The Acer Iconia W3 is an 8.1 inch tablet with exceptional battery life, and remarkable performance. It’s remarkable, however, for all the wrong reasons.
Acer Iconia W3: On the plus side
Windows 8 eschewed the older Windows interface — not entirely, but certainly that was seen as the “old” way of doing things — in favour of a touch interface designed to take on the surge of popularity of tablets running Android and iOS.
An 8″ Tablet with all the consumption characteristics — movies, music, web browsing and so on — along with the inherent productivity possibilities of Windows 8 should be something of a perfect match.
Acer’s Iconia W3 certainly tries hard in this respect, offering up the Modern tile interface along with pre-installed Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013, all in a package at a comparable price point to an iPad Mini.
The Acer Iconia W3 is nicely equipped for expansion ports as well, with HDMI, microSD and USB connectivity options, which means the 32GB of storage onboard (less, naturally, because you’ve got to allow room for Windows 8 itself) isn’t all you’ve got to play with.
Easily the most impressive aspect of the Acer Iconia W3 is the battery life. I ran it through my standard full screen, full brightness video test to see how well it could stand up.
It was an impressive eight hours and thirty five minutes later that it actually expired, which means it actually outran Acer’s own estimate of eight hours playback by more than half an hour. It’s rather rare that battery life estimates even live up to claims (which is why vendors always state them as “up to”), so to exceed them is quite remarkable.
Acer Iconia W3: On the minus side
All that excellent battery life is thanks to the inclusion of ultra low voltage, ultra low power 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760 dual core processor. That’s a very good processor for sipping gently at the batteries, but the flip side of that is that it’s slow.
Very, very slow. I experimentally tried to run PCMark08 over the Acer Iconia W3, and it fell at every single attempt with every single benchmark. I wasn’t that surprised. I was a little surprised when it actually managed to run 3DMark, although its IceStorm score of 3500 tells the story there. Yes, it could run some very casual games, but only just.
Using the Acer Iconia W3 is an exercise in patience. When things are good it’ll work at an acceptable clip, but the moment it feels in any way stressed — and this being Windows, there can be multiple processes making calls on its little processor at any given time — things chug to an absolute crawl. A few pages with annoying flashing banners was all it took to even bring web browsing down.
Equally, there are other parts of the Acer Iconia W3 experience that are less than optimal against their tablet competition. The display screen is 1280×800 and has a very visible mesh pattern on it, which makes actually watching videos on it distracting. It’s naturally enough touch capable, except when it decides it won’t be. Sometimes a tap of the Windows button would wake it from its slumber, but not always.
It does have expansion ports, but they’re micro HDMI and USB ports, meaning you need special cables to plug them into anything. Acer does supply a micro USB port in with the Acer Iconia W3, but this looks awkward, and in my testing was a bit touch and go when it came to making the Acer Iconia W3 recognise there was a drive plugged in there at all.
Acer Iconia W3: Pricing
Acer advises that pricing for the Acer Iconia W3 starts at $449.
Acer Iconia W3: Fat Duck Verdict
The Acer Iconia W3 should be an ideal example of what full Windows 8 can do against the more consumption-centric iPad or plethora of not-always-quite-right Android tablets.
Sadly, it isn’t, and it’s essentially down to a simple trade-off between battery life and performance power. It’s funny — when tablets came along, they essentially ate up the market that was buying netbooks, because the one core problem netbooks had was that they didn’t really have the processing grunt to make them truly worthwhile.
This is exactly the problem that the Acer Iconia W3 has, but it’s not a netbook.
There is perhaps a market for those who don’t need much in the way of processing power but must have actual Windows compatibility in their day to day operations, but I’ve no doubt that those who do opt for that will be left wanting by the Acer Iconia W3’s limitations. When competing tablets can be delivered in a form that’s thinner, with better screens, responsivity and identical battery life, that’s always going to be the case.