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Acer Iconia Smart Review

Key Specifications

  • 4.8in 1024x480 pixel screen
  • 21:9 aspect ratio
  • Capacitive touchscreen
  • microHDMI video output
  • Android 2.2 OS
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Acer’s no stranger to Android devices, but most of its phones and tablets have been fairly conservative. The oddball of its range is the Iconia Smart. Boasting a 21:9 cinema screen ratio and bonkers 1024×480 screen resolution, it’s not quite your average Android smartphone. But is it any good? We had a go at IFA 2011 in Berlin to find out.

The Iconia Smart is an unlikely device. It’s made by Acer, for one, which has a reputation for sensible pricing and functionality more than outré designs. Some of its Androids have pushed the boat out a bit, with metal bodies, but none quite as much as the Iconia Smart.

It has a metal backplate, a lovely capacitive touchscreen and the rounded Iconia design we’ve come to know and occasionally enjoy. But the true stand-out of this device is its bizarre 4.8in screen. In a normal-aspect smartphone this would be huge, but in the Iconia Smart – thanks to its 21:9 aspect ratio – it just seems very, very… long.

With 480 pixels of screen width, it’s essentially an elongated version of the screens we’ve seen in premium 800×480 pixel phones like the HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy S. It poses a unique problem – how to you make such an unusual screen resolution work on Android?

Acer tackles this problem by adding an extra row of app shortcuts to each homescreen, not unlike the pop-up multitasking menu seen in Apple’s iOS software.  Having only spent a short while with the device, we can’t say what it’d be like to live with, but to us it seems like a decent easy fix.

We did try to get Gameloft’s N.O.V.A. and Spider-Man running on the phone to see how its screen deals with standard games, but unfortunately we couldn’t get the game assets to download using the built-in Wi-Fi. Android apps are designed to scale fairly freely between screen resolutions, though, so while the Iconia Smart may leave some looking a bit odd and stretched, we imagine the vast majority will work just fine.

As much as its form factor may invite ridicule, we found ourselves falling in like with the Acer Iconia Smart remarkably quickly. Its touchscreen is highly responsive, the screen’s very high-quality – and pixel density is good too. And while it’s a bit unwieldy, it shouldn’t have too much trouble fitting into most pockets. We didn’t try this on the show floor, for fear of being chucked out by security.

Its features roster is decent too. The main interface elements – extra shortcuts row aside – are standard, with a petite row of soft keys sitting below the screen itself, but there’s a micro HDMI slot sitting next to the microUSB on its side (both covered by a little rubber bung), the camera has a flash and Dolby audio is built-in.
Of course, the all-important question of how much it’ll cost in the UK – if it ever gets here – is something we don’t know. We did ask Acer for a UK release date, but came away empty-handed. That said, it’s something we can understand. Without support from all the main carriers that most other Android phone makers benefit from, even more conservative, affordable Acer Androids have their work cut out for them, commercially.

Part of our little crush on the Acer Iconia Smart is, naturally, that it’s something different in market where there’s often little to differentiate the key players, let alone the mid-range and budget brigade. We don’t hold much stock in the idea that a 21:9 aspect ratio is a useful tool for mobile movie-watching (a mobile phone really isn’t a portable cinema), but for reading websites and giving even more room for your fingers to type away, in landscape orientation, it brings something new. Or at least unusual.

We’ll be back with a full look at the Acer Iconia Smart if – fingers crossed – it makes it to the UK market.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

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