Review Price to be confirmed

Key Features: 8.1-inch 1280 x 800p IPS display; 1.8GHz Intel Atom processor; 16GB or 32GB internal memory; Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 Edition; MicroSD card slot; Bluetooth 4.0

Manufacturer: Acer

Acer Iconia W4: Hands-on

What is the Acer W4?

The Acer W4 is an 8-inch tablet that runs on a full version of Windows 8.1 and is the follow-up to Acer’s first iPad Mini rival, the Iconia W3.

Joining the Toshiba Encore, Lenovo MiiX  2 and Dell Venue Pro 8 in a growing list of more portable Windows 8.1 tablets, the W4 gets a bump up in the power department with a 4th generation Intel Bay Trail atom processor now on board.

Thinner and lighter than the W3, Acer has also improved the screen quality and updated the optional Bluetooth keyboard to deliver a better typing experience.Set to be priced at around £250 when it launches in February, the W4 is an affordable option for people who want the full Windows experience on a smaller tablet.

Acer W4 - Design

The W4 is essentially an upgraded Iconia W3 with some minor cosmetic changes to its predominantly plastic body. There's now a silver grey that runs  through the entire body and around the screen bezel. The bottom of the bezel is thicker to accommodate a physical Windows button that lets you jump back and forth from Desktop to the new tiled-interface.

In terms of the button and connectivity layout, the volume rocker, HDMI and Micro SD card slot is situated over on the right edge of the device. Up top is the on/off button while the two speakers, headphone jack and micro USB sit on the bottom edge. Acer has kept the same 2-megapixel front-facing camera to take care of video calls adding a new 5-megapixel main camera with autofocus around the back that serves up reasonable image quality.

Measuring in at 10mm thick and weighing in at 412g, it’s barely slimmer than the W3 and is light and comfortable to hold in one hand. All of the improvements Acer has made are welcome ones, it simply doesn’t have any of the wow factor that the tablets like the iPad Mini or Nexus 7 possess.

Acer W4 - Screen

One of our biggest complaints about the W3 was the underwhelming screen quality and while Acer has kept the same 1280 x 800 screen resolution, it now uses an optically bonded IPS display. This should improve viewing angles and reduce glare. The problem is that the nominal pixel density jump from 186ppi into to 189 ppi means it’s still not an exceptionally sharp or colourful display compared to small tablets like the Nexus 7, iPad Mini 2 Retina or either of Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX tablets. The viewing angles have noticeably improved, but it’s still an otherwise lacklustre affair.

Acer W4 - Features

Like the Encore, Miix 2 and Venue Pro, the W4 runs on a full version of Windows 8.1 so you can install applications like Photoshop. Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 comes free and Acer has included some of its own applications into the usual suspects including Acer Docs, Acer Media, Acer Media, Acer Photos, Acer Games, and the screenshot organizer Acer Scrapboard.

To make better use of the Windows 8.1 Desktop mode and editing Word documents, Acer has introduced a 5.3mm thin Crunch keyboard that folds out to create a stand for the tablet and connects via Bluetooth. In our quick play, the keys don't offer the most satisfying typing experience so it might not be the perfect keyboard solution.

The W4 is powered by Intel's fourth generation Intel Atom processor clocked at 1.8GHz so it's well equipped to make launching apps and switching between Desktop and Tablet modes nice and quick. Acer claims you should get up to 10 hours battery life which would give it greater staying power than the iPad mini and portable Android tablets like the Nexus 7.

First impressions

Set to go on sale in February for around £250-£260, the Acer W4 addresses some of the issues that blighted its predecessor, notably the sub-standard screen. However, it's not the massive jump up in quality we had hoped for. It does run nice and quick and makes a better first impression than the Toshiba Encore did so it's one of the better options to get that full Windows experience on a smaller slate. Whether the W4 is a better alternative to the iPad Mini 2 retina or the Nexus 7 is something we are not entirely convinced about so the search for a great portable Windows 8 tablet still goes on.

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