With the Liquid Metal Acer is taking yet another stab at the Android based smartphone market. After the Liquid and the stylish Liquid Ferrari, the Liquid Metal now steps up as the latest option for the buyers. It is interesting to note that for the price point of around Rs 20,000, the Liquid Metal will face a lot of competition. Samsung introduced the Super LCD version of the Galaxy Sand positioned it at just less than Rs 20k and such powerful specs make it an awesome deal.Motorola’s Defy has the build and specs to provide really strong competition. At just about Rs 21k is the very powerful HTC Desire. In the non-Android phones, the Samsung Wave-II (with Bada 1.2 OS) and the Nokia C7 (with Symbian 3 OS) will be really good options. However, it will be interesting to find out if the slightly lower spec Acer Liquid Metal can compete against some of the more powerful rivals.
Look and Feel: Feels more expensive than it actually is
While the name gives the illusion that the phone will have a completely metallic chassis. However, it does have some plastic, but admittedly, of pretty solid quality. The front has a glossy black finish. The rear panel however is stainless steel and the battery cover that has a light brown coloured finish and an imprint on it. The camera is at the top of this rear panel along with the flash. The speaker is at the bottom of the rear panel. There is a strip of chrome running along the four sides of the phone, which lends it a bit of shine. However, the chrome tends to wear off after a while of heavy use, making the phone look older and more worn out than it actually may be. The top panel has the power on/off button and the 3.5mm audio jack. While some users are okay with the 3.5mm jack on the top panel, others feel that this makes taking out the phone from the pocket to receive a call a bit more complicated. Totally depends on your preference, but we are happy that the 3.5mm jack is not on a side panel. That would have just made the entry and exit of the phone from the pocket more difficult! The bottom panel houses the micro USB port, for charging and hooking up to a PC. The right side has the volume buttons and the dedicated camera key. The left side is completely clean.
Below the 3.6 inch screen are 4 touch based buttons home, search, return and menu. It is good to see the touch based buttons rather than the physical buttons which a lot of smartphones sport. The phone has a convex curve on both the front and the rear panel. Ideally, this is meant to help while gripping the phone in the hand while using it. Personally, we did not find any perceptible improvement in the grip. However, when the phone is placed on a flat surface (ex- a table), it tends to rock from side to side at the slightest of touches. This is extremely annoying to say the least, and makes the phone’s rear panel prone to scratches. The camera also does not have a cover, or any protection. When the phone is placed flat on the back, the camera is also touching the surface of the table. Same for the front panel too. Keep the phone upside down on a table, and the it will end up rocking from side to side on the screen, and scratch it in the process!
The build quality of the phone is very good, and the combination of plastic and stainless steel works well to give it a classy look. The strip of chrome looks good, but you will have to prevent it from getting worn off by sweaty hands, particularly in the summers. However, the design makes it a little difficult to keep it scratch proof, at least as far as the camera and the display, are concerned!
Features: A little less conventional
It has become a norm for all handset manufacturers to wrap the Android OS in a skin (also known as User Interface), which allows them to differentiate their phone from those of the rivals. For example Motorola has the MotoBlur and HTC has the Sense. The one which Acer uses in called Breeze, and the Liquid Metal has the version 4.0 of this UI. When you unlock the phone, you have to quite literally turn a page to head into the menu! If you do not turn the page at this stage, swiping right or left on the screen will take you into multiple screens for the widgets. However, interestingly, you cannot add or remove any widgets at this stage. For this, you need to head into the menu and open the Widgets app. The top panel has the message indicator. While that indicator is hidden away nicely most of the time, the moment there is a new message in the phone, it lights up to let the user know.
Once you move beyond the lock screen, you head to the home-screen which has a very different look to it, from the traditional ones we have seen. The notification bar, which is traditionally on the very top of the screen, is in the middle, with two layers of app icons below it. However, when an app is open, this notification bar shifts to the bottom of the screen. First, the inability to customize the home screen is annoying. Why can the users not increase or reduce the number or apps visible here? Secondly, just for the sake of customizing the look, what is the point of completely inverting the tried and tested? The notification bar at the bottom is just uncomfortable and disconcerting.
With multiple social networks streaming in regularly, unifying them is a very good idea. Blackberry introduced the Social Feeds app in the OS6, which offers the Facebook and Twitter updates within one app. Acer has the SocialJogger app, which does the same. This app is extremely convenient, and something all smartphone manufacturers should tweak into future Android customizations.
