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Lower cost Android handsets have a tendency to use the older Donut release of the software, but thankfully Acer has resisted this temptation on the E400. Instead, it uses the relatively recent V2.1 release, which includes a number of useful additions such as support for Exchange email, general interface improvements and a better web browser.
Acer has also decided against adding it’s own user interface enhancements over the top so what you get is pretty much the vanilla version of Android, which is no bad thing in our book. That said the company has added a couple of widgets that you can drag and drop onto the five homescreens. These included a mini media widget that shows a circular, rotating menu of your pictures, videos and music tracks, and a bookmark widget that has much the same style of user interface. There are also a few neat applications pre-loaded, including Twidroid and Facebook apps for social networking, and a media server for sharing pictures, photos and videos on your phone with uPnP media devices on your network.
Running all of this is a 600MHz Qualcomm processor with 256MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM. This is exactly the same configuration as on the P400, but whereas it felt quite sluggish running Windows Mobile, the E400 feels a bit more sprightly. However, there are still occasions when some slow down creeps in. Zooming isn’t as smooth or as fast as it could be in the browser for example, and there is also some tearing visible when scrolling around webpages.
As you would expect on a mid-range smartphone, the handset supports both HSDPA for data on the move as well as Wi-Fi. The use of Android 2.1 also means there’s better support for Bluetooth than on older Android handsets and naturally the phone has GPS onboard too. Furthermore, you can download the update for Google Maps from the Android market to add the beta version of Google Navigation to the phone, for free.
On the music front, the E400 uses the standard Android music player and while the supplied headphones are cheap and nasty, the handset does have a standard 3.5mm headphone jack to use with your own cans. Playback quality with decent headphones is actually rather good too.
The E400’s camera is nothing to get excited about however. Its 3.2-megapixel resolution is reasonable, but there’s no flash on the rear, which is a tad disappointing. However, it does have autofocus and shots taken outdoors don’t look too bad as the colours it captures look reasonably vibrant. However, under low light indoors it tends to produce dark and grainy snaps.
We have no complaints about call quality, though, as the E400 performed without any problems during our test period. Battery life from the 1,090mAh power pack is pretty much par for the course, too, as we managed to get around two days from it before it needed a recharge.
The E400 is certainly attractively priced and has a decent range of features. However, the design is a tad dull and the lack of a capacitive screen and support for multi-touch is disappointing. As a result, we can see the E400 struggling to get itself noticed when up against the likes of HTC’s similarly priced Wildfire.
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