Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Acer Iconia W3-810 Windows tablet
Acer's Iconia W3 is an 8.1in Windows 8 tablet that could struggle to find a niche
- Battery life
- MicroSD card slot
- USB and HDMI ports
- Too small to be useful as a full-blown Windows machine
- Performance isn't great
Acer's Iconia W3 tablet will appeal to those of you who have longed for a tiny Windows 8 tablet. It's an Atom-based device with a low screen resolution and it should be used strictly for consumption tasks such as Web browsing, watching video, listening to music and viewing photos, and all preferably within the Windows 8 Modern UI.
Price$ 449.00 (AUD)
If an almost palm-sized Windows 8 tablet is something that you’ve been pining for, then Acer’s Iconia W3-810 has been designed just for you. Now we’re not sure why you would want a full-blown Windows 8 tablet that’s so small, particularly because the Desktop can be so frustrating to use even on bigger touchscreens, but we're sure that somehow, someway, some of you will be able to use this undersized Windows tablet for something.
What is has and what it can do
The Acer Iconia W3-810 is an 8.1in tablet with a low screen resolution of 1280x800. It has an Intel Atom Z2760 handling the processing tasks, which isn't a fast CPU, but it's a power efficient one. That's what's needed in a tablet that's so small and which has limited cooling facilities — not to mention something that has been designed to give long battery life. In our battery rundown test, in which we enable Wi-Fi, maximise brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the Iconia W3-810 lasted 6hr 27min, which is an excellent result for a Windows 8 device, albeit an expected one.
The tablet is only a shade thicker than 11mm, and it doesn't have any air vents nor make any noise. You can feel some warmth on the left side when the tablet has been processing video for a while, but it's not enough to become bothersome. Along with the Intel Atom CPU, the tablet has 2GB of RAM and it features a solid state drive that has a formatted capacity of 28.4GB.
When you take into account the Windows 8 system files, that doesn't leave much room to store your data. We barely made a dent to the storage of the tablet (we installed a couple of light benchmarks in the form of Blender 3D and CrystalDiskMark, and we transferred an 800MB video file to it), yet we were left with 9.12GB of space at the time of writing. Luckily, though, there is a microSD card slot at the top that can be used to expand the storage capacity. We added a 16GB SanDisk Extreme microSD card, which held our music and videos. It's a spring-loaded slot that's easy to use on a regular basis.
The overall performance of the tablet isn't great. In our Blender 3D rendering test, the Iconia W3-810 put up a time of 3min 16sec, which is basically the equivalent performance of an Atom-based netbook from a few years ago. Don't expect this device to be quick (even program installation can be slow), and don't expect to be able to do too much at once. Multitasking will only be comfortable in moderation on the Desktop, though you will be able to easily switch from Desktop applications to Modern UI applications at the swipe of a finger.
Basically, this tablet will have enough horsepower for basic Web browsing tasks, and it will also allow you to view local videos, listen to music and look at photos. You could also play some simple games on it that can be downloaded from the Windows Store — games such as Riptide GP, for example, or some basic platform games such as Agent P Strikes Back, though the frame rate will be a little sluggish, and the menu screens might also be slow. In the latest 3DMark suite, the Iconia W3 got 3508 in the Ice Storm test. For comparison, this is a little better than the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 (2279), and just shy of the 3520 recorded by the HP ElitePad 900.
Storage performance wasn't quick, with CrystalDiskMark recording a reading rate of 77.9 megabytes per second (MBps) and a write rate of 34.45MBps for the internal solid state drive. These results are typical of most Intel Atom-based Windows 8 devices. We also ran the same benchmark on our SanDisk microSD card, and it recorded 23.48MBps for reading data and 22.01MBps for writing data. On a typical Core i5-based Ultrabook with a USB-based reader, the same card usually gets about 30MBps.
We also ran some Web-based benchmarks on the Iconia W3-810 to see how it performs compared to not only other Windows 8 devices, but also against Chromebooks, and some recent smartphones. It bested the Dell Latitude 10 and the Lenovo ThinkPad 2 in the Sunspider and Octane tests, but was slower in the Peacekeeper test. We used Firefox for these tests for the sake of consistency across all devices, but the Peacekeeper score was better when we used Chrome (784).
|Benchmark||Acer Iconia W3-810||Acer C710||Samsung XE303C12||Dell Latitude 10||Samsung Galaxy Note II||Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2|
|Futuremark Peacekeeper (score)||494||1444||1157||721||586||465|
Note: the Acer C710 and Samsung XE303C12 are Chromebooks.
As for user comfort, the Iconia W3 tipped our digital scales at 489g, so it's heavier than the iPad Mini, for example, but it has slightly different dimensions to that tablet. It has more of a widescreen form factor (219x135mm compared to 200x135mm). You can hold the Iconia W3 in your palm relatively easily, as long as you don't have small hands, so it's easy to make the i'm-holding-a-tablet-to-my-ear-like-a-phone joke with your friends (it can't be used as a phone, of course, but it looks like there is a dummy slot for a SIM card that might be available on a different model). The build is solid enough and the looks of the tablet aren't bad.
