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Acer Stream review

Barry de la Rosa
1 Nov 2010
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
344
inc VAT

A powerful, up-to-date Android phone, but its large AMOLED screen is disappointingly dim.

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Specifications

Android 2.1, 3.7in 480x800 display

Acer's first Android smartphone, the Liquid, was good-looking, powerful, and ran the latest version of Android. However, it wasn't offered on contract by the major mobile networks in the UK, and so probably passed most people by. Despite a 3.7in AMOLED screen, 1GHz processor and Android 2.1, the networks have passed up the new Stream too. Thankfully you can get it free on contract from third-party retailers, such as Expansys.

It’s not the most stylish phone we’ve seen, but Acer has kept it down to a slender 11mm. As well as the usual Home, Search, Back and Menu buttons, there are also three physical buttons underneath that control music or video playback. Holding the phone in landscape mode to watch a video, these controls are easily accessible, and if you're listening to music with the phone in your pocket, it's easy to pause or skip tracks.

There's a metal strip around the screen that feels durable, and the rubberised finish on the rear of the case makes it easier to grip and hides greasy fingerprints. It feels sturdy, and as well as the usual ports – micro USB for charging and data transfer and a 3.5mm headphone jack - you also get a micro HDMI output. It's a fun extra for quickly sharing home movies and snaps on an HD TV.

Acer Stream

There's no cover to keep the camera lens clean, and no flash either. It performs poorly in low light, and suffers from the usual phone camera ailments: lots of noise in dark areas, and lots of artefacts due to aggressive noise reduction. It's OK for Facebook snaps or videos, but falls well short of even cheap compact digital cameras.

Acer has installed a heavily customised interface on top of Android 2.1, though it leaves the option of switching back to vanilla Android. The software has some clever ideas, and fits nicely on top of the usual sliding home screens with widgets. We liked the Recent Apps screen and the fact that multiple, horizontal-scrolling application trays can be created to break-up apps into meaningful categories.

Some of the third-party apps are silly and pointless, such as urFooz, a social avatar creator. Others are more practical, like the Twitter client Twidroid, but with a healthy selection of alternatives on the Market, it’s hardly essential. It's not all bad, though: a Media Server app lets you browse files on your DLNA-enabled network, and NemoPlayer, an alternative to Android's Music app, also gives access to Aupeo!, a German clone of Last.fm that has a decent selection of music. The media playback control buttons only worked with the Android Music app. Sound through the headphones is great though, thanks to the inclusion of Dolby Mobile technology – with music sounding as if it's coming from beyond your headphones.

Although the screen is large and colourful, it isn't as bright as we'd like, which is surprising for an AMOLED screen. While the Galaxy S can quite easily be used on the medium brightness setting, the Stream is too dark. The microSD card is only accessible with the battery removed, so you can't hot-swap memory cards. Thankfully you get 2GB of internal memory and an 8GB microSDHC card in the box, plenty of storage for most purposes. A battery life of 20 and-a-half hours in our light usage tests is acceptable for a large-screened phone, although Samsung's Galaxy S lasted nearly 50% longer.

With an interesting selection of software and more customisation options than vanilla Android, plus some decent hardware, the Stream is a functional and powerful phone. Its pedestrian looks let it down, and the dim screen and poor camera mean it's not up to the standard of the Samsung Galaxy S or the HTC Desire. It's available SIM-free for much less, so we’ve given four stars, but on contract it really can’t compete.

Details

Price£344
Rating****

Hardware

Main display size3.7in
Native resolution480x800
Second DisplayNo
CCD effective megapixels5-megapixel
Video recording formatMPEG4, H.263
ConnectivityBluetooth, WiFi, USB
GPSyes
Internal memory2048MB
Memory card supportmicroSD
Memory card included2048MB
Operating frequenciesGSM 850/900/1800/1900, 3G 850/900/1900/2100
Wireless dataEDGE, WCDMA, HSPA
Size120x63x11mm
Weight126g

Features

Operating systemAndroid 2.1
Microsoft Office compatibilityWord/Excel/PowerPoint/PDF viewers
Email clientPOP3/IMAP/Exchange
Audio format supportMP3, WAV, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA
Video playback formatsMPEG4, H.263, H.264, WMV, Xvid
FM Radioyes
Web BrowserWebkit
Accessoriesheadset, data cable, charger, pouch, microHDMI cable
Talk time7 hours
Standby time20.8 days
Tested battery life (MP3 playback)20h 30m

Buying Information

SIM-free price£344
Price on contractN/A
SIM-free supplierwww.handtec.co.uk
Contract/prepay supplierN/A
Detailswww.acer.co.uk

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