The Acer Stream is available exclusively here in the UK on eXpansys. You won’t currently see it on a contract or subsidised so you may have to think hard before giving away Â£399.99. The headline specs include HD video recording at 720p / 24 frames per second. This, combined with the HDMI output, will let you watch your movies on TV in HD quality. Other tech specs include a 1Ghz Qualcomm 8250 Snapdragon CPU, 800×400 pixel screen (3.7″) and 5 mega pixel screen.
5 Megapixel auto-focus camera with digital zoom and geo-tagging.
WiFi and wireless video streaming
Capacitive AMOLED screen
Smart Internet Radio
Music Recognition (like Shazam)
Tri-band 3G, Quad-band GSM
512MB RAM, 2GB internal
HDMI and 3.5mm output
As is usual with our reviews we’ve filmed a hands-on of the phone itself..
To be honest the first thing I wanted to do was try the HD output through the HDMI connector, but the cable wasn’t included in the box we had. Whether this is true of the retail unit we’re not sure, but it was a bit of a shame and we couldn’t do a demo of the HDMI output. The cable fits in the side here – a mini HDMI cable for the phone and the standard HDMI output for your TV or DVD recorder etc. This cable can be picked up for around £15 from places like Amazon for less than £10 elsewhere.
Here’s the miniHDMI port and the microUSB port next to it. They sit quietly behind a rubber flap.
I think it’s fair to say that the Acer Stream isn’t the sexiest looking thing around. The extra row of media buttons on the bottom almost feel like an after-thought and look a little out of place. These control the
media experience on the phone – pause/play, rewind and forward are present.
The outer frame of the phone is a metallic silver colour with the inner screen border a shiny black. A thin border runs around this plastic edge to separate the two, then round the back there’s a soft-touch rubber panel for a solid but secure feel.
Above these are the main control buttons – a Home key which glows in different colours depending on whether you’re charging or low on battery. Next to this is the search function which searches within an
application or the phone itself, the back ket and the menu button. The buttons here are slightly different to the ones on the bottom row in that these are touch-sensitive. The “Home” key, which is on a separate
round key, does click though and these keys are all backlit with a white LED light.
On the right side of the phone is the microUSB and miniHDI port we mentioned earlier. These live near to the top of the phone whilst, at the other end, you’ll find the camera button. Sadly, clicking this when you’re using the phone doesn’t seem to do anything, so you have to select the camera app (or widget) first. A little fiddly, but I’ll admit that the camera s great and produces some excellent sharp shots with deep colours. More on that in a bit..
Up top there’s the standard 3.5mm audio port for your headphones.
On the left, your power button for waking the device up and the volume up / down keys.
On the back is a 5 megapixel camera, albeit without a flash. The lens is protected behind a plastic cover. Although this isn’t something we normally see on phones, it’s on a section of the phone that isn’t accessible so there’s little chance of dust getting in there and ruining your shot.
The Dolby Mobile system is present on the device and, although we could only find the one speaker (by the acer logo), it did produce some excellent sound.
Once powered up you’re met with an Acer homescreen with a corner hovering in the bottom left. Pull that back and you get to the main homescreen, but before you do that you can always use the media buttons
to play your favourite track and, from what we can see, the background will change as you play a tune. It’ll switch to the related album imagery making your phone totally change in look and feel. You’ll also sometimes find a small ball on your lock screen. You can throw this around to pass the time away before unlocking the phone.
On the Acer Stream the status bar seems to sit towards the bottom of the screen, with the bottom third of the screen showing programs and the top two-thirds showing various tabs which can be moved from side to
side. Move the top part one way and you get pictures and your latest camera shots. Slide it the other way and you end up in the history section where your latest-used applications live. Flick through those by flicking through them too. Easy stuff.
The Acer Stream operates in a slightly different way to the HTC handsets we’ve reviewed. There’s no set of customised home screens here, instead you’ll find a selection of apps down on that bottom third of the screen and the ability to move them round. If you move up the bottom section of the screen you’ll find that the “bottom third” becomes the “top third” and the rest of the screen suddenly houses all your apps. The bottom section can then be moved from side to side to view all the apps, kinda like moving a Rubik’s Cube around. If you want your important app on the main screen then you just move it up.
