Acer Stream review

Android 2.1 lands with multimedia credentials and 720p HD video

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Acer take a stab at smartphone supremacy

An unlikely force to be reckoned with in the smartphone market, Acer has set its sights on HTC and Samsung, the creators of the current Android boasting powerhouses the Desire and Galaxy S, with its latest high-end offering, the Acer Stream.

Going heavy on the multimedia elements, the Acer Stream has put itself directly in the firing line of competition from the similarly speced Motorola Milestone XT720 and Samsung Galaxy S, both of which, like the Stream, are 720p HD video touting, Android 2.1 handsets. Much like the original Milestone, Acer has forgone the UK’s network providers and made the Stream available exclusively SIM-free via the online retailer eXpansys ahead of its launch on August 9th.

Check out our hands-on gallery of the Acer Stream here

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Aesthetically the Acer Stream is an attractive handset that wouldn’t look out of place mixing it up with other top speced smartphones. Sleek and stylish around the front, the Stream is, let down considerably by the rubbery plastic backing that deducts from its high-end looks and makes it feel disconcertingly light and flexible in the hand. Despite this lack of rigidity and the handset’s minimalist 11.2 mm thickness, Acer has managed to give the Stream a large and cumbersome feel through its added width and bulbous corners.

Acer Stream: Multimedia

Released by Acer as a “high-end multimedia smartphone, optimized for watching movies, listening to music and enjoying web browsing” you would rightfully expect the Stream to be a strong multimedia contender of mobile entertainment. Fortunately you won’t be disappointed.

Whilst the Stream’s 720p HD video recording capabilities are clearly one of its crowning characteristics with fluid footage and strong sound quality, the 5.0-megapixel auto-focus packing camera that accompanies it is not too shabby either. Disappointingly, however, the handset’s camera capabilities do not stretch to an accompanying flash meaning low light and indoor photography is decidedly average and strictly limited with sedate, lifeless colour contrasts.

Another issue with the Acer Stream’s photographic and video capabilities can be found in the outlandishly small and awkward shutter button found along the device’s right side. Whilst keeping the phone’s sleek, flowing design in check, the camera’s shutter button could deter the use of the Stream’s otherwise impressive camera and video recorder package.

With a HMDI port snuck into the side of the device’s body, such visual delights can be crossed over to user’s home TV setups, as can HD quality video footage from the phone’s on-board camera.

The Stream’s audio qualities on downloaded music and video content are highly impressive even with the in-box pair of generic Acer headphones, thanks to the handset’s Dolby sound. Through the Stream’s lacklustre on-board speaker music and film dialogue is tinny and lacking any discernable qualities, through the headphones, however, watching a film on the 3.7-inch AMOLED display becomes a joy for both visual and audible senses.

You would image that all this power-supping high-end goodness would be a severe drain on the Stream’s battery. Surprisingly however, the Acer Stream stands up reasonably well on the power front. Whilst the battery does appear to handle frequent use better than some handsets such as the daily charge iPhone, you would still be safer putting it on charge over night or risk it cutting out during a second day’s full, extensive use.

Acer Stream: Performance and design

The Android operating system varies between handsets, even within the same editions of the Google operating system. Skinned with Acer’s custom touch, a swipe to the right brings up gallery content, while a slide to the left brings up a very useful recent history. Eight customisable icons sit at the base of the homescreen and you swipe up to access the full menu. Unfortunately you can only customise the lock screen, and only with the widgets Acer wants you too, this is far too restrictive and far less intuitive then HTC Sense.

Thanks to the 1GHz Snapdragon processor crammed inside the Stream’s shell, Acer has created a handset that is on the nippy side opening apps rapidly with navigation and smooth, seamless breeze.

The device’s 3.7 inch AMOLED display handles bright sunshine with very few issues only appearing washed out in the very brightest of light. The screen’s multi-touch capabilities handle commands such as the basic pinch to zoom function with minimal effort.

The virtual keyboard options on the Stream include a full QWERTY, traditional mobile handset configuration and there’s a mash-up middle-ground also in the fray. All are comfortable to the touch, spacious and easy to navigate although slightly slow to respond on occasions and with a predictive text system that at times decides to take its own, seemingly random tangent.

The Stream’s high-end multimedia credentials are reflected in its price which, unlike the handset itself, is not on the light side. At £399 the Acer Stream is £100 cheaper than what is arguably the market leading smartphone at present, the Apple iPhone 4 but is by no means on the fringes of being a budget Android handset like the HTC Wildfire.

For anyone after a high-end mobile multimedia experience the Acer Stream is a perfect fit. While the Stream is a strong handset, despite having a spec to rival the cream of the smartphone crop such as the HTC Desire, the user experience is far less intuitive, but ultimately it lacks that killer wow factor necessary to take it to the top.

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Specifications

OS: Android 2.1
Processor: 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon
Storage: 2GB, microSD expandable
Screen: 3.7-inch AMOLED WVGA touchscreen
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11, Bluetooth 2.1, 3.5mm,
Camera: 5.0MP with auto focus
Video: 720p HD
3G Talk time: 5 hours, 400 hours standby
Dimensions: 119.5 x 63 x 11.2 mm
Weight: 126g (with battery)
Battery: Li-Ion 1400mAh
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