Acer Stream review: White water rafting
GPS and Google Maps
The Acer Stream’s GPS receiver got a satellite lock in about three minutes with A-GPS turned off. A-GPS will speed this up quite a bit, but data charges may apply.
It comes as no surprise that Google Maps come preinstalled. Unfortunately, voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation by Google Maps still has limited availability.
Even without proper drive navigation, there is some kind of guidance: your route and current location appear on the screen so you'll reach your destination eventually, but you’ll need a co-pilot to read you the instructions for that one.
Quite naturally, the app also supports the Street View mode. In fact, this mode is probably the best part of Google Maps. If the Street View is available in the area you're interested in, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the surroundings. When the digital compass is turned on it feels like making a virtual tour of the location.
The Acer Stream doesn’t come with a third-party SatNav solution preinstalled but you can easily snatch one off the Android market. There are both paid and free options on offer.
It's getting nasty at the top of the Android league. A bunch of big bad Snapdroids jostling for the pole position isn't quite the company you want to be in. Unless, of course, you're a big bad Snapdroid yourself.
It's not like Acer didn't know where it's going and we think they deserve credit for the courage to try. Their Stream will be running against some of the most compelling devices on today's market. Acer is a brand with solid credentials but on this one they will be competing against the best in business.
Samsung are the standard-setter for multimedia in mobile phones and HTC made the first Android device. That should be enough to grasp the scale of the challenge for Acer.
So, how are they handling it? Not bad at all actually - and that was a pleasant surprise. The handset looks good - we wouldn't call it hot but the Stream is mature and convincing. The well-stocked retail package is quite tempting too. 1GHz Snapdragon, 512MB RAM and ROM with 2GB of additional inbuilt storage, a 3.7" AMOLED WVGA touchscreen - these are all the right ingredients to put the Acer Stream up there with the best Android phones. Not to mention it is likely to handle further upgrades (Froyo, Gingerbread) with ease.
The home-brewed UI is a solid custom job. Acer was in a mood to experiment it seems and the end result is quite positive. The Touch 3D UI was a nice surprise compared to the Acer Liquid, which barely tried to customize the Android interface.
So, Acer wanted to make sure their top Android phone doesn't feel underdressed and underpowered among celebrities. There's some impressive competition waiting and success isn't simply a matter of features and performance - it very much depends on how the phone will be marketed too.
The I9000 Galaxy S is Samsung's most powerful Android smartphone and perhaps the most popular droid lately. The breathtaking four inches of Super AMOLED display is the most compelling feature, but the solid 5-megapixel still imaging, generous inbuilt storage of 8/16GB, DivX/XviD support and high-res video recording make it a powerful multimedia machine.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 has the older Donut (Android OS v1.6) and its price is steep. The X10 is still quite a catch though. It has a Snapdragon inside and a bigger screen too. The real edge over the Android rivals however is the 8-megapixel autofocus camera and the unique TimeScape UI. If the Android Donut is your only concern, you should know the ?clair update is on the way (along with 720p video recording update).
The recently launched Motorola MILESTONE XT720 is the QWERTY-less sibling of the original MILESTONE. Typing is not its forte but imaging is quite impressive. The XT720 has an 8 megapixel camera with xenon flash, 720p video recording at 24 fps and an HDMI port. The screen resolution equals the XPERIA X10, but the processor is slightly underclocked - a 720MHz ARM A8 Cortex.
Finally, the Eclair pioneers - the Google Nexus One and the HTC Desire - are still big enough to upset the cocky newcomer. Both devices boast AMOLED screens, 1GHz Snapdragon processors, 5 megapixel cameras and the latest Froyo upgrades enable 720p video recording. The Desire should be a bit cheaper than the Acer Stream already and has even greater customization with the HTC Sense UI.
So, there is a long enough list of potential enemies and the Stream will have to tick all the boxes to stay afloat. There is enough in this phone to entice users we think but it's obvious Acer still have some catching up to do. Android is already probing the 8 megapixel boundaries, while the Stream isn't anywhere near convincing in the imaging department. Its AMOLED screen is below the usual standards and the HDMI output has its limitations. Although we liked the Acer 3D UI, it still isn't as elaborate and deep-reaching as HTC's Sense.
But let's be fair here. Acer was only recently feeling the Android water, now they're swimming with the sharks. The rate at which they're evolving compares to the speed at which the Android market share is growing. Acer would've been stupid not to want a piece. Phones like the Stream show the company won't simply play along - it will try and make a splash out of their Stream.