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Acer Liquid Metal - Doesn't Quite Cut it
Acer has been in the mobile game for quite some time now but truth be told, I’ve not been too impressed with what they’ve had to offer. Their Liquid series of Android powered devices, while definitely good looking had issues with overall functionality while nevertheless offering quite a bit of features. Their latest is in the form of yet another in the range called Liquid Metal and here’s a closer look.
Although it’s not really bad to look at, it’s merely a sleeker version of their existing Liquid Android mobile handsets. It features a 3.6-inch touchscreen with a 480 x 800 pixel resolution with 16 million colors making details quite vivid. What’s a real Switch Off about it is that the slightly curved glass seems to be a little too far from the capacitive display which plays havoc with the response time and accuracy of the system. It’s also not very resistant to scratches, so without a Screen Guard you’re bound to wind up with a few nicks very quickly. Acer has gone with touch sensitive keys below the display with a micro USB/charging port located at the bottom, a 3.5mm handsfree socket at the top near the power/screen lock button and volume/zoom keys and a camera shutter release located on the right side.
Side scrolling menus
The Liquid Metal comes with 512MB of internal user memory and microSD card support which, unfortunately, is not in the form of a hot swap option. The 5MP autofocus camera is provisioned with an LED to be used as a flash. The bundled cables proved to be of quite decent quality and the handsfree was comfortable to use. The Liquid Metal also features small icons that light up on top of the handset to indicate messages waiting. The icons are cleverly hidden under the chrome exterior and light up when necessary.
The lack of a hot swap for memory is sorely missed
Features and Performance
Even with its 800 MHz Scorpion processor and Adreno 205 GPU on a Qualcomm chipset running Android 2.2 (Froyo), the Liquid Metal proved to be a bit of a disappointment when it came to the smooth flow of the UI. Acer has incorporated their Breeze 4.0 interface which is really well designed. One oddity you’ll have to get used to is the Android access bar that’s placed at the bottom instead of the drop down version at the top. It’s quite uncomfortable as accessing messages, emails etc. from this portion requires very precise accuracy and with my stubby fingers that proved to be quite an issue. The UI also features a cover-flow type system to display running apps and media with a two line section at the bottom of the screen with frequently used shortcuts. The main menu can be accessed by sliding up and is a side scrolling version.
Acer Breeze 4.0 is a breeze to use
What I really liked about the layout is that the widgets are located on top of this single screen UI and forms a sort of dual layer system. When you lock the screen and unlock it, you immediately have access to multiple desktops and regular Android widgets while the secondary Breeze UI underneath is equipped with all of your main features. It might seem a tad redundant at first but comes in really handy after prolonged use. As functionally sound the UI comes off, it's way to sluggish to enjoy.
Froyo and all its goodies
Response time is very slow and screen calibration is not very well managed making typing a bit of a chore even in landscape. Multi-touch zooming was also a bit slow for response.
When it comes to media functionality, the Liquid Metal is well equipped - multiple players are provided. Aside from the standard Android player for audio and video, Acer has preloaded Nemoplayer that reads virtually all video file formats including DivX and XviD. However, playback was a bit off as un-converted videos in the .AVI format framed quite a bit. Even Rockplayer, which has served me well on many Android handsets, couldn’t seem to manage playback smoothly leading me to believe it could be more of a hardware issue than software related.
5MP with LED flash and a slick finish
Audio quality was also not up to par Even with a Dolby mobile sound engine to enhance the quality of audio, I found the volume levels to be quite low and quality to be just average. Highs tended to crack a bit at the edges and sounded a little too sharp for my taste, bass could have been a little bit stronger and the decibel level should have been much higher. The lack of an FM radio could also be an issue for some. Dolby only really kicks in when you’re hooked up to external speakers.
Could have used higher decibel level for audio
Acer has also thrown in the Spinlets apps for accessing music online. Think of it as an online visual radio station with quite a few great tracks to listen to. However, if you’re not on 3G or Wi-Fi, it’s not really an easy service to use on the fly. MusicA is another app of Shazam, TrackID or Music ID for recording music snippets from external sources and providing data about the song by accessing an online database. It was quite accurate.
At least call volume was a non issue and the added facility of Active noise cancellation with dedicated microphones did help make call quality quite good.
From 3G, EDGE and Wi-Fi (with tethering and Hot spot net sharing capabilities), to Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP and USB 2.0, the Acer Liquid Metal is covered for connectivity. With Froyo on board, Adobe Flash 10.1 is also part of the deal making the browsing experience as desktop-like as possible. With stand alone apps like Facebook and Twitter came SocialJogger that is similar to Sony Ericsson’s MediaScape. It’s a jog-dial UI that showcases all of your Twitter and Facebook updates from a single interface that also allows you to select which social network you’d like to post an update to. It even has an option for viewing updates with photos or links in them alone. UrFooze is yet another social networking app that’s on board and included with most Acer handsets. It’s a cute and customizable option for social networking and even allows you to create an Avatar that can be displayed on your FB or Twitter profiles.
Adobe Flash for better web browsing
Google apps of course include Maps, Navigation, Latitude, Places, YouTube, Gtalk, search and even the remarkably accurate Google Voice Search feature. Acer Sync and Roadsync are also provided to assist you in data backup and convergence with the Cloud or your PC. Acer has also thrown in a Media Server application with which you can share media content with your PC wirelessly. Push Mail is also supported obviously.
Standard mobile/Android extras are on board like a Calendar that syncs with FB and Google, Alarm, Calculator etc. The few extras that Acer has included are a Bar Code scanner and Documents to go (quite native to Android in general now). With Froyo, you can save a little space on your handset by transferring apps loaded onto the user memory to the memory card.
The Acer Liquid Metal is equipped with a 5 MP AF camera and LED flash and includes features like face detection, Macro Mode, White Balance, color settings and a few other features. Camera start-up time can drag on for up to 8 seconds sometimes so forget about those candid, spontaneous shots. I also had a big problem on the last day with the camera... it simply ceased to function. All I got was a blank screen and the handset hung. I was later asked to Force close the app.
Image quality was not too bad. Although a bit grainy, details, on the whole remained quite visible.
Macro shots also managed to retain quite a bit of clarity and colors looked quite good.
Video capture goes up to 720p @30fps. Quality was not the greatest and the camera kept hanging quite frequently, but when it did work, it was not too bad.
Sadly, the handset doesn’t quite mange to handle power too well. Even with a 1500mAh Li-ion battery strapped in, I found myself charging the handset by the end of the day. Usage included a very limited amount of music playback, minimal calls and messages, Push Mail and a little internet browsing, hardly enough to drain the battery to the extent it did. The problem is, the UI tends to run too many apps in the background so a Must Have in this case is a Task Killer app, but even that proved to extend battery life only by a little while longer. Not its best quality.
Not bad looking at all
The Bottom Line
With a price tag of Rs. 20,990 (MOP), the Liquid Metal had the potential to be quite a competitor for the Motorola and Samsung handsets available in the same range. Although it’s got a lot to offer, like its predecessors, it just lacks the functionality to get the job done smoothly. So if you gave this handset a pass, you won’t be missing anything too hot.