Full Review of the Acer Iconia W3-810 Windows 8 Tablet

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I am so excited to use a Windows tablet again, most especially with Windows 8 on it. The folks from Acer and SMART Communications know my excitement and I tried my very best not to show it when I picked up the Acer Iconia W3-810 for a review. Is this the one I’ve been waiting for for years? Let’s find out.

UMPC – The Forefather of the Acer Iconia W3-810

Before I start this review, let me tell you why I am enthusiastic about this tablet. I’ve been wanting a computer that I can carry around wherever I go. Microsoft’s Smartphone and Pocket PCs made that work for me in the earlier years but I wanted something that has a full OS. I wasn’t interested in getting a bulky laptop at that time (Ultrabooks were not en vogue then) until Microsoft’s Project Origami came along in 2006. Microsoft envisioned that non-enterprise people will embrace this small tablet with their lifestyle. Project Origami was later called Ultra-Mobile Personal Computer or UMPC. I had a couple of these convertible UMPCs years ago, and brought them with me wherever I went. Finally, a computer that I can bring with me that doesn’t break my back with its weight.

However, there were limitations. Unlike the PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) like Palm or Pocket PCs, the battery life of these UMPCs were short. My first, a Kohjinsha S6 can run only up to a maximum of 2 hours. The Gigabyte M912 (which was  marketed more as a netbook with tablet features) ran up to 3 hours. Boot up time was pretty long and the touch experience wasn’t really optimized for Microsoft’s Vista operating system. I eventually stopped using a UMPC and my interest died down with it.

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SPECIFICATIONS:

OS: Windows 8 32-bit

Processor: 1.5 GHz Intel Atom Dual-Core Z2760

Display: 1280×800 pixels, 8.1 inches WXGA Active Matrix TFT Color LCD

Wireless Connections: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth

Memory: 32GB / 64GB storage expandable memory up to 32GB (Micro SD card), 2 GB RAM

Ports: Micro USB (can act as USB host with adapter), Micro HDMI

Camera: 2.0 Megapixels at the front, 2.0 Megapixels at the rear

Battery Capacity: 6800 mAh Li-Polymer

SRP: Available through SMART Flexisurf Plan. Php 650 monthly amortization for 24 months plus MSF for Smart BRO Postpaid Plan.

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The Budget Look

The body of the Acer Iconia W3-810 is covered with plastic – white on the front/sides and silver on the back. A black bezel surrounds the 8.1” capacitive touchscreen which I will discuss in a while. Compared to Microsoft’s Surface Pro, the materials used for the Iconia W3 suggests that this is a budget Windows-based tablet. It weighs 1.1 pounds which is a bit heavier than other tablets like the iPad Mini, but it’s something people will not complain about.

A front camera and sensor are found on the left side of the bezel (landscape mode) while the Windows button is on the right. The power button, MicroUSB and Micro HDMI ports are found on the left side of the tablet while the other side has the speakers, 3.5mm headphone jack and charging port. Volume buttons and MicroSD card slot are found on the top. A camera is also found at the back of the Iconia W3-810.

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The Screen

While the 1280×800 resolution is just right for the Iconia W3-810’s 8.1 inch screen, its quality is rather disappointing. It lacks the crisp and vibrance of what other smartphones and tablets’ screens have nowadays. I also noticed that viewing the screen from other angles are, figuratively speaking, painful to look at. I reckon that the reason for this screen quality is to make the Iconia W3-810 more affordable.

Despite of these complaints, the screen is still fine as long as you have the correct viewing angle. The pictures I took from the Sony Experia Z looked okay as well as some video files I’ve watched. I did a lot of reading on the Iconia W3-810 and the small fonts used by some websites or eBooks were readable without difficulties.

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The Acer Iconia W3-810 with the BlackBerry Q10

The Performance

The Intel Atom processor has been powering UMPCs and netbooks since 2008. My 2nd UMPC, a Gigabyte M912 had the 1st generation of Intel Atom and its performance was pretty good during its time. Now, can the Intel Atom 1.5GHz Z2760 Dual-Core processor also known as Clover Trail give a better performance to the Acer Iconia W3-810?

I’m going to set your expectations: it’s not excellent like those computing devices powered by Intel’s i3 or i5 processors, but it’s definitely usable for an ordinary joe’s computing needs.

There were times I experienced slowness when opening the apps but not too slow for me to rant about. I was bit annoyed though with the lags I’ve encountered a few times when opening or switching to another tab in Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.

