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Acer neoTouch

Acer phones that we received in the past weren’t particularly good and had nothing great to offer, especially when compared with the competition, who are really fighting tooth and nail. Phones by Acer seemed to be a halfhearted attempt by the manufacturer. Today, we have the Acer neoTouch with us which seems to be more in touch with the competition around it and Acer has equipped it accordingly. For starters, there is the blazing fast 1GHz Snapdragon processor, which is currently the fastest processor on mobile phones. The neoTouch also has a large high resolution touchscreen display. It also comes with the full range of connectivity features and runs on Windows Mobile 6.5. Let us see how this one performs.

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Bundle:

  • Acer neoTouch
  • Battery
  • Charger
  • Headset
  • USB cable
  • User Guide

The bundle of the phone was rather disappointing. We did not find any memory card in the package and the neoTouch doesn’t exactly come with a large amount of memory built-in. There was also not any TV-out cable, something that you always find on high-end Nokia phones. There was also no carry case for the phone and the provided headset was also of average quality.

Design & Build:

The Acer neoTouch has fairly attractive design. The large screen on the front does make it look like a premium handset. Still it is quite simple and there is no way you would be able to tell that it is running a powerful 1GHz processor underneath, thanks to its unassuming design. It is very glossy though, and cleaning it is a full time job that you’d sign up for when you buy this phone.The phone is also very prone to attracting scratches as can be seen on the rear cover of our test unit.

The front side is mostly dominated by the large 3.8″ display. Above it is the earpiece and the status LED. Below are four touch sensitive keys for Call, End, OK and Back function.

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On the left side is the power button near the top. On the right side are the volume control keys and the camera shutter button below. On the top is the 3.5mm headphone jack and on the bottom is the microphone hole and the miniUSB port.

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On the back, you can see the camera lens near the top with the single LED flash. The loudspeaker for the phone is also nearby.

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One complaint I have with the phone is that it looks a bit too plasticky. A bit of metal or at least some matte plastic would have made things look a lot better. Acer should take some lessons from HTC on how to design a good looking smartphone.

The build quality of the phone was fine. It did not creak or groan even under pressure and generally felt like a solid, well put together device. The dimensions of the device were also quite acceptable and the thickness in particular was quite low, which meant the phone was comfortable to hold in the hand or slide down the pocket.
Under the hood, the Acer neoTouch runs a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It has 300 MB user memory and 256MB of RAM. You can expand the phone memory with microSD cards. The phone supports up to 16GB of cards.

Display:

The Acer neoTouch has a 3.8″ resistive touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixel and can display up to 65k colors (restricted by the operating system). Being resistive in nature, the touch response is not on par with phones having capacitive touchscreen. It also throws things like multitouch gestures out of the window. Having said that, the touch response isn’t too bad.

As for the actual picture quality, the display fares pretty well, both indoors and outdoors. Once again though I must say they we are smitten by some of the OLED displays that we see these days, like the one on the Samsung Omnia HD or the recent Nexus One.

Software and Applications:

The Acer neoTouch runs on Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional. To make the OS a bit more usable, Acer has added their own Home screen, which places nine shortcut icons on your home screen. Acer has also added a new Preferences menu, which places all the important settings in one menu for easy access without having to dig through the menu. Unfortunately, that’s the extent to which Acer’s customization options extend to. Compare this to HTC s superlative Sense UI, Acer’s efforts don’t even register on the meter.

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The main menu has all the icons arranged in a grid of icon. New applications are added to the list. In the new 6.5, Microsoft has added kinetic scrolling so moving around is now less of a pain. There is one annoyance though. Whenever you go into an app and then close it, the phone goes straight to the home screen instead of the main menu.
Acer has a new contacts application which lets you scroll by sliding your finger on the letters on the side and contacts starting with that letter are displayed on the side. On the application front, the neoTouch only comes with a handful of built-in apps. You get Internet Explorer as the browser and unlike HTC Acer has not provided Opera Mobile as an alternative. Instead they have worked a bit on the Internet Explorer to improve its usability. You get Office Mobile for opening all your Office documents, but there is no PDF reader. On the social networking front, the neoTouch offers only a Facebook app and there is a YouTube application for streaming videos. Strangely, there is no navigation app for utilizing the built-in A-GPS; not even Google Maps. Windows Marketplace icon is prominently displayed on the Home screen, but it is not pre-installed and the phone first downloads the app when you click on it for the first time and then takes you to the store. The phone comes with two games, Bubble Breaker and Solitaire.

