Acer Liquid Jade Z review
Processor: Quad-core 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6732, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 13 megapixels, Storage: 8GB (4.7GB), Wireless data: 3G, Size: 143x70x7.9mm, Weight: 110g, Operating system: Android 4.4
The reasonably priced Acer Liquid Jade Z was one of our favourite smartphones from MWC 2015. Its snappy MediaTek processor looked to be much faster than the similarly priced 2nd Gen Moto G, it was incredibly thin at 7.9mm, and light at just 110g – making it one of the more attractive entry-level phones we've seen in some time. Now that the incredible £125 Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 has arrived, however, the Liquid Jade Z needs to do something special to make the same impression now as it did back in March.
Fortunately, Acer’s choice of processor goes a long way to help set it apart from the competition. The quad-core, 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6732 and 1GB of RAM help the Liquid Jade Z punch well above its weight, rivalling mid-range handsets such as the EE Harrier, HTC Desire 820 and even the LG G4.
An impressive score of 698 in the single core Geekbench 3 test, for example, puts the Liquid Jade Z on equal footing with the LG G4 and a fraction ahead of Vodafone’s Smart Ultra 6. This is incredibly quick for such a cheap phone, and we certainly appreciated the lighting fast response when browsing through menu screens and swiping through the app tray. Multicore performance was a fraction slower than its Qualcomm-based rivals at 1,945, but this is still extremely fast considering the price.
Web browsing was equally slick, as indicated by the Futuremark Peacekeeper score of 823. This is faster than both the G4 and Smart Ultra 6, putting the 2nd Gen Moto G’s 494 to shame. We could see the difference in day-to-day browsing, too, as pages load quickly with hardly any signs of stutter while scrolling.
The only disappointment was sub-par graphics performance; the handset repeatedly failed our offscreen Manhattan test in GFX Bench GL. We've seen this happen before on MediaTek processors, as their GPUs simply can't keep up with their Qualcomm counterparts. However, this won't be too much of a problem if you're only running simple 2D games, as titles such as Threes and Alphabear ran perfectly fine. It will struggle with more demanding games such as Blizzard's Hearthstone, though, as the frame rate dipped on multiple occasions during testing.
You'll want to minimise the time you spend playing games on the Liquid Jade Z, though, as its 2,300mAh battery life only lasted 8h 19m in our continuous video playback test with the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2. While this is probably just about enough to get you through the day, it's still almost two and a half hours behind the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6, which lasted 10h 51m under the same conditions.
This is a shame, as we were hoping the Liquid Jade Z's smaller 5in 1,280x720 screen would be more energy efficient than Vodafone's 5.5in Full HD display. Still, both phone displays are roughly the same when it comes to overall image quality, as our colour calibrator showed the Liquid Jade Z was displaying 84.7% of the sRGB colour gamut, the same as the Smart Ultra 6. In the Liquid Jade Z's case, warm coverage was the screen's weakest area, so colours aren't quite as vivid as we might have hoped.
That's not to say the display isn't pleasing to the eye, as its low 0.24cd/m2 black levels and great 1,360:1 contrast ratio provide plenty of depth and detail. However, with a low peak brightness of 338.05cd/m2, you might struggle to see the screen clearly outside unless you turn the brightness up to its highest setting.
You'll probably want to take advantage of the microSD card slot on the side of the phone, as there's only 4.7GB of its 8GB storage is actually available to the user. This isn't helped by the dozens of apps that come pre-loaded on the phone either - we had to spend some time uninstalling the Acer's numerous apps and widgets. Otherwise, Acer’s version of Android KitKat is largely the same as vanilla Android. While there’s no sign of Android 5.0 just yet, Acer's told us that an OTA update will be on its way shortly.
Unlike other budget phones, the Liquid Jade Z has a 13-megapixel camera on the rear of the handset. Outdoors, we were generally quite pleased with the quality of our images. Colours were bright and there was plenty of crisp detail, although shadows tended to be slightly too dark for our liking. HDR mode brightened things up considerably, though, so we'd recommended turning this on if you find shadows becoming a little too heavy.
When we took the phone indoors, though, images started to become noticeably noisy and grainy, even under bright lighting conditions. It also struggled to focus occasionally, making indoor shots suitable for social media uploads only.
^ Colours were bright and vivid in our outdoor shots (above), but indoors (below) we saw lots of grain when we dimmed the lights
Camera issues aside, though, the Liquid Jade Z is definitely one of the best Acer phones we've seen in recent years. Its snappy processor is just as fast as the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 and its 5in screen looks just as good. However, when the Smart Ultra 6 is £5 cheaper (albeit on Vodafone's PAYG service) and throws in a lot more phone for your money, including a 5.5in Full HD display, more storage, a better GPU, better battery life and a more versatile camera, the Liquid Jade Z just isn't as good value.
|Processor||Quad-core 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6732|
|Front camera||5 megapixels|
|Rear camera||13 megapixels|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||microSD|
|Operating system||Android 4.4|
|Price SIM-free (inc VAT)||£130|
|Price on contract (inc VAT)||N/A|
|Prepay price (inc VAT)||N/A|