Last year, we broke the news that the Acer Liquid Metal was coming to the UK. You can now pick one up, but should you? We’ve been putting it through its paces to find out: get the full prognosis here in our Acer Liquid Metal review.
The Acer Liquid Metal’s hardware is the Yin to the horrific yang of its Android build, and provided you like the massive piece of domed glass over the screen, really rather pleasant.
The casing on the Acer Liquid Metal is arced on top and bottom like Acer’s first Android smartphone, the Acer Liquid, and has some satisfying heft to it, courtesy of the solid, cool metal backplate. Our only real issue is with the glass: the bright 3.6-inch WVGA screen is always responsive, but the LCD display sits so far down below the surface of the phone, that even when looking at it from shallow angles, bits are cut off.
We should take a minute to praise Acer for including Dolby Mobile sonics inside the Acer Liquid Metal. We’re not listening-to-music-at-the-back-of-the-bus types, but the sound it belches out is impressively clear and crisp, and more to the point, you can tweak it in the settings to how you like.
Impressively also for a WVGA Android smartphone, the Acer Liquid Metal runs for a good long while. Though it has a standard 1500mAh capacity battery, it easily outlasted our Google Nexus S, making it to a day and half of steady use, as opposed to needing a bit of topping up come bedtime. That’s doubtless down to the lower clockspeed 800MHz CPU, but for casual users, you’d be hard press to notice the difference in performance.
Oh dear. We hate to break it to you, but the Acer Liquid Metal’s Android 2.2 core has been skinned with the Acer custom skin we last saw spoiling the Acer Stream last year.
Why is that bad? You can read our vivisection in our Acer Stream review here, but in short, Acer’s moved the widgets to the lock screen, and the notification bar to the middle of the screen, except sometimes the bottom. Or the top! The former sounds like a nice idea, but given you should set up a pin lock on any smartphone connected to your email, rather futile. The latter is devastatingly annoying, especially since you can’t see all your notifications in one go, but rather have to close pop up bubbles to get through them all.
The less said about the keyboard meanwhile the better: it’s unresponsive, and we found ourselves immediately reaching out for alternatives on the Android Market. Oh, and holding the home button doesn’t bring up your recent apps. Helpful!
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Ah, but you can install LauncherPro and uncripple the homescreen, we hear you say. That solves the problem of the cluttered two tier dock, sure, but it still leaves the notification bar all out of kilter, so it’s not a one click solution as it is to Motorola’s messy Motoblur Android skin.
The good news is that the performance of Android 2.2 itself is pretty nippy, and Acer hasn’t stripped out Froyo’s excellent features. Flash 10.1 streaming video runs smoothly, and you can set up mobile Wi-Fi network sharing, although to do this we found you have to plug it into a USB cable – there’s no sign of an application shortcut. Lastly, Acer’s Media Server works like a charm, letting you stream media from the Acer Liquid Metal to other devices on your network.
Acer made a cracking debut with Android a year and a half ago, but we can’t help but feel that the company has lost its way in the mobile market since then. Its current software overlay on top of Android is a complete mess – which is a crying shame, as the hardware is really rather charming. Let’s take things back to basics shall we Acer? Maybe leave Google to do the software? Thanks!