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Review of Acer Liquid mini (E310)

Live photos of Acer Liquid mini

Contents:

  1. Package
  2. Design and Materials
  3. Dimensions
  4. Controls
  5. Screen
  6. Camera
  7. Battery Life
  8. Performance
  9. Connectivity
  10. Navigation
  11. Software
  12. Bottom Line

Package:

  • Smartphone
  • Battery1300 mAh
  • microUSB cable
  • Charger
  • Headset 3.5 mm
  • Manual
  • Memory card microSD (2 GB)
  • Case

Sooner or later all Android manufacturers shift their accents from top models to the budget segment just like HTC and Samsung that started with expensive models only and then smoothly shifted to the medium and low price range, and just like Acer. Except Acer has had inexpensive robots before Liquid mini but this phone is an exception Ц Acer did not simply create another Android but expanded the Liquid family that used to offer only phones in the higher than medium price range.

Acer Liquid is fresh blood for cheaper Acer phones: it features Acer UI interface that only top Acer phones used to have, agreeable looks and a few other traits. Let us now have a look at it.

Package

Besides the smartphone itself, the cable and the charger in the box you will also find wired headset with an answer button, a memory card with a navigation application and a case. All these accessories are quite simple and require no comments Ц the pictures will suffice.

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Design and Materials

When working on Liquid mini the developers obviously tried to keep the recognizable traits of the Liquid family or at least so it seems. Liquid mini does in fact remind you of its elder brothers: both the original Liquid and Liquid Metal.

Acer Liquid

Acer Liquid Metal

Acer Liquid mini

This smartphone will be available in five colors: jet silver, royal blue, piano black, light pink) and lime green. I would rather call the latter the hue of baby poop but lime green certainly sounds better. The color diversity is, I think, a good thing Ц manufacturers today do not often use the simple trick of offering different colors for some reason.

The body of Liquid mini is almost an exact copy of the original Liquid except the screen is almost flat and without a curve. The body is made of plastic with a silverfish cover resembling that of notebooks. The plastic is regular and not glossy which is good Ц fingerprints are almost invisible on it. The screen, of course, catches a lot of fingerprints but this is a problem of any touchscreen.

The assembly quality is ok Ц no complaints here, all the body parts fit perfectly Ц the interstices are minimal, the battery panel that occupies the whole rear side of the smartphone stays solidly in its place.

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Dimensions

Acer Liquid mini is a bit more compact than the original Liquid and its derivatives:

  • HTC Desire – 119 x 60 x 11.9 mm, 135 g / 4.7 x 2.36 x 0.47 in, 4.76 oz
  • Acer Liquid Metal – 115 x 63 x 13.5 mm, 135 g / 4.52 x 2.48 x 0.53 in, 4.76 oz
  • Acer Liquid E – 115 x 62,5 x 12.5 mm, 135 g / 4.52 x 2.46 x 0.49 in, 4.76 oz
  • Apple iPhone 4 – 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm, 137 g / 4.53 x 2.3 x 0.37 in, 4.83 oz
  • Acer Liquid mini – 110.4 x 57.5 x 13 mm, 109 g / 4.35 x 2.26 x 0.5 in, 3.84 oz

The smartphone feels solid in hand only if your palms are sweaty the phone gets slippery due to the smooth plastic of the body. As for the rest I have no complaints: it does not weigh a lot so your hand won't get tired if you talk a lot. You can fit Liquid mini into practically any pocket of your outfit or your backpack.

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Controls

Liquid mini has inherited the sensor buttons under the screen from its big brothers in the Liquid family.

There are four sensor buttons: Home (back to home screen, or press and hold to open the widget menu), Search, Back and the Menu button.

There are no accept or end call buttons. The sensor buttons are all in all are convenient and have a good bright backlit.

As well as in the previous models of the family there is no editing key in Liquid mini and there is no replacing solution that could aid you during typing. So if you mistype and need to go a few characters back you will have to place the cursor with a very accurate stroke of your digit Ц not the best solution.

Let us now look at the rest of the body. On the front side at the top there is the call loudspeaker covered with mesh and buried under the surface. There is no light sensor (for automatic brightness adjustment) or proximity sensor in the smartphone. However, when you place the phone against your ear the screen turns off. I cannot fathom how it works Ц I am not familiar with the technology they used to make it work. I can add that when it was cold (-10C) the screen sometimes stayed on during calls. For the rest of the time it worked fine and the phone turned down the screen as soon as I put it against my ear.

