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March 31, 2014

Acer Iconia W4 Review

More and more manufacturers are offering 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablets to the market. Acer is among the first ones, starting off with the W3 from last year. This time, they’re positioning the Iconia W4 as a netbook replacement. Check out our full review below to learn why we agreed.

Microsoft went out to answer the growth of Android tablets and the iPad with yet another touchscreen-optimized tablet but it never really took off. That’s the reason why they have since abandoned Windows RT.

The update to Windows 8.1 and the re-positioning of 8-inch and 10-inch tablets like the Iconia W4 has somewhat changed the perception of the market. It’s no longer a direct competitor of the content-centric iPad or Nexus tablet but a productivity device like a laptop or netbook. This is what Acer is gunning for with the Iconia W4.

Design and Build Quality.

The Iconia W4 fetaures a unibody design made up of some hard polycarbonate material. The two-tone, dark gray paint job makes it look like it’s made of aluminum while the back panel has a brushed-metal finish.

This 8-inch tablet might look small but it has some heft (480 grams) to it and it also feels a bit chunky (10.8mm). It’s mildly comfortable to hold with one hand but can be a strain in the hands after a while.

The power button is found on the top end while the volume controls are on the left side together with the microphone, HDMI port and the microSD card slot.

The dual speakers are at the bottom end along with the microSUB port and the 3.5mm audio jack. The Microsoft Home button is found at the front just below the glass display panel while the 2MP front camera is found on the upper right corner.

At the back is the 5-megapixel camera but there’s no flash paired with it. A large Acer logo is etched in silver plating at the center.

For a Windows 8.1 tablet, the size is just enough for us to use the tablet in a variety of ways — from office productivity, to web browsing, games, watching movies and almost anything you’d normally do in a laptop or netbook.

The bundled keyboard and case stand makes the Iconia W4 a better productivity tool. We’ve had several other Windows 8.1 tablets before (Miix 8 and Venue 8 Pro) that were more useful when we had a wireless keyboard to go along with it.

In the case of the Iconia W4, the Bluetooth keyboard is permanently attached in the case stand. It has its own built-in Li-Ion battery that you can charge via the microUSB port and a dedicated power button for Bluetooth pairing.

The keyboard is fully functional but quite small since it has to follow the same size of the tablet. The keys are a bit cramped and may take some time to get used to. Once we became more accustomed to the keyboard layout, we were able to type at a much faster pace. Using a Typing Test tool, we were able to achieve a speed of about 46wpm which isn’t bad at all (I get about 53wpm on a Mac keyboard).

The keyboard does not have a built-in trackpad so you’ll have to use the touchscreen to navigate or pair it with a Bluetooth mouse.

Display.

The W4 sports an 8-inch display with HD quality (1280×720 pixel resolution) using an IPS panel. This provides it with enough resolution for good viewing experience with web browsing and movie playback.

The screen is exceptionally clean and clear, images are crisp with good contrast. Viewing angles are wide and despite the glossy finish, glare is still at a minimal even in the outdoors.

The screen supports multi-touch functionality and response & sensitivity to gesture commands are quite good for a Windows tablet. Common touch commands such as swipe to scroll and pinch to zoom are both responsive when dealing with web pages.

OS, Apps and UI.

The Iconia W4 comes pre-installed with Windows 8.1 (32-bit version) out of the box which fits well with the W4′s form factor and purpose.

Since this is the full version of the Windows operating system (not the RT), you have all the choice of applications you want to install in the tablet. Almost everything you have installed on your desktop or laptop can also be installed on the Iconia W4. We tried running Photoshop CS2, iTunes, MS Office and even tried DoTA (WarCraft 3) which worked quite well.

The Modern UI or Live Tiles was just fine for most of the common apps but we find ourselves switching to the Desktop Mode more often due to our familiarity with the UI. The split-screen mode also worked just fine even if the screen is just 8-inches across.

