Today Acer visited T3 towers to show its latest computing innovation, the Acer Iconia. We use the word ‘computing’ because this device takes the physical form of a 14-inch notebook, but eschews the keyboard for dual touchscreens.
Running Windows 7 Home Premium, Acer has been working closely with Microsoft on the Iconia. We should point out early on that the sample we saw was very early and the hardware is likely to change.
What sets the Iconia apart is that it uses multitouch point technology, enabling you to customise the commands and gestures on the capacitive screens. Two commands are pre-installed on the device. Placing one palm on the keyboard brings up Acer Ring and placing two palms on the bottom screen brings up the full keyboard.
The keyboard is a good size and felt fairly responsive. Although the early engineering sample we had access too did occasionally struggle to recognise our commands.
Unlike Android which runs successfully in the Samsung Galaxy Tab and iOS on the Apple iPad, Windows 7 isn’t the as natural an operating system for touch controls. Acer’s got around this with the conception of Acer Ring, Acer’s skin and the portal to which you access the main networking features.
Acer Ring is a circular interface you flick up and down to scroll through options like: Touch, Scrapbook, My Journal, Social Networks and My Music. It also recognises whether you are right and left handed and adjusts accordingly.
You can also use it to create your own touch controls, for example a circle could launch Internet Explorer.
Social Networks lets you aggregate five feeds, including: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube, selecting how often they are updated. My Journal basically lets you organise your web shortcuts into categories, such as technology, sport, entertainment and politics. These appear as Windows which update automatically, so for example you can select the news section from T3.com and it updates automatically. Scrapbook is basically a virtual page that lets you write notes, cut out elements from web pages, by dragging.
Browsing on the Iconia felt fairly fluid, you can choose to view the web pages over either or both screens. The Acer Iconia supports multitouch, so you can pinch and zoom, however the 1366x768 14-inch screen quickly became cluttered with fingerprints, all the more obvious because it is fairly reflective.
Elsewhere the Iconia has a Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM, four USBs and one HDMI. Surprisingly there is no dedicated graphics chip. The 3-hour battery and hefty 2.8kg weight means that it’s far from portable.
Acer is positioning the Iconia as a lifestyle product, with more 10, 7 and 5-inch versions and potentially (although Acer couldn’t confirm this) on other operating systems. At the moment it’s quite hard to see who would buy the Iconia in this incarnation. While we like the Acer Ring interface, at £1400 it’s very expensive and we’re not convinced it adds enough to what is basically a Windows 7 laptop to justify the cost. Our time with the Iconia was brief, but we’ll bring you a full review as soon as possible.
Acer Iconia release date: Jan 15th, find out more from Acer
Acer Iconia price: £1500, available from John Lewis, Microanvika and various other Acer partners.