It might sound complex but it really isn’t, it just takes a few seconds to get used to but, if you’re really not convinced, just head into Settings-> Application Settings-> User Interface and switch it to “Android UI”. After a quick reboot you’ll be back to the classic Android user interface. The Acer UI does tend to hamper the use of widgets somewhat – there’s slightly less “room” for them and you may be more inclined to just use shortcuts. I did like the thumbnail view of your running / frequently used apps though.
That information bar acts slightly differently in the Acer UI too. Instead of sliding down or up to get details of your phones activities, just tap it in the relevant place and it’ll tell you what’s happening. If you see a small “i” appear then the phone is trying to tell you something, but it’s not going to interrupt you unless it really needs to, so you just tap on the “i” to find out when you’re ready. Nice.
Click on “i” and, if there’s multiple messages or bits of information, you can again slide from side to side to get other info like your battery life, WiFi networks or the alarm clock time etc.
The main lock screen, which will let you play music or slide from side to side (still whilst locked) and check your weather, calendar, search or show your location is a little puzzling. There’s lots of space for widgets here. You can add then by going into the handset, holding down home and then clicking the “Plus” key. To get to the home screen you need to hold down “Home” or send the phone to sleep and then awake it to get to these widgets. It’s almost as if you’ve got a “Home screen” with these widgets on, then a “home screen” with the three top screens in the top two thirds of the screen. I can see why they’ve added this extra functionality, but it can be a little confusing at first. As is usual with Android you can add your widgets and drag them around to whichever window or position you like.
The dialler seems to be stuck on “US mode” – i.e. a phone number of 0121 693 5000 will actually appear as “012-169-3500”. It’s a slight annoyance and, despite having everything set to “English” it didn’t want to change this behaviour. That said, the dialler contains a speed-dial system and nice chunky on-screen keys with the predictive-dial system. This system, which if I had my way would be in every phone, lets you type in the first few letters of someones name. If you want to call “Jonathan” you’d merely press 5 (which if you have a look on your phone has Jkl), then 6 (mnO), then 6 again (mNo). By this time the phone will have probably found “Jonathan” and will let you call him easily.
A full call log, contact list and a filtered “Favourites” (which, as we’ve come to expect from every phone we ever review) is spelled “Favorites”. :)
From the contacts system within the dialer (or the little red contacts icon on the main screen) you can add contacts, edit them, add numbers, create QR codes, change their ringtones, set all incoming calls from
this person to go to voicemail, add them to a special group and include a picture from your gallery. You can also add a postal address, notes and even a nickname or a website. All of this can be sync’d back with
the “cloud” via Google, plus you can sync the phone with an Exchange account or Facebook too.
A messaging interface, which uses a small “smiley face” to tell you when you’ve got a text, organises texts into threads and it’s our first real peek at the on-screen keyboard. The spacing and in particular the
predictive dictionary system is brilliant, although it was a little disappointing not to have a “comma” on the main keyboard. You have to press the “123?” key to enter the numeric portion of the keyboard to get that and the space where the “comma” normally lives is instead used for a globe symbol that lets you change the T9 auto-correct language. I’m not sure about you, but I use the comma a lot more often than the “change language” button so it puzzled me somewhat. The keyboard can be made larger by rotating the phone on its side if you need, although I found the portrait system worked perfectly well.
The messaging system, which also does MMS picture messaging, lets you add attachments, delete threads, search, change the notification sound or type and you can switch read reports on and off etc. Once you’re in
a message it’s easy to press the “Menu” button and call the person, send a smiley etc. The handset will also save a draft of your message if you want to stop and finish the text later.
A calendar, which sync’s with Google, is included. This has an Agenda view, Day, Week and “Today” views and you can add appointments or birthdays etc in Google online or through the phone – it’ll all get sewn together in the cloud and your phone will remind you when there’s an event happening. You can dive deeper and tweak settings like the first day of the month, whether to include weather information and so
on. All very useful.