Performance: A mid-field runner, at best
The Liquid Metal is powered by an 800MHz Scorpion processor, which does start to run out of power, if multiple apps are open. While the phone has absolutely no problems with the conventional phone use and opening individual apps, the limited processor power will create a problem if you have multiple apps open. You may need to install an Advanced Task Manager to kill apps which may be unused, but still be open in the background. When competing against the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S (S-LCD version) and slightly more expensive HTC Desire, the processor limitation does put the Liquid Metal at a disadvantage.
The 3.6 inch screen has a resolution of 480×800 pixels, which keeps the display crisp and vivid. This is great, particularly if you want to view videos on the phone. However, the on screen keyboard is a bit of a pain to use. In portrait mode, in addition to the cramped layout, the curved design of the phone makes it quite difficult to type. Switch to landscape mode and things improve a lot. Not only is the curve less perceptible in the landscape mode, but the more spaced out layout allows for faster and relatively spelling mistake free typing. The cramped keyboard, in portrait mode, is because Acer has tried to fit in too many function keys in one screen, reducing the space available to the QWERTY keys. The touch response, on the whole, is very good and sure. A touch based command will get you the desired response, all the time.
The Liquid Metal has the Dolby Mobile sound enhancement. This is to allow a richer audio listening experience, be it for music or videos. The bass and treble levels can be set to desired levels, and a preset equalizer can be selected as well. The audio quality does get a huge boost with Dolby switched on. However, the phone’s built-in speaker does not do the feature any justice whatsoever. Hook up a high quality headphone set, and this is when you will get to hear the real impact of the bass.
The 5MP camera does a pretty good job, considering the fact that it’s a phone-based camera. This one did well during the day, and even managed to produce pictures very good pictures in low light conditions as well. The ISO settings had a lot of impact on the picture quality, something which is not as visible in some smartphone cameras. The videos can be recorded at 720p HD resolutions, with no motion blur or jerky frames. Quite good for a camera in a phone, we must say.
The call quality offered by the Liquid Metal is quite good. The earpiece does very well when it comes to audio volume and clarity. Even in a noisy environment, there was no problem in hearing what the person on the other end of the line was saying. Same goes for the speaker and the hands free. However, if the cellular signal drops to 2 bars, the audio tends to break quite a bit. This is a problem we faced whenever we entered a lift or went into a basement.
The battery life of the Android phones has never been a strong point. If the phone lasted a day, it was superb. However, the Liquid Metal lasts more than a day, in the load of normal phone use- bit of calls and a few SMS exchanged. The constant data syncing from the web does have its impact on the battery life. It’s best to keep any apps which are not used often on manual sync mode, to prevent battery drain. The memory card is also placed next to the battery, and the battery needs to be removed every time you want to remove the memory card.
Our Take: New is not necessarily better
With the Liquid Metal in comparison to the HTC Desire and the Samsung Galaxy S (S-LCD version), it is a case of the new is not necessarily any better than the smartphones which were launched sometime back. The Galaxy S and the Desire may elicit feelings of boredom, ‘seen-it’ and ‘too old’ but they are overall better performers. While the Liquid Metal has a good build quality, a highly customized Breeze UI, a good camera and good battery life, the other two have a raw performance advantage which cannot be matched by this effort from Acer. Buy the Liquid Metal if you are taken in by the looks and the Breeze UI only! However, in the same price bracket, you can get more powerful, albeit slightly older, phones. The Galaxy S (S-LCD version) and the HTC Desire may be the ones to really consider. If you want to look at a smartphone outside the Android ecosystem, then the Samsung Wave-II and the Nokia C7 will be really good options, in a similar price bracket.
For a price of just a tad more than Rs 20k, the Liquid Metal relies on its good build quality and unique design to attract buyers. Other than that, it tends to run out of steam if you open multiple applications in the background. Also, the main rivals, HTC Desire and the Samsung Galaxy S have a definite power and performance advantage.
Quad Band GSM networks; 3G capable; 4G capable; 800MHz Scorpion processor; 3.6 inch display; 480×800 pixels; 5MP camera; 720p HD video recording; MicroSD up to 32GB; Wi-Fi/Bluetooth; Android 2.2 preinstalled; Breeze UI; 1500mAh battery
Price: Rs 20,500
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