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Review: Acer Iconia W3 Windows 8 Tablet

Spec ShotThe first 8″ tablet running full Windows 8, where you can install desktop apps, is here: the Acer Iconia W3. It’s about the size of an iPad Mini, except that, on the W3, you can do real MS Office work with assured format-fidelity. We’ve had our first impressions, now let’s go full swing.

OnScreen Keyboard

That’s MS Word with the on-screen keyboard pulled up. You can thumb-type, yes, and it’s comfy enough. But nothing beats a physical keyboard and a mouse when it comes to desktop Windows.

GREATS

Comfortable size for a tablet – it fits in a small ladies bag.

MS Office 2013 – Word, Excel, PowerPoint – comes with, for free.

Modern UI (formerly known as Metro) is smooth and responsive. You’d wish all apps that run on Windows 8 followed the Modern ‘format’.

Internet Explorer 10 on the Modern UI is great to use, as it hides the address bar and the tabs, making use of all the screen space.

Tap and hold to select or see more options, when clicking on links or a file, makes up for not having a mouse to right-click on.

MicroSD card slot and comes-in-the-box USB On the Go cable allow for expandable storage, in case you will make this your Torrent device or media consumption tablet.

Great battery life: up to 8 hours of surfing, 5 ot 6 if you keep watching streaming videos or movies.

Since portrait mode keyboard typing is good, the W3 makes for a good dedicated Skype device.

No need to fear that your favorite Windows 7 apps might not work on Windows 8. They will.

Paired with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, or USB ones via a USB port extension connected to the USB OTG, the W3 makes for a passble tiny “laptop”.

Viewing Angle

I bet your smartphone has better viewing angles.

GRIPES

Poor display, with tiny grainy dots, bad viewing angles, and washed out colors.

Outside of the Modern UI and apps, the 8″ display makes desktop apps uncomfortable for touch-use. MS Office 2013 is still not fully optimized for complete touch-use. You need pen input or a mouse or the really tiny pinky finger of a toddler.

App depth of Windows Market still not on par with those of iOS and Android.

While some 7-8″ Android phablets can make calls and send SMS, the W3 can’t. One gaming tablet even takes dual SIMS and costs half the price of the W3.

The W3′s intro price, P20,000.00, gets you last year’s flagship Androids, or a good phablet, or a tablet with good stylus input, or a capable netbook for work. Also, that price doesn’t include the Bluetooth keyboard dock designed for the W3, which is sold separately.

Desktop browsers and their add ons – Chrome, Firefox – work on the desktop, but not always as smoothly as other desktop apps.

No default Modern UI file browser – plugging in a USB drive brings up the Windows Explorer on the desktop and its tiny interface – which is annoying.

 

Just a few shots of the W3 before we get down to the verdict.

Any Bluetooth keyboard will do, but you may want to choose one with a back rest for the W3 to lean on.

Any Bluetooth keyboard will do, but you may want to choose one with a back rest for the W3 to lean on.

Or you can go old school and attached a USB keyboard and a USB mouse via a USB multi port hub. But then, all those wires. What a mess.

Or you can go old school and attach a USB keyboard and a USB mouse via a USB multi port hub. But then, all those wires. What a mess.

An on the road accountant's dream come true. Full no formatting fail Excel on a tablet...

An on-the-road accountant’s dream come true. Full no-formatting-fail Excel on a tablet…

...if only that screen was a tad better.

…if only that screen was a tad better.

And yes, having a tablet this small means you can literally hand over a soft copy of your resume.

And yes, having a tablet this small means you can literally hand over a soft copy of your resume.

With that USB OTG cable, you have no more excuses about your iPad not being able to access the files in your USB drive.

With that USB OTG cable, you have no more excuses about your iPad not being able to access the files in your USB drive.

You're going to want to put adhesive tape on that slot, in case you want a permanent storage expansion in the form of a microSD card. Because that card could fall off.

You’re going to want to put adhesive tape on that slot, in case you want a permanent storage expansion in the form of a microSD card. Because that card could fall off.

GO FOR IT?

While the 8″ form is comfy to hold, the quality of that screen is a turn off.

Its washed out colors, grainy look, and bad viewing angles are impossible to overlook. Sadly that’s the first thing you’ll see.

The size of the screen makes desktop work a squinting affair.

You can treat the W3 like a tiny laptop, via a keyboard or mouse, but you  need to bend your head down or enlarge items to see them better. Sadly, desktop is where most MS Office work gets done, and that screen is too small.

On the MS Office plus side, it’s incredibly convenient to “hand over” your document for someone else to see.

Let’s sit side by side and go over the edits to your document. Here, let’s run through that presentation again. Hey, there are discrepancy on this spreadsheet. See the potential of Windows 8 on a tablet?

Movie watching and website or eBook reading are fine, if you get used to that screen.

If you don’t do any desktop work, then the W3 is fine. But why get a tablet that doesn’t have the apps your friends do?

Isn’t the free MS Office 2013 on the W3 a win factor?

Sadly, no. It’s not Acer’s fault. Microsoft waited too long to cook up a touch-friendly OS, and the world got used to not using MS Office on phones and tablets, thereby decreasing the appeal of the work suite.

Are other available full Windows 8 tablets necessarily better? 

No. The Acer Iconia W3 is the most affordable full Windows 8 tablet as of this writing. The Asus Vivotab Smart sells for Php26,000.00,  the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 for Php37,990.00, and the Dell Latitude 10 (review in the works) goes for Php42,000.00.

Chances are, you’re not buying a Windows 8 tablet to run the latest mobile games and social media apps. 

You’re buying one for work. And work means MS Office. And MS Office is tough to use on a tiny subpar screen. Still, the W3′s price is an eyebrow-raiser.

 

Final Shot

Irwin Allen Rivera

Irwin Allen Rivera

Irwin Allen Rivera loves his wife's cooking so much he's now twice the man he used to be. He and his wife maintain www.storiesaboutph.com, where you can read the best short fiction in English, by Filipino authors, for free. Irwin's English essay won a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 2012. His philosophical-horror story appears in Philippine Speculative Fiction 8 (2013). He was managing editor and lead writer of Sites and Symbols 2 (2005), a coffee-table book about buildings in UP Diliman - his alma mater (BA Philosophy; MA Creative Writing continuing). He worked at the UP Diliman Information Office before shifting to web content writing full-time. His sudden fiction, "Notwithstanding Pigs," initially a Friendster testimonial, appeared in Philippines Graphic (2006) and in Very Short Stories for Harried Readers (2007).

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