But while the interface may be a bit of an issue, the handset does have many other positives. Running on a 1GHz Snapdragon processor with 512MB of RAM it feels very fast and responsive. Menu transitions are smoothly rendered and apps are incredibly quick to load.
The 3.7in screen is also highly impressive. The display’s resolution of 800 × 480 pixels means it looks pin sharp and as it uses AMOLED technology, colours look fantastically vivid and black levels are extremely deep and inky. Many OLED displays struggle to produce acceptable levels of brightness when being used outdoors, but the Stream’s screen is fairly good in this regard. It’s a capacitive display too, so you can use the pinch to zoom gesture in Google Maps and the web browser.
As you’d expect of a handset in this price range, pretty much all of the connectivity bases are covered. There’s both HSDPA and Wi-Fi, as well as GPS and Bluetooth. Call quality was also good during our test period. However, battery life was a lot less impressive, as we found we had to charge it after about a day and a half’s worth of use, whereas most smartphones will do two days.
The 5-megapixel camera sounds good on paper, especially as it also features 720p HD video recording. But while stills shots certainly don’t look too bad as the camera captures good colour and plenty of details, it’s much less impressive when it comes to video. Video captured at 720p resolution certainly doesn’t pass for what we’d call high definition, as footage is becomes extremely pixelated and jerky when you’re trying to capture anything with a bit of movement in the frame.
Unfortunately, another feature that sets the Stream apart form its rivals – its mini HDMI port – also turns out to be a bit of a disappointment. The port is tucked away next to the micro-USB socket on the top right-hand edge of the phone and Acer supplies a mini HDMI to full-sized HDMI adapter lead in the box. However, the port only works in conjunction with Acer’s own nemoPlayer software, so you can only use it to view photos or watch videos; you can’t display any other app via your TV. In fact, once you’ve got the HDMI cable connected, every time you view a photo or watch a video it asks you whether you want to switch to HDMI output. When the video or photo slideshow is finished, it dumps you right back to the standard display because it can’t even show the nemoPlayer’s menus via your TV.
The Stream is obviously Acer’s attempt to break into the big league when it comes to premium smartphones and there’s certainly much to like. It’s very fast, has a great screen and even the design is a big step forward from Acer’s previous efforts. However, it’s hampered by its poor battery life and Acer’s rather awkward user interface enhancements. Acer is definitely on the right track here, but sadly with the Stream some of the ingredients for success still haven’t made it into the mix.