The high-end smartphone space is dominated by premium brands like HTC, Samsung and LG, with a smattering of different form factors and screen sizes ranging from the standard 4-inch Samsung Nexus S and to the relatively bigger 4.3-inch HTC Desire HD. To really make an impact in a market that’s dominated by high-profile brands and devices, you need to be a little bit different. The Acer Iconia Smart is certainly that. Sporting a massive 4.8-inch, 480×1024 resolution capacitive sceen, the Iconia Smart is an imposing smartphone, at least physically.
In a time where smartphones are shedding hard keys and moving into touch-sensitive controls, the Iconia Smart does the opposite. Housed directly below the gigantic 4.8-inch screen lies the home, search, back and option keys.
The volume rocker and camera shortcut keys are all located on the right side of the unit.
The left side holds the USB slot that pulls double duty as a USB charging port and the HDMI out port if you want to export video to your HDTV.
There’s an eight megapixel camera located on the back, as well as a smaller secondary camera on the front. The whole thing weighs in at a hefty 185 grams – which is a bit heavier than your average smartphone. Some may see this is a negative, but I actually didn’t mind the added weight as it gave the unit a bit of heft. Of course, your mileage may vary. The battery is located at the bottom of the unit, and Acer seems to have taken a few design cues from HTC’s unibody devices when it comes to accessing the battery. You have to take off the bottom cover first, and then open the compartment via a small latch to access the battery.
The Iconia Smart uses Google’s Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS with UI enhancements courtesy of Acer. The unlock screen slightly differs in that you’re presented with 3 initial home screens that you can scroll through without unlocking the phone – great for checking how many unread SMS messages and missed calls you’ve received, checking to see what track is playing and so on. As with anything on Android, that screen is customizable.
Once you’re past that, you get 7 home screens that you can customize depending on your needs.
The first and seventh screen has Acer’s own quick-access solution that acts like a mini-rolodex of sorts for your media (music, photos and video) for the first screen and websites in the case of the second.
The Iconia Smart is powered by a 1GHz Qualcomm MSM8255-1 Snapdragon Scorpion processor. While I was slightly disappointed that something this large wasn’t powered by a dual-core procie, the performance of the unit made up for it – the device was pretty quick, and it was capable of decent graphics. To scientifically gauge performance, we ran a couple of benchmarking tools on the Iconia Smart – Neocore, a graphic benchmarking tool, AnTutu, a system benchmark that stresses the entire phone from graphics to memory, and Quadrant Standard, which gives another benchmark perspective into the performance of the phone.
Because of the unique size of the Iconia Smart, the Neocore benchmark only ran in the maximum 480×854 resolution, and not the 480×1024 the screen was capable of. Nevertheless, the Iconia Smart came in at a zippy 57.6 FPS.
For AnTuTu, the results were 1992, which were decent.
Quadrant Standard on the other hand, gave the Iconia Smart 1480 points, which was a bit higher than what the benchmark gave the Nexus One on Android 2.2.
For something that has a huge screen, battery life wasn’t as bad as I’d initially thought. The Iconia Smart needed a sip at the end of every workday (with moderate to heavy use), but considering the screen size I think that’s pretty good. Call quality was good.
Two issues stop me from recommending the Iconia Smart to Android freshmen. Ironically, its biggest appeal is also its biggest stumbling block: size. While the Iconia Smart is easy enough for someone like me to use, anyone with dainty hands (which constitute a majority of Filipinos) is in for rough ride. It’s mainly a personal thing, and as such your mileage may vary. Sound isn’t as loud as I’d hoped, which is a major let down since the device sports Dolby Mobile sound enhancement. The huge screen is such a nice place to view movies, unfortunately the disappointing sound makes headphones a necessity if you want to hear what the actors are saying.
The Acer Iconia Smart is a nice take on Android, and its distinct size and features make it stand out against the myriad of other devices currently in the market. Unfortunately there’s still no word on local pricing, or when it’ll be available for local consumption.
Large, 4.8-inch capacitive touchscreen
Large screen makes it a natural for watching movies
Good performance, ok battery life
Large screen makes it a challenge for people with dainty hands to use
Sound could be better
The Acer Iconia Smart is certainly different, and if you don’t have issues with a large screen, it just might be your next Android smartphone.