The Acer Iconia W3 was referred to as the most important Windows 8 Tablet. With its compact size, light weight, Windows 8 compatibility, free Microsoft Office software, and low starting price of $379, the Acer Iconia W3 is well positioned to compete with the likes of the iPad and top Android tablets. Does this Windows 8 Tablet deliver the goods? Please read my Acer Iconia W3 review to find out.
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Acer Iconia W3 Unboxing and Set Up
Inside the box you will find just the Acer Iconia W3 itself, the AC power adapter, the snap-on adapter plug (which can be exchanged for international plugs), plus the typical accompanying documentation. The Acer W3 comes completely covered in plastic, ensuring that the screen and surfaces are well protected. Be certain the remove the plastic covering the power adapter and plug.
The Acer Iconia W3 I purchased arrived charged with enough juice to allow me to turn on and set up the tablet. I was able to connect to my home WiFi network and log into the device using my Outlook.com account with no problems. Upon first testing the tablet, I noticed some glitches in using Internet Explorer. For instance, the browser would get stuck after scrolling a bit on Yahoo.com. Another glitch was related to the Acer W3’s WiFi. First I observed getting one 0 or 1 bars, then I became totally disconnected from my home router. Other nearby devices were still connected to the router fine. Already, we were off to a bad start!
I saw that there were Windows updates available for the W3 and proceeded to update the tablet. I’m happy to report that the Internet Explorer glitches and the bad WiFi performance I observed appeared to be resolved by the update. Long story short, perform a Windows update on the Acer Iconia W3 A.S.A.P!
Acer Iconia W3 Hardware
Inside the Acer Iconia W3 is an Intel Atom Z2760, dual-core processor running at 1.8GHz. The tablet comes with 2GB of ram which is not user upgradable (I’d love to see someone try 🙂 ). Acer gives you the option to choose between 32GB or 64GB of storage. Note that since the W3 comes with a Micro-SD card slot, you can always upgrade the storage later if you choose. See a complete list of specs here.
The tablet seems to be well constructed and solid. It’s encased in plastic. I wouldn’t call it cheap but it’s definitely not premium. There’s no flex, and I don’t get the sense that the tablet is fragile in any way. In fact, I’ve already dropped the tablet from a knee high distance (doh!). It survived without any issue. 🙂 If you plan to buy the Acer Iconia W3 for a kid, I think this tablet would work out fine. Consider getting the protective case for it, however.
After using the tablet for a while, I didn’t notice some warmth in my left hand. I definitely wouldn’t call it “hot” but the heat is definitely noticeable.
Acer Iconia W3 Display
As others have reported, the Acer Iconia’s screen isn’t the greatest. Viewing angles are limited and the screen reflects a lot of light. Forget about using this tablet in direct sun light. Its 1280 x 800 resolution seems smallish by today’s standards. The display is easily the most hate-able attribute of the Acer Iconia W3. I’m left with wondering if another $100 would improve the quality of the screen without impacting battery life. If so, I’d definitely pay it. I wouldn’t call the low quality screen a show stopper though. If screen quality is important to you, I suggest you consider another tablet. However, as I will cover at the end of this review, the Acer Iconia W3 has some positive points that will outweigh the bad screen, in my opinion.
The touch interface is responsive, although, occasionally the tablet did not register a finger press. As I mentioned, I did notice some glitches in the touch interface when initially using the device, especially in Internet Explorer. The glitches seem to be resolved after running Windows Update. I found that I was able to easily use the on-screen keyboard in both landscape and in portrait mode. I have big hands so your mileage may vary. 😉
As I would expect with an inexpensive tablet, the sound coming from the external speakers is tiny. The sound was much better when listening to music via headphones. I’m not an audiophile so your mileage may vary. Note that when you use the tablet in landscape orientation, the speakers are both located on the right edge of the device. Also note that I didn’t have any problems locating the external volume controls.
Acer Iconia W3 Ports and Connectivity
Acer Iconia W3 comes with a micro-HDMI port, micro-USB port, and micro-SD slot. To make use of the micro USB port with standard USB devices, you’ll need a purchase a micro USB adpater. The W3 also includes a headset jack.
The Acer W3 includes 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. I read that the WiFi performance wasn’t that great. Upon initially using the device, I lost total connectivity to a WiFi router located just two rooms away. Sitting right next to the Acer Iconia W3, my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and Kindle Fire HD were still connected fine. After performing a Windows Update, the Acer W3 has yet to lose another connection to my router. While I haven’t had any more issues, I can definitely agree that the WiFi performance is a weak spot for the W3.
I haven’t used Bluetooth with the Acer W3 yet as I have yet to received the Bluetooth keyboard (Grrrrr…. Office Depot!!!). I’ll update this section after I try the keyboard and other BT accessories.
