Windows 8 has been one of the most intriguing OS launches that I have ever seen. Manufacturers have been given an OS that lends itself to any shape or form that they can think of. Off the back of that we have seen a variety of different shapes, sizes and form factors in the Windows 8 lineup. A trip through your local laptop super store confronts you with small laptops, medium laptops, big laptops, repeat those three but with touchscreens, ultrabooks, again repeat with a touchscreen, tablet hybrids, plain old tablets, sliders and then something quite different. Enter the Acer Iconia W700.
The Acer Iconia W700 is a Windows 8 tablet, that has a decent spec, a desk dock, a Bluetooth keyboard and a sort of “I don’t care how unique I look” outlook on life.
As usual with one of my reviews we’ll start with the good and bad points.
- 1080P screen
- 4GB RAM
- Core i3 CPU
- Intel HD graphics
- Windows 8 not Windows RT
- Bluetooth keyboard
- Fiddly to setup the dock on the move
- Noise from fans
- Battery Life
The Acer Iconia W700 is made up of several components. A large Aluminium and glass tablet, a solid plastic dock, a plastic kickstand for the dock, a plastic Bluetooth keyboard and a nice brown leather case with a built in kickstand.
The Iconia tablet is a great looking piece of kit. Hewn out a single piece of Aluminium, the screen, the ports, the various sockets and the power buttons all snugly fit through various cut outs. The Iconia really has a premium look to it. My previous experience of tablets has been a variety of Android slabs, from the Advent Vega through to the Asus Transformer Prime. Then you’ve got the iPad I briefly had and most recently my current favourite the Microsoft Surface RT tablet. Compared to the Surface RT it bigger, heavier and in my opinion better looking.
Each side of the device is adorned with some sort of hole, slot or connector. Starting with the left hand side of the W700 you get power connector, USB 3.0, Micro HDMI, a tiny microphone hole and some Dolby Audio branding.
The top edge has a rotation lock switch which is handy as the W700 feels absurd in portrait mode, the top also has two great big grilles on the top, at first I thought they were speakers but they are actually vents for the internal gubbins. The top edge of the screen also houses the front facing camera and a few sensors.
The right hand edge has the power button, volume rocker and a headphone socket, a nice barcode and the word “Iconia”.
Along the bottom edge there are some more holes and this time they actually are speakers.
The dock and and the kickstand are an odd addition to the setup. Damn useful but not really thought about aesthetically. The dock holds the tablet firmly in place and offers holes for the speakers, charging point, extra USB sockets and the ability to dock in either landscape or portrait.
The case was a pleasant surprise in the bottom of the huge box of stuff you get with the W700. It is a nice brown ish leather type case, with plastic supports at the edge to hold the tablet in place. The speakers on the bottom aren’t obscured either meaning that when in the case you can continue to listen to music or video.
The separate Bluetooth keyboard is actually quite nice, yes it is plastic but the typing feel is really quite nice, each key has a decent amount of travel and there are no odd positioning issues, if you don’t use it for a few minutes and then go back to it you have to wait for it to catch up before you see any typed characters.
Overall Acer have done a good job of making a great big chunk of Aluminium look good, weight wise it is a bit heavy. But you’ll soon learn to use it in the dock or the case.
Here are the last few photos of the Iconia. I don’t know what is going on with the time here either.
Here are the specs for the W700:
- Intel® CoreTM i3-23657M AT 1.40GHz
- 4GB of DDR3 RAM
- Internal Memory 64GB SSD (about 30GB available out of the box)
- 11.6″ Full HD TFT LCD – 1920 x 1080
- Intel® HD Graphics 3000
- WiFi – 802.11a/b/g/n
- Micro USB 3.0
- + 3 x USB 3.0 (in cradle)
- HD CrystalEye Front & Back
- 3-cell Li-ion up to 8 hours
- Weight – 925g
- Dimensions 295 (W) x 191 (D) x 9.15/11.9 (H) mm
The W700 has some really nice specs for a Windows 8 tablet, highlights of the hardware are as follows.
The 11.6″ 1080p screen is gorgeous, everything really looks great, watching video, looking at pictures or browsing the web really is a joy. Side by side with my Microsoft Surface RT every possible element viewed on the screen looks better on the W700.
The Intel Core i3 CPU really helps the W700 fly, the whole Modern UI side of Windows 8 flies past, it boots in seconds. It made me realise that my Surface RT was really quite slow. The W700 also has Dolby Digital which when combined with the speakers on the bottom makes the tablet a handy mobile media centre. With headphones as well the quality of sound is really good. The higher spec does bring more speed but it also brings less battery life, the W700 compared to the Surface RT is inferior in that respect I’d choose my Surface every time.
The Modern UI on the W700 really makes sense, quick swipes, gestures and touches make the UI spring to life. Switching between apps is a joy to behold thanks to the Core i3 chip. As the W700 runs Windows 8 I could install apps from the Windows Store and also anything else from the web, such as Google Chrome. But what I found was that the lovely 1080p screen meant that a desktop version of the app wasn’t the most finger friendly, with the URL bar and tabs being really quite small. I quickly jumped back to the finger friendly Metro apps.
Acer bundle a lot of software with the W700, a fair few of which are apps I would install anyway, such as eBay and Kindle. Acer apps are Acer Crystal Eye, Acer Explorer, Social Jogger, AcerCloud, AcerRing, Clear.fi Media, Dolby Profile to name the main bundled Acer apps. None of which are essential, Acer have installed something called AcerRing which when you touch the screen with five fingers launches a skin over the desktop side of Windows 8, which gives you shortcuts to some of the more useful Acer apps. Aside from pointless bloatware Acer have added the Dolby program which allows you to tweak the audio.
As the W700 runs Windows 8 it is a very flexible machine. You can basically install anything you want, the main thing for me was to be able to install Google Chrome and all of the plugins for that. The 1080p screen and the decent speakers really lend them self to multimedia stuff, watching YouTube or Netflix is a pleasure on the large bright vibrant screen, also listening to Xbox Music or Google Music is great plug some headphones in and your sorted. The W700 would be an ideal device to take on the road during the day and to bring home at night and let the family use.
My thoughts about the whole dual personality of Windows 8 still exist, I prefer the Modern UI and any device running Windows 8 just feels odd, but hey that’s just me.
The W700 has a 5MP camera on the rear and a 2MP front camera. The rear camera is actually capable of taking some nice photos, it has no flash but at 5MP you could at a push take photos. Unlike me and my Microsoft Surface RT tablet.
Below are some sample shots I took with the W700
Overall the W700 is a great device, once you get past the rather odd dock and kickstand combo and use the nice leather case instead you’ll be happy. It is a powerful device that comes in a variety of specs, there is a model with just the tablet, the leather case and an integrated keyboard, there is also a Intel Core i5 128GB model as well. Offered a Microsoft Surface RT or the Iconia W700 I would go for the W700 as it is more functional, although if I had to move around a lot or take it on the road I’d think twice. If you’re looking for a Windows 8 tablet and you don’t fancy the Microsoft offerings then Acer certainly have a wide range of Windows 8 devices to choose from, if only this tablet was a bit thinner, a bit lighter and dare I say it possibly running Windows RT.