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Acer Iconia W3 review

Verdict

An ugly first attempt at a compact Windows tablet, although strong performance raises hopes of better things to come

Review Date: 4 Jul 2013

Reviewed By: Barry Collins

Price when reviewed: £275 (£330 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £284
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
3 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
2 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

Microsoft distributed thousands of Iconia W3s to developers at its recent Build conference to showcase Windows 8.1’s compact tablet credentials. If the Iconia W3 is the best it can do, it really is time to reach for the white flag.

The Iconia is a lumpen slab of cheap-feeling plastic and glass. At 500g, it’s significantly heavier than all of the compact tablets in this month’s Lab, bar the ruggedised Panasonic Toughpad JT-B1. It’s larger than all of them, too, thanks to a needlessly thick bezel and an extra plastic lip at the bottom, used to house the Windows button.

All that could have been forgiven – perhaps – if the screen was scintillating, but it’s far from it. The 800 x 1,280 display has that old-school, mottled touchscreen effect that makes it look as if it’s been sprayed with a fine mist. Colours are washed out, largely because the screen doesn’t span the entire SRGB gamut, although the maximum brightness of 329cd/m2 is acceptable.

Despite its exterior shortcomings, there’s little wrong on the inside. The 1.5GHz Atom Z2760 processor and 2GB of RAM keep Windows 8.1 perfectly responsive; there’s no discernible slowdown in demanding Windows Store games or video playback. A SunSpider benchmark score of 670ms is at least twice as fast as any other compact tablet we've seen.

Its 64GB of storage is a sensible minimum for a Windows tablet (the OS swallows more than 20GB of that), but there’s a microSD card slot on the side to bolster storage. There’s also a micro-HDMI port and a micro-USB port on the top of the tablet, although the W3 has to be charged via a separate 12-volt connector. Its tinny speakers make music sound like it’s leaking from the headphones of a teenager sitting next to you on a bus.

Acer Iconia W3

Battery life is respectable, clocking up almost ten hours in our looping video test. Given that the optional keyboard dock effectively turns the W3 into a mini laptop, that’s not to be discounted, although the dock achieves the unimaginable feat of being uglier and bulkier than the tablet itself.

At best, the Iconia W3 proves Windows 8.1 can run smoothly and for a respectable duration on a compact tablet. We can only hope there’s more attractive hardware to come, though, because the W3 doesn’t have anything like the quality to justify its premium £330 price tag.

Author: Barry Collins

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User comments

confused

Mr Collins has 2 reviews of the same tablet/OS combination giving opposite judgements, so which one should we believe?

By dcowan2 on 4 Jul 2013

Storage space

"the OS swallows more than 20GB of that"

Just for casual readers information: You can vastly reduce the space used by Windows 8 by,
1: Remove bloat pre-installed
2: Disable Hibernation
3: Disable System restore
4: Disable Virtual memory (Consider disabling a few services to recover ram)
5: Move the recovery partition.

Your install should then be just under 10Gb. I'm never sure why reviews never mention this?

By rhythm on 4 Jul 2013

?

"Microsoft distributed thousands of Iconia W3s to developers at its recent Build conference to showcase Windows 8.1’s compact tablet credentials. If the Iconia W3 is the best it can do, it really is time to reach for the white flag."

Whyo? MS doesn't make the Acer W3 so the opening paragraph of your 'review' is pretty poor.

By rhythm on 4 Jul 2013

Feedback

@dcowan2 Thanks for the comment, but I don't understand why you think I'm being contradictory? Could you explain?

@rhythm I don't think most people would disable key parts of the OS and remove their recovery partition. We have to review the machines as supplied, and how most people would use them.

Barry Collins
Editor

By Barry_Collins on 5 Jul 2013

You'd ...

... smile if you knew what people out there were capable of! Once they start reading they can do some crazy things.

"Hey, I'm running out of space", is what a 50+ year old stated looking at her 500t.

P.s. You're 'moving' the recovery partition to a USB drive etc.

P.P.s It would still be nice to actually inform readers of such options

By rhythm on 5 Jul 2013

2 tier.

Yes the general public don't usually look to far past Windows explorer and no the tiled interface will be a new level 'up' and future generations may wish to go no further. What you can do is either re-install the OS to 'signature' standard or remove all the bloat, fine tune the system just to your liking and use Windows's own recovery image maker from the control panel.

By Roger_Andre on 9 Jul 2013

pros

The one thing this tablet will do is run full programmes as apposed to the RT which won't. So Microsoft office will run on this tablet as will other no problem. so you don't need to rely on the app store or the dreadful itunes either.

By IMACOMPUTERBUDD1 on 18 Jul 2013

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