Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
Acer Iconia W4 Windows 8 tablet
Acer's 8in Iconia W4 Windows 8.1 tablet is a decent unit overall, but was a little problematic during our test period
- Decent overall performance
- Good button layout
- Long battery life
- Reflections can get annoying
- HDMI output didn't work properly
- Some reliability issues with Wi-Fi
Acer's Iconia W4 Windows 8.1 tablet has a lot of good features, but it wasn't well behaved during our test period. It gave a us a couple of frustrating problems that didn't all go away after restoring. Looks like it needs some updated drivers if it's to become a serious player.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
The Acer Iconia W4 (model number EE6) Windows 8.1 tablet may not look as attractive as some of its competitors, such as the Dell Venue 8 Pro or the Toshiba Encore, but it puts more of a focus on function, rather than form. It runs a current generation Intel Atom CPU, has a vibrant screen, and its button layout is a little better, in our opinion, compared to some of the competing Windows 8.1 tablets. But it's not without its quirks.
With an 8in screen that has a native resolution of 1280x800, the Iconia W4 is the same form factor as the Dell Venue 8 Pro and Toshiba Encore. It's a tablet that many of you will be able to hold in the palm of your hand due to this size, although it is a little bigger than other tablets such as the Dell, and also slightly heavy (420g).
We had no problems handling this tablet, and we think that its design overall is very decent for a Windows 8.1 slate. Sure, it probably looks a little bland, especially because it has a dull grey back, and a 9mm grey bezel at the bottom of the screen (when held in portrait orientation), but the bezel holds the Windows Home button and acts as a marker regarding where all the other buttons are on the tablet. You know immediately where the Windows Home, power and volume buttons are because of this bezel, regardless of the way you are holding the tablet (especially at night). With tablets such as the Dell Venue 8 Pro, it can be hard to tell which way you are holding it and where the buttons are.
You get a power button at the top of the screen (when held in portrait orientation), and it's kept well away from the volume buttons, which are on the right side. We like this spacing as it means you can't accidentally switch off the tablet if you are fiddling around for the volume buttons. Other features include a Micro-USB port for charging and plugging in OTG (on-the-go) capable USB sticks (such as the ones from Imation, Verbatim, and SanDisk); there is a Micro-HDMI port, and also a microSD card slot (it supports up to 32GB). Stereo speakers are located at the bottom, but they are easy to block and don't sound great anyway. Plug in some headphones if you want to listen to music (or connect to a Bluetooth speaker like the Braven 855 Series).
We will point out that we had trouble making use of the HDMI output on this tablet. We used a multi-head adapter that we purchased from Officeworks, and connected it to a Samsung 40in TV, as we do with all devices that we test. The Iconia W4 tablet detected our TV, but it defaulted to extending the display on the TV, and would not allow us to duplicate the contents. On a tablet, extending a screen is not very useful since you can't drag content onto the second screen without having an external pointing device attached. We restored the tablet and re-updated it without any luck in getting this feature to work properly.
Other features of the Iconia W4 include front (2-megapixel) and rear (5-megapixel) cameras, dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. You can easily use this tablet to stream music from services such as Google Play Music, and listen via a Bluetooth speaker or stereo system at the same time. In fact, as an interface for Google Play Music, we think the Iconia W4 is ideal.
The screen has a decent level of brightness, and it can be seen well from all angles. However, it has a glossy finish, like most tablet screens, so reflections can end up driving you nuts. The level of brightness isn't high enough to minimise reflections in all instances. Touch input was accurate for us, and we had few problems getting the tablet to react to our needs, whether we tapped on icons in the centre of the screen or window control buttons near the edges of the screen. Performing tasks such as swiping through photos and Twitter streams was a comfortable experience.
On the inside, the Iconia W4 has a typical configuration. It features an Intel Atom Z3740 quad-core CPU with a 1.33GHz frequency, 2GB of RAM, and a 64GB solid state drive (with a 51.9GB formatted capacity). It's a tablet that performed swiftly for typical, everyday tasks, including Web browsing, viewing photos and videos, and multitasking was effortless when swiping between apps from the left side of the screen. We had no problems using full-screen, Modern UI apps for Twitter, Reddit, and others, and streaming video was also decent.
We were able to view YouTube videos, even in HD, without any stuttering. However, on Flash-based streaming services such as NBA League Pass, the Iconia W4 dropped a few frames, which made the viewing experience less than stellar. The Toshiba Encore has so far performed best in that particular test.
The overall swift performance of the tablet can, in part, be attributed to the fast solid state drive, which recorded a read rate of 166.9 megabytes per second (MBps) in CrystalDiskMark, and a write rate of 65.28MBps. These are almost double what the Toshiba Encore and Dell Venue 8 achieved in the same tests.
In our battery life test, in which we maintain a connection to a Wi-Fi network, maximise the screen brightness, and loop a locally stored video file, the Acer Iconia W4 lasted for 7hr 54min. This is a great result that beats out both the Dell Venue 8, and the Toshiba Encore. You have to charge the tablet using a microUSB cable and a wall adapter, which can make it hard to use the tablet while it's being charged, and charging can take upwards of three hours.
While our overall experience with this tablet was an enjoyable one, there are some things about it that were problematic for us. We had to restore it and update it a couple of times during our test period, mainly to see if we could eradicate issues such as a wobbly Wi-Fi connection, and a screen that would sometimes flash brightly (only momentarily) at seemingly random times.
The restoring got rid of the flashing almost entirely (we did notice it one more time after updating), but the Wi-Fi was still a little wobbly, which meant we had to toggle Airplane mode on and off to re-connect in some cases. The chip in the tablet is a Broadcom 802.11abgn and we used it on a couple of different routers (a Linksys EA4500, and a Belkin AC1800) that gave similar experiences. Add this to the HDMI output issue we experienced, and you could say that the Iconia W4 is need of some refinement, especially when it comes to its drivers. With updates to make the Wi-Fi more stable and the HDMI work properly, this could end up being a great little Windows 8 tablet.
It comes pre-installed with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013, and there is an optional keyboard and case you can purchase to make the most of it.
It costs $499 in Australia, and $649 in New Zealand.
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