There are no light indicators panel (as well as in the elder models) but there is a simple single light indicator in the top right corner of the front side. It blinks in red if you have missed calls or SMS, it is solid red when you connect the phone to a PC or a charger (also when the battery charge is low).

On the top side there is the power button and a 3.5mm jack for headphone and headsets. The left side has no buttons; the right side features a volume rocker at the top and a camera button at the bottom. The volume rocker is nice: the buttons stand out for about one millimeter and are very convenient.

The bottom side has a universal microUSB slot for a PC cable or a charger and the mic.

Let's have a look at the rear side. At the top there is a 5MPix camera and the company's logo below it, at the bottom there is the ring loudspeaker covered with mesh.

The SIM card slot is under the battery. The microSD card slot is on the right side, to replace the card you simply need to take off the battery panel Ц you do not need to take out the battery or turn the phone off.

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Screen

The phone features a 3.2"in (67x45mm) capacitive TFT touchscreen with the resolution of 320x480 (HVGA). The screen has a good brightness margin, view angles are good but if you slant the phone the picture fade out a bit. There is no mirror layer like in the elder models so under direct sunlight the screen goes blind making it difficult to make out anything. The screen is protected by a plastic cover and it easily gets scratched.

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Camera

The smartphone features a 5MPix camera with a fixed focus. The camera eye is situated at the top of the rear side.

The camera interface is very simple: in the viewfinder mode you see the camera modes (photo, video) to the left, at the right top corner you see the number of pictures you can take, at the bottom there is the zoom slider. You can adjust other parameters in the menu: resolution, white balance etc. Some settings are only available in the Parameters window.

The camera supports the following photo sizes:

  • 5 ћ – 2592x1944
  • 1080p – 1920x1080
  • UXGA – 1600-x1200
  • 720p – 1280x720
  • XGA – 1024x768
  • VGA – 640x480
  • Wallpaper – 480x320
  • QVGA – 320x240

White balance:

  • Auto
  • Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Tungsten
  • Fluorescent

Effects:

  • Monochrome
  • Sepia
  • Negative
  • Overexposure
  • Underwater

Besides the above mentioned settings you can adjust 10 levels of contrast and brightness. You can set the ISO value (from 100 to 800). You cannot turn off the shutter sound, but if it really irritates you Ц you can simply turn the general sound volume to zero.

You can assess the quality of the pictures by the pictures below. In my opinion, the quality is below average. Besides, a smallest hand tremble causes significant linear distortion (you can see a lot of it on the pictures).

Acer Liquid mini has a preinstalled bar code scanner. Taking into account that the camera does not have autofocus I think the developers were just kidding. In practice the application can only recognize QR codes (the square ones) from a monitor or paper but not bar codes. So if you need a QR scanner this application will do.

Video

Video is recorded in the mp4 format (mp4v codec) at a rate of about 29 frames per second and the bit rate of about 2000 Kb/s. sound is recorded with samr codec, the sapling rate is 8000Hz. You can see the quality of recording on the sample below.

Video recording supports the following quality:

  • 480p – 720x480
  • VGA – 640x480
  • CIF – 352x288
  • QVGA -320x240
  • QCIF – 176x144

In the video mode you can only adjust the white balance. At any shooting resolution you can use zooming. But you cannot use zoom while recording Ц you will have to stop shooting to zoom in or out.

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Battery Life

The phone uses a Li-Ion battery with the capacity of 1300mAh. With a regular payload (30-40 minutes of calls, push-mail, one hour of Wi-Fi connection, 10-20 SMS sent and received) mu Acer Liquid mini worked 1.5-2 days. If you listen to music on the phone the battery life drops to just one day.

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Performance

The phone is built on the Qualcomm MSM7227 platform and it uses a 600MHz CPU. The phone features 512 MB of system memory and the same amount for storage of the preinstalled applications. However, you can install Android 2.2 or higher on a memory card so the quantity of the inbuilt storage space is not as important as for the phones under Android 2.1 or lower.

The phone easily plays videos with the screen resolution that is approximately 400x320, of course, with a preinstalled player like RockPlayer. I have no complaints about the performance speed of the phone, the interface shows no lagging.

