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Acer Liquid Leap review

Tom Morgan
21 Feb 2015
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
61
inc VAT

An inexpensive, cross-platform Smartband, but the Liquid Leap is frustrating to use

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Specifications

Pedometer: Yes, Heart-rate monitor: No, Display: Yes (LCD touchscreen), Battery life: Five days

Acer’s first attempt at a wearable is a budget-friendly smart band that might not set pulses racing with its design or limited feature set, but it does have one advantage for smartphone fence-sitters; the Liquid Leap will play nicely with both Apple and Android smartphones. 

Design 

With its simple looks, rubberised plastic construction and monochrome LCD display, the Leap is an undeniably plain device. The only bit of visual flare is a strip of brushed metal across one side of the screen, but this makes the whole unit seem unbalanced. It also doesn’t do anything, and feels just as cheap as the underlying plastic.

The Leap is only available in one fits-all size, and the strap isn’t interchangeable, meaning you can’t mix and match colours or seek out an alternative band if the original breaks. Our white review unit got rather grubby after a few weeks of constant use, although the black model may fare better over time. Our biggest irritation is the awkward push-pin strap, which is very awkward to fasten with one hand. On more than one occasion it fell off our wrist because we hadn’t fastened it fully.


Screen

For the most part, however, you’re going to be paying more attention to the screen than to the strap. It’s a 0.9in, 128x32 resolution OLED display that has exceptional viewing angles, meaning you can read text clearly without having you tilt your wrist to an uncomfortable position. The resolution might not be huge, but it’s enough to clearly display telephone numbers, draw simple icons and show the time without having to lift your wrist up to your face. 

Acer claims screen brightness is around 70lux, which is roughly 23nits - that’s a tenth the brightness of the average smartphone display, although because it purely displays white text on a black background it’s easy enough to read in all lighting conditions. 

It’s a shame that the black screen bezels take up more space than the screen itself, leaving little room for notification text. When email notifications arrived, we would frequently only be able to see the name of the sender. It was a similar situation with Twitter - each notification begins with the word Twitter rather than an icon, leaving little room for the message itself.


Features

The Leap doesn’t use the accelerometer to work out when you’re raising your wrist to use the device - the screen will only illuminate when you tap it, in order to conserve battery. Frustratingly, tapping to wake doesn’t work a good portion of the time, you often have to tap multiple times before it finally springs to life.

There’s no way to change what appears when the screen first wakes, meaning you’re always shown the time (plus a low battery warning if you’re running out of juice). You can swipe to the left to see the number of steps you’ve taken so far that day, the distance travelled, number of calories burned and the number of active minutes. Swipe left again, or swipe right on the initial screen and an Apps icon appears.

It’s here that you can engage sleep mode, view previously received notifications, enter a Settings menu to flip the screen for left or right-handed use, and control music playback on a paired smartphone. Unsurprisingly, there’s no way to interact with notifications, meaning you’ll eventually have to reach for your phone if you want to call someone back or reply to a text. Music controls are also so fiddly that it’s easier just to grab your phone from your pocket. With no way to change what appears when you wake the screen, you have to swipe, tap to enter the Apps menu, swipe to reach the second screen of icons, select Music and then change tracks or pause playback. 


Fitness tracking

It’s perhaps no surprise in a sub-£70 device that there isn’t any kind of heart rate monitoring, but it does somewhat limit the Leap’s abilities as a fitness gadget. Instead it relies on accelerometer data to track your steps and distance travelled, based on the length of your gait as configured in the companion app. 

It calculates calories burned in a similar fashion, using health metrics like gender, age, height and weight. However, step counts weren’t as accurate as other fitness trackers we’ve used, often over-estimating our steps by as much as 1,000 per day - meaning calorie counts and distances were off as well.

The Leap can technically track your sleeping patterns, although this is merely a timer you activate at night and disable in the morning. It’s nowhere near as useful as the automatic sleep tracking built into most FitBit fitness trackers, and there’s not even a shortcut to activate it quickly.

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