The Windows 8 operating system seems ideally built for an eight-inch form factor, and yet no such device exists. At least, not until Acer’s Iconia W3.
The release conveniently coincides with the debut of Windows 8.1, which promises some highly anticipated tweaks and improvements that ought to be very handy for a smaller mobile device. Acer has the advantage of a wide-open market for the eight-inch Iconia W3, but the tablet certainly isn’t without its share of issues.
The Acer Iconia W510 was one of the earliest Windows 8 devices, and a tablet comparison shows a similar design for the Acer Iconia W3 . The black bezel is wrapped in the same silver plastic that covers the back, and overall it’s a fairly sharp look.
There’s no doubt the device is plastic, however, and it feels a bit cheap. At 8.6-by-5.3-by-0.45 inches and 1.1 pounds, most people will have no problem holding it with one hand. It’s a bit heavier than some similar-sized tablets, but it’s still comfortable to use.
Its size makes for an amusing pairing with the optional keyboard, which is several inches larger than the tablet itself.
Held in portrait mode, the Iconia W3 sports a power and screen lock button on the top right edge. That’s joined by the micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports.
At the bottom are the stereo speakers, along with a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack and a power plug. The right edge, meanwhile, features a volume rocker and an uncovered microSD slot. On the bottom center of the device’s front face is a physical Windows button.
Compared to tablets that use optional keyboard docks as a secondary battery source, the Iconia W3’s keyboard accessory doesn’t dock with the tablet. It includes a rubberized stand for the device, but it connects via bluetooth only.
Resolving the Details
For Acer, the trouble begins with the display. Compared to tablets that have successfully provided a high-quality display at a budget-friendly price, the Iconia W3’s 1,280-by-800 pixel panel is deeply disappointing.
Other Atom-based tablets, such as the Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx and ASUS VivoTab Smart, boast better displays despite their larger form factor. The image quality is at least tolerable if viewed perfectly head-on, but the slightest deviation in viewing angle quickly produces a very hazy, muted picture.
The resolution is adequate, but the display is often so hard to see that it becomes difficult to use the device without the keyboard accessory. The keyboard stand is not adjustable, however, so that presents its own problems.
Under the Hood
Because the Acer Iconia W3 is an Atom-based tablet, the specifications and performance ought to be pretty familiar. The 1.8-gigahertz Intel Atom Z2760 processor is mated with two gigabytes of RAM and Intel HD graphics.
Real-world performance is almost identical to other Atom tablets, which means that most routine tasks should not be a problem. The low-power processor shouldn’t be expected to handle more intensive tasks, however, and the occasional stuttering during everyday use is still present.
The W3 does offer excellent battery life, even without the benefit of a keyboard dock’s second battery.
Because of the similarity between most Atom-based tablets, comparisons often hinge on personal preferences.
The Acer Iconia W3 offers performance similar to the ASUS VivoTab Smart and Lenovo Idea Tab Lynx and, because it’s currently the only eight-inch Windows 8 tablet on the market, it may prove to be a tempting choice for those who prefer using a tablet with one hand.
The W3 also offers battery life well beyond the VivoTab, and it even manages to exceed the Lenovo with its secondary battery. The dreadful display ought to make consumers think twice, however, and the full Windows 8 experience is the Iconia W3’s only legitimate selling point.