Acer neoTouch review: The dragon within
It must be sweet October for Microsoft, with the launch of WinMo 6.5 on the 6th followed by the desktop Windows 7 on the 22nd. Acer are quick to sneak into the spotlight and make the most of the primetime coverage. Their neoTouch is leading a small PocketPC fleet, all powered by 6.5.
But it's the flagship of course to focus all the attention and the neoTouch should be conscious of its task. If you want it all you need to be prepared to take it - all the glory and all the enemy fire. The neoTouch is riding on the wings of a dragon but entering a territory long claimed by others.
The Acer neoTouch is not just the next in the growing line of Windows Mobile 6.5 handsets. It's the top device of a company that's determined to enter the mobile phone game with a bang. The 1 GHz Snapdragon CPU is a great way to start and the other ingredients look quite on par: complete connectivity options, spacious high-res screen and something becoming fairly typical for smartphones these days - a 5 megapixel snapper.
Today Windows Mobile is all about handset manufacturers customizing the OS with their own proprietary interface, such as the popular TouchFLO by HTC, Samsung's TouchWiz and the LG S-Class. Acer have given the neoTouch their own homescreen, brand new Phonebook and Organizer app (called Agenda), along with a neat Preferences menu and Communication manager.
But first, let's go over what the Acer neoTouch does and doesn't do. PocketPC spec sheets are quite a reading but potential deal breakers won't be overlooked either.
- 3.8" 65K-color resistive TFT touchscreen, WVGA 480 x 800 pixels
- Windows Mobile 6.5 with Acer Homescreen, Contacts, Agenda and Gallery
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 1GHz processor, 256MB RAM, 512MB ROM (300MB user available)
- 5 megapixel auto focus camera with LED flash, geotagging, image stabilizer
- VGA video recording @ 30fps
- Quad-band GSM support
- Tri-band 3G with HSDPA (7.2Mbps) and HSUPA (5.76 Mbps) support
- Wi-Fi with DLNA technology
- Built-in GPS with A-GPS functionality
- microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
- FM radio with RDS
- Bluetooth and USB v2.0
- 3.5mm standard audio jack, TV-out functionality
- Ambient light sensor, proximity sensor for screen auto turn-off
- Accelerometer sensor for automatic UI rotation
- Smart dial
- Office document editor (but no PDF viewer)
- Full Flash support in the web browser (IE)
- Top-notch audio output quality
- Not enough user interface customization
- No camera lens cover
- Poor photo and video quality
- microSD slot is under the back cover
- No DivX/XviD video support out-of-the-box
- No navigation software, even Google Maps is not preinstalled
- No active stylus
- High-gloss body panels are a fingerprint magnet
- Poor ringing volume
The neoTouch is the first Snapdragon device we're reviewing but the bigger debut is Acer themselves. Since February 2009 - when they made headlines at the Barcelona WMC - Acer have released 4 handsets all in all that have no corresponding entry in the Eten glofish lineup. (It was the acquisition of Eten that put Acer on the mobile phone map.) And we're looking at one of them making a strong claim to challenge the big ones in the PocketPC game.
The Acer credentials as leading laptop manufacturer will have the neoTouch - and the phones to follow - held to a rather high standard. We're dealing with a debut but it looks bold enough at least on paper. And we won't mind another keen compatriot rivalry along the lines of Samsung and LG. Of course, HTC are well ahead at this point but Acer look like they should be taken seriously.
But much like every other Windows Mobile smartphone out there, the Acer neoTouch has it strong and weak points. You can be sure we will explore both of them, on the pages to follow.