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Connectivity:

The Acer neoTouch is a quad-band GSM handset, It also supports 3G and HSDPA up to 7.2Mbps. Furthermore, it has GPRS/EDGE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth v2.1, A-GPS and USB 2.0.

We did not experience any issues with the network reception or call quality. The phone earpiece was loud and the callers were heard clearly. The phone loudspeaker was quite meek though and the ringtones were often not heard clearly. Even the speakerphone performance was below par.

The phone supported SMS, MMS and email. Acer has improved upon the standard Windows Mobile keypad with their own slightly bigger version, which is much more convenient to type on. Still it is not as good as the one on the HTC phones though and you often end up pressing adjacent keys and there is no auto-correct option as well. Turn the phone on its side though and it suddenly becomes a lot better in its landscape mode and you can type comfortably on the phone. You can also use the handwriting feature, which works pretty well.

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Acer has done some improvements to the Internet Explorer browser, and it shows. It is much more usable than its stock version. They have added a new skin with rounded buttons that pop-up from below. The browser supports kinetic scrolling, which is quite smooth. You can also double tap on the screen to zoom in or use the slider to do the same. The browser also has full Flash support, so you can actually view YouTube videos right on the web page itself. Also, thanks to the accelerometer, turning the phone around shifts the orientation to landscape mode. Page loading speeds are acceptable (although not as fast as Opera Mobile) but the page layout can go really wrong on some pages. Overall though, even with its improvements, we would still prefer to use Opera Mobile.

Multimedia:

The Acer neoTouch has a 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus and flash. It can also record videos in up to VGA resolution at 30 FPS. The camera does not have any lens cover mechanism and leaves it out in the open for all the fingerprints and scratches that it can get.

The camera software is shamefully basic, with just a handful of settings available for the user to change. Compared to this, the settings on Samsung Omnia HD or the Sony Ericsson Satio can rival those on a digital camera in comparison.

The quality of images is decent but not too great. We would have definitely liked better quality images from a premium handset like the neoTouch, especially when cheaper phones like the Nokia 6700 or the Nokia N86 8MP perform much better. Even the video recording quality was average.
To view the images on the phone, the neoTouch comes with two image galleries. First is the default one found in Windows Mobile phones and second is by Acer. It too has a fairly simple interface but offers some niceties such as flick scrolling, zooming and slideshow feature. You can also rotate the phone to view the images in landscape mode.

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Unlike some of its previous phones, Acer has not equipped the neoTouch with any other music player apart from the default Windows Media Player. WMP has a very limited format support and can play only MP3, WMA and WAV files. The audio quality was quite poor with flat bass and tinny sound. The loudspeaker was even worse and seemed to have buried itself somewhere deep within the phone and could barely produce enough sound to be heard even in a quiet room.

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WMP fares equally badly at playing videos. There is no support for formats like DivX or XviD. Installing a third party software, we were able to playback 700MB DVD rip files with ease. Attempts to play back HD files were foiled as the videos weren’t smooth enough for watching comfortably.

Battery Life:
The Acer neoTouch has a 1300 mAh Li-Ion battery. With Wi-Fi on all day, the neoTouch gave us one full day of battery life. Without Wi-Fi, we could see the figure stretching to about one and a half day of usage.

Verdict:

The Acer neoTouch is priced at Rs. 32,500. When you spend that kind of money on a mobile phone, you expect it to do your laundry and bring your kids home from school. But sadly, the Acer neoTouch doesn’t do any of those nor does it do any of the things that some of its competitors manage. It’s biggest selling point is the 1GHz Snapdragon processor, which is pretty amazing but not enough to make you jump up and go out to buy the phone.
The neoTouch lacks the multimedia capabilities of phones like the Samsung Omnia HD or the convenience of a slide out QWERTY keyboard on the Nokia N97 or the wow factor of the HTC HD2. It doesn’t even come close to matching the sheer awesomeness of phones like the Nexus One or the Apple iPhone 3G. The neoTouch has little to demand your attention and as such, we would suggest you give this one a miss, especially when you have so many other better phones to focus your attention on.

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