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Acer Iconia W4 review: First usable Windows mini-tab

Acer Iconia W4 review: First usable Windows mini-tab

Top Features
1.Improved display
2.Decent performance
3.Includes Office

Acer was the first device maker to come up with an 8-inch tablet with Windows 8 (not the 'made for tablets,' crippled Windows RT OS), the Iconia W3. However, its below average screen, bulky appearance and high price, made it a device nobody would want.

The Taiwanese company is back with the successor to W3, the Iconia W4 that promises to iron out these niggles and comes with the latest version of Windows, Windows 8.1. We spent quite some time with the tablet to find out if the W4 has the potential to be the first 8-inch Windows 8 tablet worth buying.

Build & Design 
Acer Iconia W4 tablet looks bulky and heavy compared to the iPad mini and other Android tablets. Acer has tried to give a brushed metal finish to W4's plastic chassis; the front and side edges in silver-grey matte finish also give the illusion of metal. The tablet is considerably thick and a bit heavy to lug around at 415 gram.

The front of Iconia W4 tablet features the 8-inch screen surrounded by black coloured bezel. The display panel sits a little raised on the frame. The bottom lip, just below the display, features a hardware button for directly going to the Windows Start screen.

The 2MP front-facing camera sits at the top (in portrait mode) with some Acer branding. The right edge features a microSD card slot, micro-HDMI port, a volume rocker key and microphone, while the micro-USB port, two stereo speaker outlets and a 3.5mm audio jack are located at the bottom. The Power/screen-lock key is at the top edge.

The back features a 5MP camera and some more Acer branding along with Intel and Windows stickers.

Acer Iconia W4 sports an 8-inch CrystalBrite IPS LED-backlit multi-touch display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. Acer has paid heed to user feedback and improved the screen, even though the resolution remains the same. The screen was a major pain point in W3. Colours look vivid and viewing angles are good. Text and graphics look crisp and sharp.

Our only gripe with Acer Iconia W4 is that the display is extremely reflective, hampering outdoor use as this significantly affected sunlight legibility.

The tablet's touch panel features 5-point multi-touch control. At times, it failed to register the touch, especially while using legacy apps that have small window buttons. Perhaps, Acer could have shipped a stylus for using these.

Iconia W4 features a 5MP rear camera and a 2MP front-facing camera. The cameras are nothing home to talk about and can only click average quality shots in both daylight and artificial light.

The rear camera does not come with an LED flash so it's not possible to click acceptable pictures in low light conditions. We also found the placement of the rear camera a bit odd. It is placed at the extreme left (portrait mode), making it difficult to take pictures.

Pictures shot with the camera were noisy and washed out. The camera is capable of recoding HD videos, but again the quality was just about average.

The front camera can be used for video conference calls and does a decent job.

Iconia W4 comes with Windows 8.1, the new iteration of the Windows 8. The tablet doesn't run Windows RT, Microsoft's tablet optimized OS that doesn't offer the ability to run legacy Windows desktop apps. Thanks to Windows 8.1, you can run all applications that can be run on a regular Windows PC or notebook, including Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop or Tally.

Windows 8 style Modern apps or touch optimized apps can also be run. The tablet comes with some pre-installed apps, including Acer Docs, Acer Media, Acer Photo, Nero BackItUp, Evernote Touch, Amazon, Kindle, newsXpresso, TuneIn radio, and Skype, among others.

Iconia W4 also comes pre-installed with Office Home and Student 2013 edition and the license key for the software is provided in the box. The inclusion of Office is a big value-add.

Windows 8.1 offers a number of new features and improvements over Windows 8, including better multitasking, a Start button, updated search, and better handling of tiles. You can read more about these here.

One feature worth pointing out is that the tablet can now 'snap' apps, or run two or more apps simultaneously in Windows 8.1. Windows 8 required a minimum resolution of 1366x768 pixels to 'snap' apps due to which tablet screens below that resolution did not support the feature.

Performance/ Battery life 
Acer Iconia W4 is powered by a 1.33GHz quad-core Intel Atom (Z3740) Bay Trail Processor. The tablet has 2GB of RAM and features Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD GPU.

We found that the tablet performed well in daily tasks like web browsing, playing casual games, using Office, and watching HD videos.

We did not encounter any issues while playing casual games like Jetpack Joyride and Angry Birds which we downloaded from the Windows Store. Having said that, if you have multiple apps running in the background and browser tabs with graphics heavy websites running, you'll notice some sluggishness.

The tablet offers a good Windows 8.1 experience. With casual use, the tablet delivers close to 7 hours of battery backup with the screen on full brightness and the tablet connected to WiFi, Battery life would vary depending on your usage. If you use the tablet for gaming and watching HD videos it's likely that you'll need to charge it sooner. Talking about charging, Acer has got rid of the proprietary port found in the Iconia W3 and the tablet can now be charged with any micro-USB charger.

Also included in the box is the micro-USB to USB converter which allows you to plug pen drives and 3G dongles, somewhat solving the connectivity puzzle as the tablet does not come with a sim card slot. The tablet can be connected to the big screen through the micro-HDMI port though it doesn't support wireless standards like Miracast.

Our review unit, a 64GB variant of the tablet, offered about 40GB space which could be expanded up to 64GB via a microSD card.

So should you buy the Acer Iconia W4? With a tag of Rs 24,999, the device is one of the lowest priced Windows tablets available in the market. You can run almost all Windows 8 apps and most legacy Windows apps, so it's essentially a portable PC. The tablet would certainly appeal to road warriors who need to use Windows apps for work. You can use a wireless keyboard to get an almost PC-like experience.

However, Acer Iconia W4 still lags behind the iPad and Android tablets when it comes to tablet (and touch) optimized apps. Despite Microsoft's efforts, the Windows Store still doesn't boast of quality Modern UI apps. Also, legacy apps including Microsoft Office are not built for touch screens and you'll have a hard time using menus and controls on a small 8-inch screen. If you're willing to spend a few thousand rupees more, you can even buy a compact touchscreen Windows laptop such as the Asus Vivobook F202e.

We would recommend buying the iPad mini if your primary use case for a tablet is content consumption. iPad is still the king when it comes to tablet-optimized apps.

Even though Windows 8.1 makes the OS more usable on touch devices, for 8-inch Windows tablets to go mainstream, Microsoft needs more tablet-optimized apps.

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