welcome is Acer’s continued use of its custom front-end UI that is completely at odds with the whole way that the Android operating system works.

When using the Acer UI instead of the native Android UI, the menu button toggles between the home screen and the app folder (although it continues to work as designed within apps). The notification bar also requires scrolling to view different information, although one nice feature is the lock screen which conveys useful information like missed calls and messages.

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