Acer Iconia W3 Preview: 8-Inch Windows 8 Tablet

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Acer boasts that its Iconia W3 Windows 8 tablet is the only to bring the desktop into one hand, and that’s because it has an 8.1-inch display that is closer in size to an Apple iPad mini than the Microsoft Surface Pro, or any other tablets running the full version of Windows 8.

Who would want such a thing? Acer is likely betting on students and traveling professionals on a budget, judging from the $380 pricetag, and the free inclusion of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013, to make no mention of the plastic, budget-minded build-quality.

Yes, the Iconia W8 feels rather cheap, and slightly creaked when TabletPCReview scored some hands-on time with the device at Computex 2013… and that’s not the worst of its problems. It’s surprisingly bulky as well, weighing little more than a pound and coming in at about half an inch thick, which may be unfair, given it does have Intel inside. An Atom Z2760 to be precise, and either 32GB or 64GB of space (no word on RAM).

But, that’s still not going to stop would-be buyers from comparing the W3 to other, thinner and more attractive tablets on the market; would-be buyers who are also likely to be turned off by the Iconia W3’s mediocre display. It’s a respectable 1280 x 800, but the picture and colors are dull and washed out. TPCR did not get a chance to adjust the brightness, but in the bright glare of the Acer Computex press conference demonstration area, the display did not hold up well.

Decent Performance

It’s not all bad, however. The W3 performed decently, and offered fluid navigation through the Windows 8 tiled UI. It opened and closed apps with little to no delay. The desktop side wasn’t as fluid, and there was a slight lag when opening up Word, a lag with which Atom-toting netbook owners will be quite familiar.

But it all worked well enough, and paired with the optional keyboard, could prove to be a viable and productive solution. This tablet has all the required ports, albeit in micro form, including microHDMI, microUSB, and microSD. Acer also claims the Iconia W3 will score “all day” battery life, or around 8 hours. TPCR takes that with a grain of salt, however, considering vendor battery claims are typically just shy of wishful thinking.

Big Keyboard

The W3 pairs with a Bluetooth keyboard case that, because it’s full-sized, is substantially bigger than the tablet. That may please typists looking for a comfortable input experience, but W3 looks silly while docked. Or should we say “placed.” The Iconia W3 simply rests in a keyboard notch, similar to an iPad ZAGGfolio. In another unique twist, the W3 slots into a nook on the bottom of the keyboard for easy transportation.

The keyboard is also heavy on the plastic, and feels cheap. The keys were mushy during a quick typing session, it does not include a trackpad, and there is no charge input. This sucker runs on two AAA batteries.

The W3 is now available for pre-order, and should ship by the end of the month. That doesn’t give Acer much time to fix its flaws, so those looking for a smaller-screen Windows 8 experience should likely wait. But those with a little money to spend looking for a modest productivity machine might want to take a closer look.

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