As previously mentioned, the Acer Iconia W3 runs Windows 8. Thus it can run many of the desktop applications you already use. This includes applications such as Microsoft Office and iTunes, plus applications you may use at work or at school. Of note, Microsoft Office Student edition is included for free with with the Acer Iconia W3. This adds to the overall value that this tablet provides.
While compatibility with Windows 8 and Windows 7 gives the W3 a huge advantage over the iPad and Android tablets, expect to experience some useability and compatibility issues with all Windows tablets. Using legacy applications not optimized for touch can be a challenge if you don’t have a keyboard and mouse near by. This becomes especially noticeable when you attempt to select or click small objects while using the desktop mode. The included 2GBs of ram may also prohibit the use of some desktop applications.
Acer Iconia W3 Performance
I’m sure there’s one question everyone has about the Acer Iconia W3: How does it perform? In the sections below, I assess the Acer Iconia W3’s performance in a series of use cases.
Launching applications on the Acer Iconia W3 is definitely slow. Just launching the weather app takes several seconds, which to me seems pretty bad. However, once an application is running, switching between applications is really quick. Note that launching applications on my Intel Core i5 based Acer Iconia W700 is slow as well. This slowness has to be attributed to the operating system or to the applications themselves. A weather app shouldn’t take several seconds to launch! Hopefully this performance issue gets resolved over time.
I really enjoy using Internet Explorer on this tablet. It was a few steps slower in loading Yahoo Movies than the Acer Iconia W700. However, I don’t think anyone would consider web browsing on the Acer Iconia W3 as slow. The best thing about the browser? Unlike the iPad, the Acer W3 flash compatible! Thus, browsing my favorite sites on the W3 is the same as when I surf the web on my desktop.
I visited YouTube while using Internet Explorer, plus I downloaded the MetroTube app from the Windows Store. Nothing much to report here. I was able to play videos in full screen without any issues. I did have some trouble trying to press the minimize button while in full screen.
Watching HD Videos
I downloaded some HD movie trailers and they played without a hitch via the included Video app. I like the how when you press the start button while a movie is playing, the movie will pause. Toggle back to the Video app and the movie resumes. I definitely see using the Acer Iconia W3 as a media consumption device, especially when accompanied by a micro SD card loaded with movies.
I Installed Jetpack Joyride. It took several seconds to launch but once the game started, I didn’t notice and slow down or glitching. I also installed Cut the Rope, a game that requires a responsive screen to get the highest scores. In my unscientific test, I believe touch input on my Acer Iconia W700’s screen was more accurate and reliable versus the Acer Iconia W3.
Acer Iconia W3 Battery Life
Acer estimates the Acer Iconia W3 battery life to be eight hours. Typically when OEMs provide such estimates, I immediate subtract an hour or two to guestimate the device’s real world battery life. After using the device for several days, I’m happy to report that the Acer Iconia W3 battery life is AT LEAST 8 hours. I have been using it off an on for the past 24 hours and it still has juice. While I plan to perform some exhaustive testing of the battery, I think it’s safe to say that the Acer Iconia W3 provides all day battery life with mixed usage. How long will it play videos or play games? I’ll let you know in a future post.
Other Things to Consider
As you decide on whether or not to buy the Acer Iconia W3, here are a few other things to consider:
- Unlike some tablets, there’s no stylus digitizer pen available for the W3.
- The optional keyboard doesn’t include a trackpad or pointing stick, which may impact useability.
- Using legacy Windows 7, Vista, and XP apps will be a chore without a keyboard and mouse.
- I suspect most tablet users would be happier with an iPad or Android tablets at this point, mostly due to the availability of popular apps, as well as niche apps.
- The cost of the Acer Iconia W3 plus the optional keyboard is more than what you can pay for a better equipped laptop.
- With new second generation Windows 8 tablets on the horizon, it might be a good idea to wait a while a month or two before you buy any Windows tablet.
Acer Iconia W3 Review Rating and Buying Advice
The Acer Iconia W3 is a solid device. It offers some compelling features such as Windows 8 compatibility, free Microsoft Office, and a low price for a Windows tablet. My favorite features are its long lasting battery and flash compatible browser. I think the W3 is a great for couch surfing as well as for media consumption. This tablet would make an excellent addition to your collection of computing devices.
The Acer Iconia W3 does offer some compromises however. The low quality screen may be a show stopper for some people. Its WiFi radio isn’t the greatest. It shares the same problems all Windows 8 tablets have- a lack of compelling Windows 8 touch apps and a desktop mode that is not touch friendly. Ultimately I think the Acer Iconia price, free Microsoft Office, and long battery life can help most people overlook its shortcomings. Before you purchase one, visit your local Staples or Office Depot and try it out for yourself.