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Acer Jade Primo and Windows 10 Continuum review – hands-on

Acer Jade Primo Continuum dock

We try out Acer's new top-end Windows 10 smartphone, complete with Continuum

Acer first announced its Windows 10 Jade Primo smartphone at IFA in September, and its event today in Taiwan was our first chance to go hands-on with the device, which includes Windows 10 Continuum.

The smartphone, which Acer has placed at the very top of its smartphone roster, will be available “soon” according to a representative I spoke to, although I overheard another stating that it’d be out before the end of the year.

Thin and light, the handset is one of Acer’s best-feeling to date.  Made of a black brushed metal, Acer proudly says there are no straight edges on the body of the device, with curves on all the edges and at the rear. In reality, it’s comfortable to hold and while the styling is hardly groundbreaking, it’s not ugly, either. The most notable physical design feature is the large, round speaker grille at the bottom of the rear of the device.

There’s a 5.5in AMOLED screen with a 1,920×1,080 pixel resolution, and while it’s not the highest-resolution screen around, this is slightly mitigated by the neat, square Windows 10 interface. I couldn’t find any jagged or blurred edges when reading text in menus or in the Edge web browser, which is about all you can ask for. Windows 10 also benefits greatly from a vibrant colour palette, and under these controlled event conditions it looks fantastic, with viewing angles as wide as you’d expect from a top-end smartphone.

Acer Jade Primo screen

The rear-facing 8-megapixel camera was under pressure in the slightly dark lighting of the demo area, so while I wasn’t particularly blown away by the slightly grainy image I was able to take with it, I’ll have to reserve judgement on camera performance for our Labs benchmarks.

Opening apps and scrolling through Windows 10, performance felt a little juddery, but I’ll put this down to it being pre-production hardware; I’d be very surprised if the performance was juddery in the final version, which will be powered by a hexa-core, 1800MHz  ARM Cortex-A57.

Hands-on with Windows 10 phone Continuum

The Jade Primo’s killer feature, though, is Windows 10 Continuum. A bespoke dock has been created for the phone; a black glossy plastic affair. Dock the phone in and you now have a tiny PC with two USB2 ports, a USB3 port and an HDMI output. Plug in a keyboard and mouse and you’re ready to go.

No dock? No problem. With built-in WiDi, you can also connect the Jade Primo to any monitor or adaptor that supports it. Activate Continuum, and instead of having to use a keyboard and mouse to control the Windows 10 desktop, you can use the Jade Primo’s touchscreen as a touchpad to navigate around. Tap on a text box, and the keyboard on the phone pops up, allowing you to enter text as you would normally.

You can continue to use the smartphone as normal even when Continuum is active; simply press the Windows button to go back to to the home screen and you can use your phone’s apps while the Windows 10 desktop remains on screen.

Acer was only demonstrating wireless units at its event, which meant I was relying upon a monitor with an Intel WiDi adaptor hooked up to the HDMI port. Overall performance, therefore, suffered from a fair amount of input lag – I reckon at least half a second. This means you’re unlikely to want to use wireless Continuum for extended periods or precision work. What I really liked was the ability to use the two-finger gesture to scroll up and down documents and web pages. I’d have loved to have a go with Continuum on a more permanent setup using the docks and an HDMI connector, but it wasn’t available.

Aside from input lag, overall performance in Continuum wasn’t particularly fast. I loaded up Expert Reviews’ fairly challenging home page and it was at least 10 seconds before the page loaded in its entirety. Once loaded, though, things were fairly smooth.

The Jade Primo’s success will depend on its price. Microsoft’s in-house Lumia 950 and 950 XL will be tough rivals, but with a very different design thought process, Acer’s Jade Primo is a distinct device, not “just another” Windows smartphone.

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