Acer Stream review: White water rafting

GSMArena team, 03 August 2010.

Rich retail package

The Acer Stream retail package is one well stuffed Christmas stocking. The supplied charger has a changeable plug. There’s only one suited for the relevant market, but if you buy other plugs you won’t need travel adapters. The box also contains the usual one-piece headset, a data cable and manuals.

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We like it when phones don’t travel light

We’re delighted to find some valuable goodies inside too: an 8GB microSD card with an SD adapter (which combined with the 2GB built-in memory makes for 10GB, not bad), and a microHDMI cable for pairing your Acer Stream to an HDTV. This is more than welcome since these are much rarer than regular HDMI cables.

And last but not least, there’s a carrying case in the box as well. It’s not leather or anything fancy, but it will still do a good job of protecting the screen and camera lens.

Here's an unboxing video we did recently:

Acer Stream 360-degree view

The overall shape of the Acer Stream is just how we like it – big high-res touchscreen (3.7”, WVGA) and slender frame. Measuring in at 119.5 x 63 x 11.2 mm it’s about as big as the other 3.7” Snapdroids out there.

At 140 grams of weight, it’s not the lightest around but part of that weigh comes from the stylish metal frame around the display. Anyway, the Stream is pretty standard fare when it comes to big touchscreen phones and portability isn’t an issue.

Design and construction

Like all touch phones, the Acer Stream is designed around the screen. There’s a metal edge running around the display’s covering glass. It’s not much but it does improve the feel of the phone.

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Acer Stream meets the competition

But there’s more to it than pure looks. The display glass holds the standard four Android keys: the Home key is an actual button, the other three are capacitive. The metal frame in turn is where the multimedia keys are placed.

The multimedia keys are at the very bottom of the phone, so they’re not too comfortable to use when holding the phone upright. But when you turn the phone landscape everything clicks into place. They are much more comfortable to use with your thumb, even when you’re holding the phone in one hand.

In landscape mode, the Acer Stream makes a pretty credible multimedia player. And a good multimedia player needs a good screen – the Stream boasts a 3.7” AMOLED capacitive touchscreen at 480 x 800 pixels.

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The screen is big and pixel-rich but poorly lit

The AMOLED screen has some issues though. It’s dim even at the brightest setting and the contrast is disappointing. Images appear washed out – certainly not as vivid as you’d expect on an AMOLED screen.

Unsurprisingly, under direct sunlight the display becomes near illegible. This is a common AMOLED flaw, made worse here by the low screen brightness in this particular case.

The sensitivity of the touchscreen is generally good, though we suspect the software is not very well tuned. The screen can register very light taps, but it takes quite long swipes to detect the gesture – and the custom Acer UI uses thumb sweeps a lot.

Below the screen are the four standard Android keys. The Home key is physical and easy to find by touch. It’s flush with the screen glass but it’s nice and solid to press. The other three keys are capacitive and give haptic feedback (actually, the Home key is haptic enabled as well). The Home key acts as a notification light too, pulsing in white to alert of new system events.

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The two sets of keys on the Acer Stream • earpiece, ambient light and proximity sensors on top

Below the Android controls are the three media keys. Nothing surprising here – a play/pause button in the center, skip keys at the sides. As we said earlier, they are not comfortable to use when holding the phone vertically (say, changing the currently playing track, but they’re pretty good for watching landscape videos).

While we’re on the topic of keys, let’s discuss the controls on the sides of the Acer Stream. There’s the power/hold key, the volume rocker on the left and the shutter key on the right. They are all thin knobs – quite thin really.

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The power/hold key and the volume rocker are on the left • Camera key on the right

That’s OK for the power/hold key, it should not take accidental presses. But having a shutter key that’s barely bigger than the hold key is no good – especially when you need to half-press it to lock focus.

The right side of the phone also features the microUSB and micro HDMI ports. They are covered by a single plastic flap. The micro HDMI port looks a lot like the microUSB port and it’s just as easy to plug the cable in. The supplied cable is micro HDMI on one end and the other is the more popular regular HDMI. The port can output photos and videos at up to 720p resolution to a HDTV.

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The microUSB and micro HDMI ports

The top of the Stream only hosts the 3.5mm audio jack. The bottom is sparsely populated too – there’s just the mouthpiece.

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The top and bottom sides of the Acer Stream

The back of the handset features the 5 megapixel camera lens and the loudspeaker grill. Right next to the camera, there’s a secondary microphone for video recording. There’s only one loudspeaker.

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The 5 megapixel camera lens and loudspeaker grill at the rear

The camera lens is unprotected, so the carrying case comes in handy if you want to prevent scratches.

The microSD card slot is under the rear cover, but you need to remove the battery itself to access it. The battery is a 1400mAh unit, which is said to keep the phone going for 400 hours of standby or up to 5 hours of talk time.

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To access the microSD card slot you need to remove the battery - no hot-swap is not so hot

The build quality of the Acer Stream is great and the metal frame makes it seem even sturdier. It’s also very good at hiding fingerprints, as is the matte plastic on the back.

While we don’t have any issues with the build quality, we question some of the design decisions. Not being able to hot-swap the microSD card is one thing, the uncomfortable shutter key is very disappointing too. The media keys make sense in landscape mode but design-wise they make the front panel somewhat too overcrowded.

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The Acer Liquid held in hand

Other than that, the Acer Stream is very well made and looks quite attractive without being too flashy. It feels comfortable both in the hand and in the pocket.