Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Acer Liquid: The Verdict (after one week)


The Acer Liquid is a fast phone. By default its top speed is 768MHz though the CPU is capable of 1GHz. The Liquid's screen is large, auto-senses ambient light, and is very clear. It seems to resist fingerprints. Touch sensitivity is good (IMHO). The 480x800 resolution is a welcome improvement. The OS included is Android v1.6, aka Donut.

The GPS, Wifi and Mobile data (3G, 2G) and Bluetooth (phone and stereo media) all work as intended. Sensitivity to signal appears to be fine. I have not had any coverage issues relative to my other phone (HTC Magic).

The phone's default display has three home screens. Left-most is empty but for a media player widget that allows you to scroll through audio, video or images and select any for display or playback. You can dispose of it or put it back as you would any Android Widget. The centre screen has the Google Search widget up top and the usual Phone, Contacts, Browser, Maps, Messaging and Market apps down below. The right screen has the "Spinlets" widget (like a 'lazy Susan' for web bookmarks) with some Acer web sites preloaded you can scroll through and touch if you wish to go to those web pages.

The Acer software update tools work well. Acer Liquid uses a Windows-based tool for flashing new system images. These are *.BIN files downloadable from the Acer website. They include an entire phone image: recovery, boot, system and radio (baseband). There are different versions of the phone for different markets, the main differences being radio / baseband and language support. I have the UK version, compatible with Vodafone anywhere. There is also US version that would be compatible with Telecom XT and Telstra.

Phone's faster CPU makes sdcard access most impressive. Whereas my HTC Magic could read my Class 6 8GB Transcend sdcard at just under 5MB/second (megaBYTES/second)the Liquid was doing 9.6MB/second....almost twice as fast. This has big performance benefits for apps that use the sdcard, like the camera for saving or media playback apps.

The Liquid's 5 megapixel camera is, in my opinion, excellent. The pics are clear and well-focused. The light and other settings are adjustable or automatic. The video are higher resolution and have less "drag" than on a slower phone with a less-capable camera.

Data, MMS and TXT-ing work fine with Vodafone NZ when the APNs are set up exactly the same as for an HTC Magic.

For modders, the phone is easily rooted and there is a maturing set of tools available, mainly through xda-developers and modaco.com with the latest and greatest being at Modaco. The number of alternate ROMs isn't large, but there are half a dozen of so Android v1.6 roms and about 3 (major) android 2.1 ROMs. All the Android 2.1 ROMs are based on a leaked pre-release image from an Acer LiquidE phone. The best of the Android v2.1 alternates are "eVilD" and LCR (Liquid Community Rom). But the basic Acer load is good enough that simply rooting it and installing all the cool extras is good enough. With Android v2.1 on the phone it is possible to install and run Google Earth for Android which supports ARM7 CPUs and Android 2.x only (so far). I'm also able to use all the Live Wallpapers, including the ones that require 3D acceleration.

Android v1.6 *shines* on the faster-than-most Acer Liquid. If you add one of the kernels, clocked to 896MHz or 1GHz from one of the modders, it runs even faster.

The phone has 256MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM. The RAM is half as much as a Nexus One (512MB), but a lot more than an HTC Magic 32B (192MB). Overall, it depends on your expectations. Mine are met.

Cons? A few.

The phone has no trackball or D-pad. This makes fine placements of the cursor difficult on small text. I'm used to getting the cursor close, then scrolling to the exact location with the trackball on an HTC Magic. With no such device, you have to either keep poking away until you get there or at least get on the same line just after, then del txt backward (and re-type it). No trackball can also make selecting text a bit hit or miss. Especially if the text you want is surrounded by other text. My finger tips are too fat sometimes and it gets fiddly.

The phone's internal app storage is - at most - 192MB. That is about 96MB less than an HTC Magic. That means you can install fewer apps before you fill up your phone. The Apps2sd mod, allowing apps to be stored on the sdcard instead of the phone's internal storage (root access required), isn't perfected yet on Liquid, though the devs are *very* close. perhaps this week. It's that close. But until then, my phone is down to about 20MB of free space for more apps, which equates to about 20-30 more apps. Then, if I want to install any more, I'll have to delete some. Having said that, I do already have over 100 apps installed and there are more than a few I don't use every day - or even every week. With the Android Market so easily accessible, I don't really need to have them on my phone when not using them, as I can install them any time, usually in seconds.

Summary

Overall the advantages of the Acer Liquid overwhelm any disadvantages. It's a HUGE step forward as an Android phone. The greater speed, higher screen resolution, more capable camera (still and video), plus 'advanced' video/graphics support...and generally good usability...make it a great phone (but for the reservations noted above). It's easily modded and root access is a 10 minute affair. The modding tools aren't mature yet, but they are close.

It's a good phone, too. The sound is good and the mic is good. Almost forgot about that!