Other Google services, including Google Mail and Google Maps, are included and, as usual, your location is picked up with the in-built GPS system on the phone. You can switch to street view or install Google Navigation as a personal sat-nav to get you from place to place. The good thing about this is the fact that you can also use shorcuts to get you home and place them on your homescreen. An instant, quick way of doing things.
The browser is, as usual for Google, brilliant. Multi-touch is here and you can do the pinch / drag stuff to move around the page. Multiple pages can be opened and you rotate the phone to get the “widescreen”
version. Again, the on-screen keyboard worked really well. You can add bookmarks, share a page (via Twitter, email etc), download stuff, select text and more. Very slick, and with the speedy CPU pages fly
onto the screen. I missed the “reflow” mechanism that keeps wide paragraphs on one page though.
Other features include a barcode scanner for grabbing 3D and 2D barcodes, tasks, Google Talk, Twitroid for your Twitter-ing and “Documents To Go” to open doc, xls, ppt and pdf documents. You have to get the full version to unlock the full functionality though..
The UI and the whole experience of the handset is very quick. The display itself offers up rich, deep colours with a good balance of brightness. The 3.7″ AMOLED screen really delivers and, when you use the camera, the frame rate on videos is very quick. Compared to the HTC Desire a video recorded on the Acer Stream is smoother, with more colour and higher resolution.
As I mentioned earlier there wasn’t a HDMI cable included in our review device, so we’ve filmed an example video from the phone (in HD) and have uploaded it below. Click over to YouTube to get the full HD versionm or switch it to 720p below..
We took a number of pictures with the camera which you can see below. The camera includes an easy-to-use zoom function, brightness and quality settings (the 5 megapixel camera does 720p video recording and 2592×1944 pixel photos). There’s also a white balance setting and a timer plus some geeky extras like “ant-shake” and “macro mode” along with some funky effects like sepia, negative and aqua.
The whole interface was quick and shots came out very well. Again, I have to mention how fluid the preview screen is – no judder or anything when moving the camera around to find a good shot.
The gallery application is really beautiful. The images you’ve taken get bunched together based on date or type (video / pictures) and, when you tap them, they explode into a recent gallery. You’ll find yourself
clicking into this system just to look at the animation. You can access the camera application easily from here and it’ll use your most recent shot as a background, which looks really cool.
You can also rotate, share and manage pictures by deleting them from this application. It’s easy to select some, none or all and there’s a slider at the bottom for zipping through dates so you can easily find the pictures you took on a certain day or event. You can also tag all your shots with the GPS location too.
There’s actually another media application on the phone too. Again, this will sort your pictures and you can easily access images. This is slightly less “glossy” but is a good alternative if you don’t fancy the Acer Gallery app above.
Here’s a couple of shots with the camera on it’s highest setting. Click the thumbnails for the taken-from-camera-pic.
Acer have been pretty generous and have thrown in a stack of other applications. There’s an app to find out what music you’re listening to (like Shazam), a YouTube application for watching online videos, a music sharing system for streaming media across your Wifi network, a voice recorder, a music downloading / listening system called “Spinlets” and “urFooz”, which we saw back at Mobile World Congress, for creating your own online avatar.
The only thing that was a slight let-down for me was the looks of the phone and the rather random battery life. I say random because sometime it seemed to last ages, then at other times I found it had completely
powered itself off. There were many plus points that out-weighed these minor negatives. The screen produced rich colours, sharp images and bright whites (I know, it sounds like a detergent commercial), the
video and camera output was good. The phone was quick too, with Acer cranking on all the animated goodness that is usually disabled in most Android handsets. Items pop out from the side, slide in and glide out. It’s all very beautiful and quickly pulls you in.
This being an Android device you also get a bucket-load of Android Market apps. There’s a load available on this one and, with GPS, WiFi and all the bells and whistles, you’ve got no barriers to worry about.
Unfortunately we couldn’t cram all the photos into this review that we took, so go to the gallery to get more up-close shots of the device. The Acer Stream is available exclusively here in the UK from eXpansys, currently you can buy it unlocked for Â£379.99. Just stick your SIM card in and you’re away.
Buy – eXpansys.com