Acer neoTouch review: The dragon within

GSMArena team, 07 November 2009.

Unboxing the Acer neoTouch

Starting with the basics, in the retail box you'll find a charger, data cable and a headset. The headset is one piece, but you can use your favorite headphones of course, thanks to the 3.5mm audio jack. The wall charger is universal and you get market-specific adaptors - just like you would with HTC handsets. The charger connects to the phone's microUSB port.

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The neoTouch is cabled, but not quite accessorized

The retail box will also include manuals and a disk with software. Given that this is a high-end PocketPC, we were a little disappointed to see that there were no additional accessories in the box. There is no memory card - which the neoTouch certainly needs, given the 300 MB of onboard storage available to the user. A TV out cable is nowhere in sight either.

Acer neoTouch 360-degree view

For a phone that's easily in the top 5 in terms of screen estate, the Acer neoTouch size is quite friendly. It measures 118.6 x 63 x 12 mm and weighs in at 130 grams. Tiny it isn't, but the 3.8" touchscreen is a good enough excuse and the best way to prove this is putting it alongside some of the competition. The neoTouch is almost the same size as the iPhone and noticeably smaller than the Omnia HD and it beats both in terms of screen size. Yes, it looks massive next to the HTC Touch 2 but the displays are incomparable.

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Size matters: the neoTouch gets it right

Design and construction

The first thing to note - other than the huge touchscreen - is perhaps the distinct styling of the controls underneath. Not too keen on the green / red receiver convention, we quite liked the original minimalist pictograms marking the hardware buttons. The actual controls - Call buttons, Home key, Back key - are touch-sensitive and haptic-enabled.

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The four buttons on the front

Otherwise, the Acer neoTouch is not willing to go to extremes to distinguish itself from the countless touchscreen bars out there. Instead it takes a rather cautious and traditional approach to styling. The Acer neoTouch front is quite conservative with black glass framing the display and the surface of the buttons. The rest of the handset is made of glossy plastic and while it's not cheap looking, the fingerprints just love to make their home there. The whole handset was completely covered with smudges in no time and didn't look nice at all.

The glossy silver strip running the sides are the only accent and it works quite well. It's elegant and subtly emphasizes the huge display.

The Acer neoTouch display is a TFT unit, 3.8 inches in diagonal and within the limits of comfortable one hand use. The resolution is WVGA at 480 x 800 pixels - the highest any smartphone has gone so far. As far as screen sensitivity goes, the Acer neoTouch resistive unit is better than the XPERIA X1 and X2 and on par with the latest HTC handsets. We have nothing to complain about here.

Sunlight legibility is not one of its strengths though. It's far behind the iPhone and Nokia devices. Using the neoTouch in direct sunlight is near impossible, so you may want to look for some shade nearby if outdoor use is absolutely essential.

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The display looks good, but sunlight legibility lets it down

As is expected on a Windows Mobile device, the Acer neoTouch screen has 65K-color support. On a screen this size, color banding really becomes an issue. But we all know the limited color palette is not Acer's fault, but rather a limitation imposed by Microsoft. To give you a bit of background, Windows Mobile uses a 16-bit color palette (that's 65K colors) for CPU friendliness and optimal performance. We are sure it made perfect sense a few years back, but now that we have Snapdragon processors and a lot more RAM we may as well start hoping for a boost to color support. That will perhaps involve the guys at Redmond rewriting the whole OS.

Back to the neoTouch physical description, the video-call camera, proximity and ambient light sensors, along with a status LED are placed above the display on both sides of the earpiece.

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Video-call camera, proximity and ambient light sensors

On the left side of the handset you get the hardware Lock key and nothing else. The key is quite handy actually - conveniently placed for your index finger (for right-handed users).

The neoTouch right side features the volume rocker, reset hole and the camera shutter key. The camera key has a distinct half and full press and is quite responsive.

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Side controls on the Acer neoTouch

A 3.5 mm standard audio jack and the stylus compartment are at the top of the Acer neoTouch. The bottom reveals the microphone and the microUSB port, which is not protected by a cover. The phone charges via the USB port, which is quite useful as you can skip the charger when traveling if you have a computer with you.

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microUSB port and standard audio jack on both ends of the phone

Unfortunately the stylus is not active as those on the HTC devices. It would have been a really nice addition to the Acer neoTouch user-friendliness.

The Acer neoTouch rear is neat and simple - quite in line with the conservative styling of the device. There you'll find the 5 megapixel camera lens and the LED flash, along with a loudspeaker grill. The Acer neoTouch has no stereo speakers on board, but it's still not considered a standard feature even on high-end smartphones.

As there is no lens cover, the 5 megapixel camera lens is exposed to both smudges and scratches

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The loudspeaker, camera lens and LED flash

Under the back cover, you'll find a 1350 mAh battery and the SIM card slot as well as the microSD card slot. Hot-swap is enabled but a card slot placed externally on the device would've been a lot better.

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The microSD card slot is hot-swappable but under the rear cover

The Acer neoTouch can be commended on its high build quality. The all-plastic looking chassis looks and feels quite fit and durable. The rear cover holds firmly in place, no annoying creaks.

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Acer neoTouch knows comfortable handling

The Acer neoTouch weighs in at 130 grams and that's perfectly acceptable given the spacious screen. It's not a small handset but size is well atoned for by the classic, subtle styling and secure handhold. The extreme edges of the screen may be a little hard to reach for some, but the device is still pocketable and reasonably comfortable to navigate single-handedly.

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