Summary

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Review Price £279.00

Key Features: Dual-core Atom CPU; 2GB RAM; 8.1-inch 1,280 x 800 pixel screen; Windows 8.1 software

Manufacturer: Acer

Acer Iconia W3 hands-on preview

What is the Acer Iconia W3?

The first portrait-aspect Windows 8 tablet is here. The Acer Iconia W3 is an 8.1-inch Windows tablet that costs significantly less than the Microsoft Surface RT at £279. However, there are a few compromises involved with this little tab.

Acer Iconia W3 - Design

Like most of Acer's tablets, the Acer Iconia W3's casing is plastic. Its edges are white and its back a plate of silver - silver plastic that is.

It doesn't feel tremendously strong or expensive, but it does have a much more one hand-friendly form than any other Windows 8 tablet to date. It's also the first we've used to be based around a portrait design - as the mandatory Windows home button sits on one of the narrower sides, at the other end of the bezel to the front-facing camera.

To simplify matters in dumbing-down fashion, the Acer Iconia W3 is currently the closest thing Windows has to an iPad mini alternative. However, it is significantly heavier and thicker at around 11m and 540g.

Stylistically, it's no competition despite selling at roughly the same price as the iPad mini. It's far less elegant, with more seams, more sockets and much less clear design aspirations - beyond being relatively small in its Windows clan.

Along its edges you'll find a microHDMI video output, a microUSB slot, a microSD card slot, headphone jack and two pretty clear speaker outputs that sit on the bottom edge. Many of you may rejoice at this selection, but it demonstrates that the Acer Iconia W3 values connectivity over style. And perhaps connectivity is not aquite a replacement for 'substance' in the old 'style vs substance' adage.

Note the 'filled-in' SIM slot. Sm-ooth.

Acer Iconia W3 - Screen

The one reason why the Acer Iconia W3 manages to stay much smaller than the Window tablet competition is because of its screen. The smallest WIndows tablet we've seen to date had a 10.1-inch screen; the Acer Iconia W3 has an 8-inch screen.

We welcome smaller tablets, but it's also where we find some of the Iconia W3's most serious problems.

The W3 has a widescreen 1,280 x 800 pixel display, similar in aspect to Android tablets like the (slightly smaller) Nexus 7. Sharpness is a little limited, but it's the panel type used that's the problem here.

The Acer Iconia W3 appears to use a TN panel, which offers poor viewing angles compared with the IPS displays found in most tablets these days. There's fairly significant contrast shift when the tablet is turned in certain directions, and that's disappointing when almost all other tablets at the price have higher-quality screens.

Acer Iconia W3 -Specs

This tablet's core specs are fairly basic, too. The Acer Iconia W3 has a dual-core Atom Z2760 processor clocked at 1.5GHz rather than the Core i-series type found in much pricier Windows 8 tablets, and 2GB of RAM.

We did notice some obvious lag when flicking about the interface, but there is one serious software win to the Iconia W3 - it uses full Windows 8 rather than the RT version. It may not have the power to run every Windows app under the sun, but at least you'll be able to try. WIndows 8 RT can't install any old application.

Using a low-power Atom processor and 6,800mAh battery, the Iconia W3's battery life should be reasonably solid. Acer claims eight hours, which it's only likely to achieve with light tasks.

You get 32GB of internal memory, a significant chunk of which will be taken up by the Windows installation. It's easy to bulk that up with a microSD memory card, though.

Acer has produced a bespoke dock that gives you a full-size keyboard, turning the Iconia W3 into to a little typing monster. We didn't get to try this first-hand, however.

First Impressions

The Acer Iconia W3 is one of the most interesting Windows 8 tablets in a long while. However, its issues don't quite make it the stand-out lower-cost choice for Windows 8 that the Nokia Lumia 620 was for Windows Phone 8.

Next, read all about the new Windows 8.1 features

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