The Acer Liquid Jade is an affordable smartphone with solid performance and reasonable cameras, but it's let down by a flimsy design, average battery life and archaic software.
Decent screen, solid performance, reasonable camera
Flimsy design, average battery, poor software additions
Screen: 5.0in 1280x720 294ppi IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen
Processor: Quad-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7 Mediatek MT6582
RAM: 1GB or 2GB
Storage: 8GB or 16GB, expandable with microSD card up to 32GB
Camera: 13MP rear-facing, 2MP front-facing
Acer is one of many companies targeting the Android smartphone market. However, Google's decision to charge more than £500 for the Nexus 6 means there isn't a lot of choice at the low end beyond the Motorola Moto G.
Acer may not be the first brand that comes to mind when considering smartphones, but the Liquid Jade S55 is one of a select few handsets available to buyers on a budget. Prices start at £180.
Design and build
The Liquid Jade is designed to be as thin as possible. The phone measures 140.5x69x7.5mm and weighs a feather-light 110g.
On one hand the design is great as it makes the Liquid Jade pocket friendly and comfortable to hold. The feel is helped by the handset's pebble-like, rounded and slightly curved back, which makes it suitably ergonomic.
However, the ease of use is hampered by a few niggling factors, chief of which are the shiny polycarbonate chassis and slightly annoying physical button placement.
The Liquid Jade's physical power button lies on the top of the device, while the volume control sits on its right side. The placement of the power button on the top is a bit of a pain as it means you have to adjust your hand to reach it every time you want to wake or turn on the device.
The shiny plastic chassis is also disappointing as it feels cheap and is a magnet for marks. Just holding the Liquid Jade we found that the back soon became a mosaic of fingerprint and dirt marks. It also left us concerned about whether the Liquid Jade could survive an accidental drop.
Screen quality is always one of the first areas sacrificed when designing affordable handsets. However, the Liquid Jade's 5.0in 1280x720 294ppi IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen is reasonably impressive considering the price.
It's unremarkable when compared with more expensive handsets, but the screen looks suitably crisp and icons and text are sharp. The ppi density also puts the Liquid Jade in line with its key competition, the Moto G and Honor Holly.
The IPS tech produced consistent colour and contrast levels, which were better than the oversaturated or washed-out displays we generally see in the affordable market.
Brightness levels are adequate, but the viewing angles in regular light are slightly lower than we'd like, although this is forgivable considering the Liquid Jade's price.
The Liquid Jade's software is its worst feature, as Acer has loaded the handset with a heavily customised version of Android 4.4.2 Kitkat. Putting aside the array of features offered by the superior and newer Android 5.0 Lollipop, the Liquid Jade's custom Acer software is a mixed bag.
Key negative changes are bloatware applications, needless user interface changes and superfluous or annoying custom services.
Bloatware offenders include things like the Acer Store, camera app and messaging app, which are inferior to Android's inbuilt Play store, camera and messaging equivalents.
Another annoying change is the replacement of Android's native keyboard with a custom Swype-enabled one. Some people may like the idea of an inbuilt Swype keyboard, but we found the layout not as intuitive as Android's native keyboard and slightly clunky to use.
The only positives we noticed are the addition of a quick settings bar in the notifications pull-down menu, and a floating call alert feature. The quick settings bar adds a few new features to its native Android equivalent, such as a quick link to the phone's alarm, data use meter and flashlight app.
The float caller is a custom feature that makes the Liquid Jade show a small pop-up rather than a full screen alert for incoming calls.
Next: Performance, camera, battery, storage and conclusion