Acer is looking to cement its position as a fully paid-up member of the Open Handset Alliance with the Stream - its latest smartphone to pack Android. Previous efforts the beTouch 110 and Liquid have both flattered to deceive, so can the Stream give the netbook-maker a foothold in the increasingly competitive smartphone sector?
On paper, the Acer Stream is every bit as good as its Android rivals. 2.1 Eclair software, 720p HD video recording, a 3.7-inch touchscreen and HSDPA all make it sound like a phone to lust after.
Fire it up and you’ll find some neat twists to the vanilla Android UI, which make for great alternatives for a full-on social networking skin a la HTC Sense. However, we’d be lying if we said this wasn’t a tad on the chunky side, or that the design didn’t feel tired.
There’s no denying that the Acer Stream feels rock solid. At 140g it has a real heft and its 11.2mm frame feels a lot bigger than that its actual dimensions suggest. The layout of the buttons is of real concern, with Acer of the school of thought that adding a slew of keys to supplement a touchscreen is worthwhile. It isn’t.
While a home button, coupled with menu and back key are understandable, the navigation panel at the bottom is utterly pointless and doesn’t get any use. The touchscreen is more than capable of taking us around menu systems, so Acer really had no need to add these buttons, which simply serve to bulk out the phone.
That’s not the only issue with the design. The black and grey finish screams Google Nexus One and really doesn’t suggest much thought went into making this phone look unique.
The 720p HD recording function is great and a welcome addition. You can fiddle with filters and white balance, as well as share your clips online easily using Android’s intuitive camcorder functionality. It doesn’t quite stack up against the world-beating Galaxy S’s video knowhow, but that’s not to say it isn’t a winner. The camera could be better though, lacking a decent flash.
The Android music player is standard and still can’t hold a candle to the iPhone’s iPod app. However, watching video back on the 400 x 840 panel is a real treat, that sizeable design really coming in handy when you’re kicking back on a long train journey.
Like most current Android smarties, the Stream comes with 2.1 Eclair inside. But Acer has eschewed the skinning approach and decided to tweak the vanilla version of the OS to make it really sing. The info bubbles are a case in point, accessible by tapping an info bar above the apps on the home screen. They throw up key info like remaining battery life, toggle switches for turning on Wi-Fi and serving up the latest on your phone without you needing to delve into myriad menu systems.
Vanilla Android is becoming increasingly powerful and by tickling it in such a manner, Acer has hit on an approach that leaves the sometimes confusing world of social networking skins for dust. Android is undoubtedly the Stream’s calling card.
Ease of use
Android makes this phone a breeze to handle, but it isn’t without its problems. The touchscreen feels almost too sensitive and the usually ace virtual keyboard in Android 2.1 is nowhere near as assured here as it is on the likes of the HTC Desire or Motorola Milestone XT720.
There’s a needless dose of haptic feedback, which you’ll be looking to turn off quick smart. The screen unlock mechanism isn’t great either and it all means the Stream feels half-baked.
Android is great, but Acer hasn’t quite hit its stride in its search for smartphone perfection.
- Android 2.1 Eclair
- 3.7-inch, 400 x 840 capacitive touchscreen
- 5 megapixel camera, 720p HD video recording
- 3.5mm jack
- Wi-Fi, HSDPA, 2GB storage and microSD expansion
- Haptic feedback and capacitive touchscreen.
Overall mark: 7/10