This thing is incredibly light and remind me obviously of the previous Acer Liquid Jade from some time back. It also kinda reminds me of the older iPod in the design, plus the fact that it’s painfully thin. The phone itself comes in at 110 grams.
First impressions are good, and the rear grip is improved thanks to a rather trendy rear cover, but we need to look at those specs.
This is a dual SIM handset, but if you want to put a microSD card in for extra storage you’ll unfortunately have to forgo one of those so that you can slot in the card. The whole mechanism is quite clever and works via a tray on the left side of the phone.
Wait though, before we get to all that I should perhaps tell you the specifications. You can buy this rather skinny phone for around £145.99 from the likes of Expansys. Inside you’ll find Android 4.4 KitKat and a quad-core 1.5GHz Mediatek CPU with 1GB of RAM with 8GB of storage on board which can of course be uprated with that microSD card slot.
Around back, a 13 megapixel camera which initially produced rather “iffy” results. Things got better after an update which appeared mid-way through this review, but I still had some weird ghosting issues on the HDR mode and you really could take a shot close-up as the macro capabilities were pretty much non-existent.
Up front, a 5 megapixel camera for selfies and you also get a 5″ screen with a HD resolution of 1280×720. Whilst it’s not full HD, it’s fairly decent but suffers a bit in daylight.
Up top, the earpiece and front camera and, on the top edge, a 3.5mm audio port, secondary microphone and the power button that’ll be waking and sleeping your phone.
To the right, that trick SIM / microSD card tray. You can pop both a work and home SIM in if you want to get rid of one of the phones you’re carrying around.
The left side has the volume control and the device itself is constructed well. At the bottom you’ll find a microUSB port.
You can hopefully see the rather grippy and individual rear section which helps to keep the phone in your hand.
As you’ll see from the external speaker and the text above it, this has DTS sound.
If you want the quick and dirty look around, here’s our hands-on video..
In use the phone actually performs rather well, and I loaded it up with my usual apps and used them without any great deal of difficulty. The default lock screen has a water (liquid, geddit?) effect and this will tilt depending on how you hold the phone. You can jump into several apps straight from the lock screen and Unlock the device and you’re met with the KitKat OS. As with all Android operating systems, you can move the icons and folders around an really adjust this phone to your needs.
Everything, provided you log in with a Google account, will be sync’d with the cloud. Contacts, appointment and addresses will be hooked up and it can even remember what apps were installed on your previous phone.
The addition of the DTS Studio Sound mean I could crank up the bass, treble and adjust the equalizer for video and music. This didn’t seem to make a great difference on the external speaker but it did improve headphone listening by quite some way.
Acer have also dropped in their Smart Color system for enriching images, although I did turn it off. They’ve also squirted in a bunch of additional applications, including..
abDocs – This will let you edit a document but you can’t create one, and it’ll ask you to create one on a PC and then save it to the phone. It’ll do documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
abFiles – This is a simple way to copy files around within your Jade Z and also to copy to and from your PC. You can setup your PC as a personal cloud, storing files there instead of some big cloud out on the web somewhere.
abMusic – This will play music on your device and will handle playlists, albums, artists and genres.
abPhotos – A photo viewer which also backs up your shots to your personal cloud on your PC.
abVideos – Again, this will interface with your “cloud PC” and will sort your videos into collections.
AcerExtend – This app lets you view and control your Acer phone from your computer over WiFi and USB. To be honest this is something I used to see a lot in the Windows Mobile days and I quite welcome this. You need to install an app on your PC too.
AcerNav – This is basically a branded version of TomTom and will take you wherever you need to go. After an initial 19MB map download it’ll then ask which region you’re going to be driving in and grab a map for that. For the UK it’s 651MB, which is going to take a lot of that on-board space, but at least it’s there and you don’t have to worry about losing signal etc. To be honest it’s very good and offers 2D and 3D views plus worldwide coverage. You can see a demo of the route, avoid certain places, add waypoints and it includes TripAdvisor details too. Very smooth. Very nice.
Other apps include Booking.com, a barcode scanner, a browser (plus Chrome too) and the digital clock and weather system which also displays via a widget up front. Other features include all the Google apps (Maps, Drive, Gmail, Hangouts and more) and a Power Save facility which lets you save that all-important battery life (it seems to last around a day with my crazy usage).
Not only that, but another feature worth pointing out is the “Quick Mode” system for altering the home screen style to suit your requirements. This means you can totally convert the phone so that it looks how you want it to look. If the phone is for a child you can switch to “basic mode” and have just a few basic but regularly-used options on screen. On “easy mode” you might find it better suited to elderly people – big buttons for easy use.
There’s also an onboard guide, sound recorder, FM radio and access into Google Play so that you can go ahead and install whatever the heck you like.
The camera features a rather nice “favourite shot” mode which adds a button on-screen to instantly take a shot in the setting you prefer. On the screen here you can see that my favourite type of shot is “HDR” and it’ll fire off the second you press the screen. There’s also Bright Magic, Presentation, Multi-angle view and Panorama.
In 4:3 box mode you can go up to 13 megapixels on the rear camera, but 10 megapixels on letterbox 16:9 mode. This is fairly standard on phones though. You also get 1080p video recording with a stabilizer and there’s gesture and voice capture so that you can take shots of yourself easily.
To be honest the camera is fully featured, although I did find that images weren’t quite as great as they could be and the HDR mode was a tad slow, producing some odd ghosting. Here’s a few example shots.
Macro shots, as you can see with this initial photo of my ale, didn’t fare too well. You had to be at least 40cm away before it would focus.
Here’s the difference between HDR and non-HDR. Both of these shots were taken with HDR disabled – i.e. a “normal” shot…..
Here they are again with the HDR on..
I’ve got to admit. The styling on this, the lightness, the slimness and the pretty rapid operation of the phone and the memory handling was very good indeed. It comes with a fairly chunky batch of additional apps which are actually quite helpful and useful, adding value to the experience. Considering the relatively low price-point, that’s very good indeed.
The only thing that did disappoint me was the camera, which – although better than the previous Jade I’ve tested – still didn’t perform that well even under ideal conditions.
Overall though, good value for money with 4G speed and good looks.