Navigating in the Desktop mode can be cumbersome at times with the touchscreen. You’d often look for a pointing device like a stylus or mouse to make things more efficient or accurate. Fortunately, you can always use a Bluetooth mouse (or a wired one via the microUSB) if you’re itching to have that desktop/laptop efficiency.

Performance and Benchmarks.

The Iconia W4 is positioned by Acer as a netbook and tablet hybrid. That is the reason why they bundled it with a case stand and wireless keyboard. Intel’s quad-core Atom processor changes everything. It is a high-performance chip with low power consumption.

Our own Windows Experience Index (WEI) taken from the system showed 6.3 in CPU score, 5.5 in Memory, 4.3/4.1 in Graphics/Gaming and 6.95 on the Disk Drive.

Performance is relative depending on what applications we use. We’re very heavy with office productivity, doing emails on Outlook and Thunderbird, some basic Photoshop work, iTunes and even do simple video edits in MovieMaker.

We tried playing Warcraft 3 (DoTA 1) on the tablet and it performed real well except for some minor hiccups that we also often encounter when we use our laptop. The lags becomes more apparent once the screen is filled up or we’re in the middle of a clash.

Using Bluetooth, we are able to connect it to a wireless keyboard. Using the microUSB port with a USB-OTG cable, we’re also able to plug a gaming mouse, an external HDD, a printer, digital camera, handy-cam and many other 3rd party devices.

We can even plug in our Nexus 7 and iPad Mini 2 just to sync or transfer files. It can also sync or recharge our smartphones via the same port which can come handy when your handset is fully drained.

Connectivity and Battery Life.

The Iconia W4 comes with all the standard connectivity you’d expect in a tablet. It has WiFi 802.11 b/g/n for internet, Bluetooth 4.0 for pairing with other devices, a microUSB port for charging and plugging to external storage and USB devices via USB-OTG, a micro-HDMI port for external display to a TV or monitor.

The wireless keyboard is permanently attached to the case stand and automatically pairs with the tablet when needed. We tried to pair another Bluetooth mouse to the tablet but it seems to interfere with the keyboard (erratic and repetitive characters appear when keys are punched).

Battery life will greatly depend on the usage behavior of the user but during our several tests we’re able to reach around 8 hours on a single full charge with typical WiFi on and doing either Word processing and web surfing alternately. With our standard video loop test, we’re able to get as much as 8 hours 20 minutes on a single full charge (40% brightness, 0% volume).

Conclusion.

The Iconia W4 is the first low-cost Windows 8 tablet we’ve seen that’s positioned as an ideal netbook replacement. It’s portable yet powerful enough to do basic to moderate workload; comes with Windows 8.1 and MS Office Home/Student for free; bundled with a decent keyboard and case stand; and great battery life — all under a price tag that’s very competitive.

We believe the era of netbooks of 2007 has been reborn in the form of a tablet like the Iconia W4.

The Acer Iconia W4 has a suggested retail price of Php18,990 and is available in dealers and retail stores nationwide. It;s also being offered under Smart Bro plan.

Acer Iconia W4-820 specs:
8-inch IPS display with Zero Air Gap @ 1280×800 pixels, 189ppi
Intel Atom Z3740 quad-core processor @ 1.33GHz
2GB LPDDR3 RAM
32GB eMMC
up to 32GB microSD card slot
5 megapixel rear camera
2 megapixel front-facing
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
microUSB port 2.0
microHDMI w/ HDCP support
4,960mAh, 8-hour battery life
218 x 135 x 10.8mm
430 g
Windows 8.1

What we liked about it.
* Good display quality
* Good performance
* Long battery life
* Comes with Bluetooth keyboard and case stand
* Affordable
* Comes with MS Office free

What we did not like.
* A bit heavy and chunky for its size
* Erratic keyboard behavior when paired with multiple Bluetooth devices

Acer Iconia W4 locally launched for under Php19K
Best Windows 8 tablets under 10-inches
Acer Iconia W4 hands-on, first impressions

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