All things considered, it's actually a comfortable piece of hardware to hold, though the location (and form) of some of the buttons could be better. The power button, for example, is flat and located at the top left (when holding the tablet in landscape orientation). It can be easy to inadvertently press while handling the tablet. The volume buttons are located along the top, which makes them a little awkward to access. We'd move the power button to the top and volume buttons to the side, as we think the latter would get more use.
A couple of ports are located on the left side (a micro USB port and a micro HDMI port), and the power and headset ports are on the right side. There aren't any docking options or anything else that would make this tablet useful for productivity, and if you want to plug in a USB device, you have to use the supplied dongle that breaks out into a full sized USB port, which is an inconvenience. We actually used the microSD card slot to transfer data to this tablet in favour of USB — we just found it to be an easier way, rather than digging around for the USB adapter. We also made use of Wi-Fi for transferring files (it's single-band 802.11n), and Bluetooth was used to stream music to our stereo (though it's a better experience to just use a phone for this sort of task).
The screen isn't a good one. It has a low resolution and it has a coating that makes it constantly look like it's dirty. Its colours are okay, but only if you look at the screen from an angle that doesn't get affected by a reflection. It's also a capacitive touchscreen with support for five simultaneous input points, but it's not a very responsive tablet overall when it comes to touch.
Too often we had to tap on links and icons multiple times in order for our touch to be recognised. It made for a frustrating user experience. Most frustrating of all was the screen showing us that our initial tap had actually been made (we could see the little grey circle appear on the screen as we tapped it), yet the system didn't actually carry out the task that we intended. It seemed to be a problem with either precision or processing, and it was noticeable mostly when using the Desktop to install programs, and also while using Web browsers such as Firefox and Chrome.
Furthermore, the overall browsing experience was usually slow on those Web browsers unless the particular Web site we were on was basic and carried few heavy elements. For example, even browsing YouTube was a slow and frustrating experience, with sluggish scrolling performance, and with delayed full-screen and full-screen-exit actions. Frame rates were generally good for the most part, meaning everything that what we loaded was watchable, though there was some noticeable stuttering at times when we watched sports clips.
The overall Web browsing and video streaming experience was better when we used the Modern UI version of Internet Explorer from the Start screen. This is something we've commented on before when using Windows 8 tablets, and it's not just due to the better performance exhibited by the browser, but also because the on-screen keyboard pops up automatically when you tap on a text field to enter a URL or user credentials for a site (you have to invoke it manually when using a browser through the Desktop). Furthermore, you can use swipe-right and swipe-left gestures to navigate back and forth. You sometimes have to wait a couple of seconds for a page to load properly when using these swipe gestures, but that's not unique to this tablet.
After using this tablet for a week or so, we've come to the conclusion that it's way too small and its resolution is too low for it to be of any real use as a device on which to run Windows programs for productivity. Furthermore, it's only just passable as a device on which to browse the Web and consume media. In fact, we'd prefer an Android tablet or the iPad over the Iconia W3 (and most other Atom-based Windows tablets) for those sorts of tasks.
You should only consider this tablet if you plan on spending the majority of your time using the Windows Modern UI, or if you want something that will allow you to stream videos from your LAN without too much effort. Otherwise, trying to use the full-blown Windows Desktop on this tablet like you would on a bigger tablet or on a laptop, could end up being a frustrating experience.
Other features include two cameras (front and rear), and stereo speakers.
Other Windows tablet product reviews
• Toshiba Portege Z10t hybrid Ultrabook
• Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2
• Dell Latitude 10 tablet
• HP ElitePad 900 G1 tablet
• Lenovo ThinkPad Helix convertible Ultrabook
• Microsoft Surface Pro tablet
• ASUS Vivo Tab RT Windows Tablet
• Microsoft Surface RT
Windows 8 laptop reviews
• Dell Inspiron 15R-5521 touchscreen notebook
• Acer Aspire S7-392 Ultrabook
• Apple MacBook Air (2013)
• LG Z360 Full HD Ultrabook
• ASUS N750JV 17.3in notebook
• Acer Aspire V7 ultra-thin notebook
• Toshiba Satellite P50t-A013 touchscreen notebook
• Panasonic Toughbook CF-AX2 convertible Ultrabook
• Acer Aspire R7 convertible notebook
• HP Envy 17 notebook
• LG Tab-Book Z160 hybrid tablet
• Sony VAIO Pro 13 Ultrabook
• Sony VAIO S Series notebook
• Toshiba KIRA Ultrabook
• Gigabyte U2442F Extreme Ultrabook
• Toshiba Satellite P870 notebook
• Medion Akoya E6232 (MD 99222) notebook
• Dell Inspiron 17R notebook
• Acer Aspire V5 touchscreen laptop
• Toshiba Satellite P840 touchscreen notebook
• MSI GT70 Dragon Edition gaming notebook
• ASUS VivoBook S400C touchscreen Ultrabook
• Samsung Ativ Smart PC 500T hybrid tablet
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• Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro 700T (XE700T1C-A02AU)
• HP Envy X2 hybrid PC
• HP Envy Touchsmart 4 Ultrabook
• Toshiba Satellite L850 Windows 8 laptop
• ASUS Taichi 21 Windows 8 hybrid Ultrabook
• Medion Akoya S4216 (MD 99081) Windows 8 Ultrabook
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• ASUS Vivo Book F202 touchscreen notebook
• Acer Aspire S7 touchscreen Ultrabook
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