Every phone needs an edge, and Acer is taking the original Liquid upmarket with the Liquid Metal, but based on a design that’s a year old, is it still a player?
Acer’s latest smartphone is clearly based on the original Liquid E model, but has been given a makeoveto breathe new life into the higher-end Android smartphone.
While the original Liquid was restricted to Android 1.6, a newer model did arrive later with 2.1 (but sadly with no update for the original customers). The Liquid Metal comes with Android 2.2, and like the Stream you can choose between the native Android user interface, home screen and menu or the Acer version.
Only the very daring would opt to keep Acer’s rather quirky (and that’s putting it nicely) system but given you have the option to pick and choose, I can’t really fault it. It’s a shame that the other manufacturers that heavily customise their Android offerings don’t give the same option too.
The Liquid Metal has a very premium feel to it, but there aren’t many real changes to the original Liquid model. It still looks more or less the same, with the same soft touch keys at the front, although the power button has now moved to the top. There’s a dedicated camera button on the right-hand side and a series of hidden icons at the top of the phone that will flash to show when you have new notifications. They’re not particularly bright, and some might argue that they’re in a rather odd place (to see them, you’ll need to keep the phone face down and facing towards you) but it’s an interesting alternative to a flashing LED.
The camera is still 5-megapixels, with the addition of an incredibly bright LED flash. In fact, it can over expose photos far too much if you’re not careful.
The camera interface offers up plenty of options, including smile detection and face auto-shoot, plus an image stabiliser (software) to keep things steady. It’s also one of the only handsets I’ve ever seen to allow you to manually adjust the JPEG compression level in 5% increments from 55% to 100%.
Switch to video mode and you can record at 1280×720 (HD) resolution, with options to save in H.263 or MPEG4 format.
With so many Android phones competing out there now, the Liquid Metal has probably got a valuable edge in the imaging department, although the results were spoiled a little by the amount of noise in the photos. One option that you can’t control is sharpness, and it seems that once you’ve taken a picture it is then filtered and sharpened to the point where pictures viewed at 100% will look very grainy.
But, on the flipside, when you look at the pictures on the handset display (or more likely at a reduced size), they look great.
What I wasn’t so keen on was the design of the screen which is a little too curved for my liking. It meant getting a vertical band of light reflection as you move the phone around under indoor lighting, or in the glare of the sun. The edges also feel quite harsh, as the only flat parts of the phone.
This can be forgiven when the phone performs so well, thanks to a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (clocked at 800MHz to save power) and a 1,500mAh battery that is the bare minimum on a smartphone these days. The LCD display is also bright and clear, although the ambient light sensor is perhaps a little too sensitive, raising and lowering the brightness very quickly when it was partially covered during use in a landscape mode.
The phone ships with Android 2.2, which means it has enhanced features like ‘JIT’ (Just-In-Time) compilation for apps, making them able to run a lot faster, the ability to install apps on to the memory card, plus a series of improvements to the Google Mail app, Google Maps and YouTube. The latter now makes it easier to browse through videos, read comments, share media and generally enjoy the video hosting site for whiling away the hours. But, as the phone also supports multi-touch, you might just prefer to do that playing something like Angry Birds.
There’s no indication of whether Acer will offer an upgrade to 2.3, but we’d have to hope the likelihood is quite high as there’s a dedicated ‘System Update’ app on the phone. But, there was on the original Liquid too, and users will still be bumbling along with 1.6.
If you don’t opt to use the individual social networking applications available in abundance on Android Market, Acer has its own tool called ‘Social Jogger’ that supports Facebook and Twitter.
You can also share your media with DLNA-compliant devices, picking which content you want to be shared.
For more serious work, there’s a copy of Documents To Go, while the phone also comes with Dolby Mobile support and a number of options to improve sound output via headphones on both music and video.
The other feature for Android 2.2 is the ability to view Adobe Flash content, although running at 800MHz did allow me to see the phone slow when running Flash content not designed for mobile.
In the coming months, Adobe will release a newer Flash player that talks about cutting processor usage by a staggering amount.
One more feature is the new Google backup feature, which means purchased apps will be automatically restored if you have to reset your device (or change device).
I like the Liquid Metal, but having retained the design from the original Android offering around a year ago, the phone is looking a little dated and unnecessarily big. But, if you can shop around for a good deal SIM-free, it’s a great little performer.
This is now the third handset from Acer, since the original Liquid and the basic design hasn’t changed much, besides the use of more premium materials and the screen being shifted down slightly. As a result, it’s starting to look a little dated. However, the addition of Android 2.2, Dolby Mobile, Adobe Flash support and a camera flash (with HD video recording) has given it a new lease of life. The phone isn’t as quick as some other Android smartphones (the Snapdragon processor is underclocked at 800MHz to maximise battery life) but it does still perform well.
Ratings (out of 5)