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Connectivity

The smartphone can work in GSM networks 850/900/1800/1900) and UMTS networks (900/2100). Both high-speed data transfer standards EDGE and HSDPA are supported. You can turn wireless interfaces on and off in the settings or with the standard widget on the home screen.

Syncing with PC and data transfer work via microUSB (USB 2.0). The Bluetooth version is 2.1. The following standards are supported:

  • Audio Gateway (AG) –main headset profile
  • Audio/Video Control Transport Protocol (AVCTP)
  • Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) - Music control on a wireless headset
  • Object Push Profile
  • Generic Audio/Video Distribution Profile (GAVDP)
  • Audio/Video Distribution Transport Protocol (AVDTP)
  • Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) – stereo sound via Bluetooth
  • Hands-Free Profile 1.5
  • Phone Book Access Profile

All the main profiles are supported. My experience with a stereo headset was the same as with all the previous smartphones Ц not better or worse.

Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n). Wi-Fi module works fine Ц no issues here

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Navigation

Acer Liquid mini features a gpsOne chip on the Qualcomm platform. The phone is bundled with a preinstalled navigation app and a license for purchasing maps.

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Software

The smartphone works under Abdroid OS v2.2 (Froyo). It uses the branded Acer UI interface which I have reviewed here.

The difference is in the shifting the pop-up menu for the system tray as well as the system tray itself to the top of the screen. I have to admit Ц it is more convenient.

The issues with the dialer still remain. I will remind you that in Acer phones you cannot hide the key pad after searching for a number. The lines with numbers are large and you can only see three lines so after you have entered a few letters to start searching you could really do with some extra space to view the contacts.

The address book, however, is convenient with a scroll slider, a search button and contacts' pictures.

Acer Liquid mini as well as the elder models of the family has a few extra applications such as: nemoPlayer, Splinlets, urFooz, RoadSync and Docs To Go for documents viewing.

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Bottom Line

There are no problems with the reception quality Ц everything is on a par with modern smartphones. The sound volume of the call and ring loudspeakers is average, you can hear your interlocutor well but in a noisy environment you could use some volume margin. The same with the ringtone volume Ц you can miss a call if you are in the street or in a public transport but generally it is ok. The vibration alert is weak I only noticed it when I was testing the vibration strength. If you carry the phone in your pocket you are unlikely to feel it, even when the phone is lying on a table the vibration is hardly noticeable.

This smartphone will be soon on the market with the price tag of about $400. I intentionally skipped the Competitors chapter because there are too many phones in this price range with similar specs. So it would be simpler to enumerate the similarities and the differences of Liquid mini with the rest of smartphones. It is similar in its size, the screen resolution and the OS version. Its starting price is its disadvantage Ц it is higher than the prices of the most of its competitors with similar features (e.g. LG Optimus One for about $300).

Its advantages are Ц the agreeable looks, different colors to anyone's taste and the preinstalled navigation app with maps. With the current price tag of $400 I think is not a very attractive in the category of inexpensive robots. But if the price goes down to about $330 and I am sure it will happen (like with Acer Liquid and Liquid E later) than Liquid mini will become an interesting offer if you do not like the Korean manufacturers or you are not ready to overpay for the three lettered Taiwan brand.

Specifications:

  • Class: smartphone
  • Form factor: candy bar
  • Materials: plastic
  • OS: Android 2.2 (Froyo)
  • GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, UMTS/HSDPA 900/2100
  • Platform: Qualcomm MSM7227, 600 MHz
  • System memory: 512 MB
  • Storage space: 512MB + a microSD slot
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi b/g, Bluetooth 2.1 (A2DP), microUSB (USB 2.0) дл€ charging/syncing, 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Screen: TFT 3,2” resolution320x480 (HVGA)
  • Camera: 5 MPix with a fixed focus, video recording at 480p  (30 frames per second)  
  • Navigation: GPS on a gpsOne chip of the Qualcomm platform (A-GPS supported)
  • Other: G-sensor
  • Battery: removable Li-Ion with the capacity of 1300 mAh
  • Dimensions: 110.4 x 57.5 x 13 mm, 109 g / 4.35 x 2.26 x 0.5 in,
  • Weight: ~109 g / 3.84 oz

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Artem Lutfullin (artem@mobile-review.com)
Twitter
Translated by Robert Mugattarov (mugattarov@gmail.com)

Published — 22 March 2011

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