It was one of the most anticipated devices of this year's Computex: The Acer Iconia W3, the first full Windows 8 tablet to take on the iPad Mini. We finally got some hands-on time, and the results are bittersweet.
The Iconia W3 isn't just Acer's first attempt to sneak Windows 8 into the small market segment. It's also Microsoft's. But instead being a best foot forward, the tablet struggles in with both design and comfort. The finishes and materials also leave much to be desired. For $380 (32GB version) it could have been more ambitious.
The Acer Iconia W3 gives a mixed impression from first sight. The design and materials—-mostly plastic—aren't anything to brag about. The 8-inch tablet feels heavy for its size. And 12 mm may sound thin, but in a world where the iPad Mini and its ilk have trimmed down to 7.2mm thick, it's a bit chunkier than you would expect.
The Iconia W3's Intel Atom dual-core 1.8 GHz packs plenty of power and responsiveness. Applications loaded fast and navigation is instantaneous. That doesn't, though, make using Windows 8 on a small screen any more comfortable. The form factor is convenient, but the usability suffers some.
There are other positives, though, such as a free license of Office for home and students, and the opportunity to expand internal memory of 32 GB with a microSD, and an HDMI port to deliver content to TVs or larger monitors.
The trouble comes later. We can forgive the lack of USB 3.0 but it's harder to get over the screen. The colors do not stand out, and the display is poor enough to degrade the overall experience of using the tablet. We also had quite a few problems when syncing with the Bluetooth keyboard, which is its other weakness. It is lightweight and comfortable, yes, but its design screams "plastic" on all four sides. Functional but not at all attractive.
In short, the Iconia W3 is a good attempt to push Windows 8 mini-tablets, but not convincing. Materials like this and a display this weak might make sense in a $200 tablet, but we're talking about spending nearly $500 when you throw in the $90 optional keyboard attachment. For that price, you deserve better.