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On a Skype Video Call

Other than those issues, this Windows 8 tablet worked quite well for my daily blogging, web surfing and entertainment usage. For the past few days, I had several apps left opened for the tablet to juggle around: Internet Explorer with 5 tabs, Microsoft Word, One Note, Mail,  Windows Live Writer on the Desktop, and Metro apps like Skype, Google Chrome, Mail, Acer’s Social Jogger. The Iconia W3-810 was  able to manage them all, but as expected I felt it slow down after a while so I closed down some apps. I was able to switch from one app to another with ease, had few Skype video calls and played 2 HD video files with the built-in video player and it didn’t suffer any hiccups at all.

The Iconia W3-810 is underpowered so I have doubts that applications such as Photoshop would work well with this processor. Same goes to some games with intense graphics.

Drafting a blog post with the Acer Iconia W3-810's onscreen keyboard

Drafting a blog post with the Acer Iconia W3-810’s onscreen keyboard

Windows 8 Tablet Experience

I’m sure the first question that my readers will ask here is whether the Acer Iconia W3-810 has a full Windows 8 or RT version installed. I’m happy to say that it has full the Windows 8 version, meaning the old apps you’ve been using in previous versions of Windows are compatible with the Iconia W3. I installed Windows Live Writer which I used way back in 2007 for my blogging needs and it worked.

The average bootup time from the moment I pressed the power button up to the moment the login screen appeared is 14 seconds. I’m very pleased that it can boot this fast despite the fact that it only runs on Atom. I rebooted the tablet thrice in my 5 days and 6 nights of use – twice on the first night of setting up the Iconia W3 and the other time when it froze for some unknown reason. Since then, it was just on standby mode when I’m not using it and never turned it off.

Why am I not turning this device off? With the “sleep” feature of Windows 8, I don’t have to anymore. It uses very little power when not in use, and it lets me turn on the Iconia W3 faster than its 14 second bootup time. It’s not necessary anymore to shut down the tablet unlike the previous versions of Windows. The experience is like waking up an iPad or an Android tablet from its sleep, except that the Iconia W3-810 has a full OS version.

The Metro UI is smooth when sliding sideways and there were no lags when rotating the screen. I loved using the tablet in portrait mode whenever I read web articles or eBooks, and it’s also easier to input text with the onscreen keyboard while on that mode. Speaking of the onscreen keyboard, it’s fairly useable to type some texts on it but I am not able to touch-type the way I do on my iPad 4th Gen since the size of the screen is smaller. Another way for text input is by using Microsoft’s handwriting recognition software. The Iconia W3-810 doesn’t come with a digitizer but you can write with your finger or use a stylus for capacitive screens. I was able to write several sentences on the tablet and the software was able to recognize most of them correctly.

The use of touch on Windows 8 is pleasant, except on Desktop mode. I am not sure if it’s the Iconia W3-810’s screen or the software, but my gripe here is I had to tap on the close button several times before I can actually close a tab of Internet Explorer or another app.

Trying out the 7 Digital Metro App pre-installed on the Acer Iconia W3-810

Acer Apps and Microsoft Office

Acer has some apps that you can install while setting up the Iconia W3-810 like the Acer Cloud, Acer Crystal Eye, Acer Explorer and Social Jogger. There are also Metro apps that were already pre-installed like Evernote Touch, Amazon and the Kindle, which you can uninstall if you do not have any use for them.

 

Microsoft Office 2013

Microsoft Office 2013

The best thing Acer did with regards to its bundled apps is the inclusion of Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Student edition. This is not a trial version, but a free license! You must enter the serial code that comes with the package and it will be set up for you. Word, Excel, Powerpoint and One Note are included in the Home and Student edition so if you are looking for Outlook 2013, you will need to purchase it.

Excellent Battery Life

Battery life was an issue I had when I was still using my UMPCs years ago, and boy I’m glad Intel’s Clover Trail has made a huge improvement in this department. Clover Trail is  known to have lower power consumption and this is the reason why I am able to use the Acer Iconia W3-810 with an average of 10 hours. Yesterday, I unplugged the Iconia W3-810 around 8:50am at 100% before I went out. I arrived at Starbucks at 11am and started using the tablet with screen brightness set to medium. I connected it to my Smart BRO Pocket WiFi and browsed on several websites before pairing it with my Apple Wireless Keyboard to type this review (yes, I’m typing the Acer Iconia W3-810 review on an Acer Iconia W3-810!) with Windows Live Writer. I decided to pack up at 8:30pm, and the battery life left on the tablet was at 5%.

Paired with the Apple Wireless Keyboard and connected to my Smart BRO Pocket WiFi

Paired with the Apple Wireless Keyboard and connected to my Smart BRO Pocket WiFi

I am very impressed by this result and for the past few days I didn’t have to worry in looking for a power outlet.

