Taiwanese company Acer isn’t known for high-end devices to rival the industry’s biggest, but perhaps they can pull ahead in the relatively young phablet market.
The S1 makes a few slip ups with its design. The plastic casing has a smooth, comfortable surface, but it also feels cheap and slightly hollow. This backing can be removed to replace the battery and sim cards. But doing so means prising it apart. The power and volume buttons on the sides try to blend in with the phone’s silver stripes, but feel quite clunky. They click awkwardly, and stick out slightly. The volume button is also one long bar as opposed to two separate ones, which feels second-rate. The front of the phone does better. A curved design at the top gives it a more modern look than you might expect for a phablet. Its overall build isn’t terribly original. But most of the real estate is taken up with the display, leaving little room for innovation.
With its size comes with the usual phablet pros and cons. Two-handed holding is necessary as one thumb won’t be able to cover the entire device. There aren’t many options to compensate for that in the software. A virtual keyboard that could move to one side of the screen would have been a nice touch (pun intended). Holding with one hand for an extended period of time is also uncomfortable, and you’ll likely strain yourself using the phone in this way. It also feels very light for a phone of this size, but not so light that it’s a problem.
The S1’s display is huge, and the 720 x 1280 resolution handles that well. The auto-brightness setting doesn’t do it justice. Even with the brightness turned all the way up, it’s not as vibrant as some other phablets we’ve seen, including the new Samsung Note 3. A built-in HD Channel app lists HD Youtube videos, but this doesn’t work as well as the company had perhaps planned. Running videos in HD doesn’t display better results than we’re used to on other displays. Detail is quite strong, but colours appear faded. Turning to other services like Netflix shows the same results.
A feature named Float lets you have multiple apps running at the same time. The compatible apps are mostly simple built-in features such as the calculator and clock, but you can also run other apps in the background at the same time. Being able to juggle them on the same screen is a useful bonus. It’s most impressive feature is supporting the camera app, but we also used it to add up a large number of digits that we kept on the notepad app, which was genuinely helpful.
Elsewhere the system is clear and easy to navigate. The customised menu runs widgets and apps with plenty of space for you to tweak the screen to your own liking. Notifications all work just like on any other Android device.
One issue we did come across was installing some apps from the Play store. Some games that we usually play for testing were not available to download, because they were incompatible with the phone. We were able to bypass this by downloading some files from the web. But not everyone will know how to do this. And it’s very inconvenient. We were unclear as to why they wouldn’t show up in the first place.
The S1’s performance won’t set the world on fire. The quad-core processor (clocked at 1.1GHz) can handle tasks well. Although there was a few seconds delay between rapid app switching. Loading up some games took a long time, let alone playing them. This is a device that will handle a lot of mid-tier games satisfactorily, but won’t agree with anything more demanding.
There is an option to use the phone with two micro sim cards if you want to balance work and social lives. It isn’t the most original invention but the S1 scores points for its inclusion.
If you look elsewhere in this issue, you’ll find an LG G2 packing a 3000 mAh battery. It’s a much smaller phone than a phablet and yet still manages to accommodate a power source much greater than that of the S1’s 2400 mAh battery. With casual use you’ll see about a day and a half’s use out of the phone. Anything more strenuous like regular gaming sessions will require overnight charging. Acer should really include a bigger battery to compensate for its increased display.
An 8MP camera is average. On the phone’s screen pictures look a little darker than what has actually been captured. The camera also suffers from camera-shake, more than any phone we’ve seen in a while. It is to difficult to focus on finer details without a solid surface for support. Colours also wash out a fair bit in the transition to the screen. Images are taken at a wide angle, so you have more area to frame your shots.
Video recording is also solid. The camera’s focus adapts quickly and videos are detailed even when using up the entire screen. It only suffers from a lack of vibrancy from the phone’s display.
The Liquid S1 is underwhelming. It doesn’t have many unique features. It provides all of the basics, and at around £300 it’s a modest offering, but little more than that.