Windows 8.1 hasn't really taken off in the PC market, let alone the tablet one. Despite its lack of widespread adoption manufacturers around the globe have been experimenting with new sizes, hoping to better show off the touch-focused operating system's finer points.
The Acer Iconia Tab 8W is the latest step in the Windows 8.1 experiment and is designed to entice users to the OS by offering them an affordable, travel-friendly alternative to the sea of more popular 8in Android and iOS tablets.
Design and build
The Iconia Tab 8W has a slightly different design to past Android-powered Iconia tablets. The most noticeable difference is that the Iconia Tab 8W features a grooved, as opposed to smooth, textured polycarbonate backplate and metallic sides. It also features a reasonable selection of ports, including MicroSD, MicroHDMI and MicroUSB inputs.
While some may argue the white demo unit we tested looks cheap, we were fairly impressed with the design. As well as looking different to most tablets, thanks to its 9.8mm thickness and light 370g weight, the Iconia Tab 8W felt comfortable to hold and is suitably bag friendly.
We were also reasonably impressed with the tablet's build quality. It felt reasonably scratch and dirt resistant and left us reasonably assured it could survive regular wear and tear.
Acer has loaded the Iconia Tab 8W with an 8in 1280x800 HD in-plane switching (IPS) display. While the display's resolution isn't anything to write home about when compared with competing 8in Android or iOS tablets, we were reasonably impressed.
Thanks to the IPS tech – which works to improve the display's colours and whites by organising the liquid crystals used to create them on a fixed plate that's charged at a consistent rate – the Iconia Tab 8W's screen was pleasant to use. Colours were suitably vibrant and the display was fairly bright.
Text and icons were also crisp and generally readable. The only issue we noticed was that in certain situations text displayed on the Iconia Tab 8's screen could look slightly squashed. This was particularly true when viewing webpages in Windows 8.1's desktop mode, though being fair to Acer this is an issue for all 8in Windows 8.1 devices.
For businesses and people with productivity in mind, the inclusion of Microsoft's Windows 8.1 operating system will be a bonus. As well as having the ability to run legacy Windows applications, the OS also comes preloaded with a one-year complimentary subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal, granting users access to key productivity services such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook.
The Iconia Tab 8W isn't a powerhouse on paper and comes loaded with a quad-core, BayTrail-based 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z3735G processor and 1GB of RAM.
This means those looking to carry out demanding tasks on the Iconia Tab 8W, such as 3D gaming, will be disappointed, though considering its low price of £125 this isn't all that surprising.
That said, when faced with basic text-editing and web-browsing tasks, we didn't notice any performance issues, meaning it could still be a good choice for buyers who want a basic productivity aid or internet access point for when they are on the move.
Storage and battery
The Acer Iconia comes loaded with 32GB of internal storage, which can thankfully be upgraded using its MicroSD card slot and is powered by an unspecified battery Acer claims will offer users eight hours of multimedia use off one charge. We didn't get a chance to test the tablet's battery life during our hands on, but if Acer's projection is correct it'll be fairly standard.
While we're still not convinced Windows 8.1 works on small form-factor tablets, considering the Acer Iconia Tab 8W's low cost, it does definitely have potential and could hold some allure to buyers on a budget when it is released later this year.
Featuring a good display for its price, and what appears to be reasonable performance, coupled with one year's free access to Office 365, we can see the Iconia Tab 8W being a great choice for business buyers looking for an affordable travel companion for web access and document editing on the move. However, a big factor determining if the Iconia Tab 8W will make good on this promise is its battery life, one key thing we didn't get a chance to test during our hands on.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Acer Iconia Tab 8W.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
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