Storage Problems?

The Acer Iconia W3-810 comes in 2 variations, 32GB and 64GB of built-in storage. The unit I’m reviewing is 32GB and after installing Microsoft Office and other apps, I was left with 10GB to use. Currently, I have 7GB and though I personally am not comfortable with this, the Iconia W3-810 is still usable. I strongly suggest purchasing a 32GB MicroSD card to store other apps (if you’re willing) and media files. Again, attaching the MicroUSB to USB adapter will let you use Flash Drives and External Hard Drives and can be another option for storage.

2 x 2 Camera

2 Megapixel cameras are found at the front and back of the Acer Iconia W3-810, and honestly, I want to lower down your expectations again. I do not suggest using the Iconia’s camera to replace your phone’s camera. It’s just placed there just in case you need to take a photo when you need it. Pictures are grainy so I didn’t bother using but for testing purposes, here are some sample photos:

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Acer Iconia W3 as a Main Computer?

I’m pretty sure that some of you will ask this question – can the Acer Iconia W3-810 be used as a main computer? Before I answer that question, let me tell you my experience first. I started this review of the Iconia W3-810 by making it as my main computer and avoided using my MacBook Air and iPad 4th Gen. I brought it with me to my job interviews, to coffee shops, even in the supermarket where my grocery list is stored in the tablet. I managed to publish a couple of blog posts with it, but I used my Apple Wireless Keyboard to get these tasks done.

A USB Keyboard connected to the Acer Iconia W3-810

A USB Keyboard connected to the Acer Iconia W3-810

Last Wednesday, I needed to print my resumé for my job interview that afternoon. I was tempted to go back to my MacBook but then I remembered, the Iconia W3-810 has a USB host solution. With the bundled Micro USB to USB cable, I connected my printer to the Iconia W3-810, installed the drivers and printed my documents. I also used a CDR-King USB keyboard to draft some posts for my blog and instant messaging with my contacts, and connected my USB Flash Drive, External Drive and a Sony Experia Z to the tablet to copy some files.

 

Acer's USB adapter

Acer’s USB adapter

As long as I have the USB adapter, I can use most USB peripherals available like keyboards, mouse, flash drives, etc. with the Acer Iconia W3-810. I simply won’t be able to use this function with the iPads or any Android tablets out there.

So, my answer to this question is yes, it is possible to make the Acer Iconia W3-810 as a main computing device, but not as a permanent one. It may not fit for everyone’s needs especially for those who are used to laptops with high-powered processors. I think the tablet is best used as a secondary device, for moments when you don’t feel like bringing a computer but needs the productivity of Microsoft Windows. My needs these days are met by the Iconia W3-810 except sometimes I prefer to use a larger screen. It has a Micro HDMI port and with an adapter it can be connected to a TV or monitor as an extension.

If you do plan to use this as your main computer with some of the USB peripherals I mentioned, I suggest buying a USB hub so you can connect all those accessories at the same time.

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BOTTOMLINE

This is certainly not the perfect tablet that I’m expecting from Acer, but its affordability will appeal to those users who want to use and experience a Windows 8 tablet. Despite of the issues I’ve encountered above, I am still very, very interested to get one for the following reasons:

  1. It’s affordable. SMART is offering at 600 a month (excluding the MSF depending on the Smart BRO product you choose) for 24 months. Seriously, I haven’t seen a Windows 8 tablet priced at Php 15,600.00!
  2. It performed better than my previous UMPC devices.
  3. Always-on tablet with MS Office, USB support and best battery life.

If you are a power user, I suggest you wait for other 8-inch Windows 8 tablets with better specs that would possibly come out before the end of the year. I’m sure some users will not care about the screen quality or the slow processor as long as it is able to get the simple tasks done. The Iconia W3-810’s portability is well suited for students, which they can easily place inside their school bags. For road warriors and businessmen who do not want to bring their laptops while traveling, the Acer Iconia W3-810 can be a good companion for business and entertainment purposes.

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Acer and Microsoft made me believe in using a Windows-based tablet again. It’s a step in the right direction, and I am looking forward to see more improvements on their next tablets in the next few months.

* Special thanks to Acer Philippines and SMART Communications for lending me this review unit.

PROS:

  • Full Microsoft Windows 8 operating system on an 8.1″ tablet
  • Excellent battery life
  • Supports USB peripherals
  • Bundled Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Student Edition

CONS:

  • Poor screen and viewing angles
  • Processor is underpowered
  • Camera produces grainy images
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