We caught up with Acer at CES2014 in Las Vegas, and took a look at one of its new smartphones, the dual SIM Acer Liquid Z5. Aimed at the budget crowd, the phone is expected to launch in Europe with a €169 price tag ($230) sometime in the next few weeks. As the price suggests, this is no heavy-hitter, and its specs sheet suggests as much. Check out what we found.
The Acer Liquid Z5 features a unibody, plastic construction with a nice finish. The back is, thankfully, not of the glossy type, so it doesn't attract smudges, while the front has has some nice ornamentation, including a front-facing speaker. It's worth pointing out that Acer has actually built-in an extra button at the rear, dubbed Acer Rapid, but more on it later.
On the sides, you'll find a pretty big flap that covers the two SIM slots, and another that has space for a microSD card. Both are masked relatively well, albeit not completely.
Overall, we were pleased with what Acer has worked up with the Liquid Z5 in terms of design, though this is a pretty big handset, with a healthy amount of bezel. It's relatively lightweight, at 147 grams (4.6oz), and it actually felt quite ergonomic, thanks to its rounded profile.
The 5-inch display on the Acer Liquid Z5 packs a resolution of 480x854, which leaves something to be desired. At about 196ppi, this is definitely not the most appealing of panels we've seen, and colors did look a tad washed out. Obviously, we didn't have our bag of tools to whip out and start measuring its precise qualities, but we feel fairly certain the the Liquid Z5 won't have people sold on its display outright.
Interface and functionality
Acer has stepped its game up in terms of the software it ships its smartphones with, and to a good effect. Despite the customizations, this is still a pretty clean, stock-like Android 4.2
.2 Jelly Bean experience, which is always a welcome sight. That said, Acer did add quite some extras on top. Most curious of those is the previously-outlined Acer Rapid -- a multi-purpose physical button on the back, that will work differently depending on the situation. Acer Rapid can be used to fire up the camera from a locked state, snap photos or launch an app of your choice. Acer has also transferred some functionality from its phablets, like miniature apps. In case you haven't come across/heard of those yet, they simply open a compact, re-sizable version of a given app, theoretically allowing you to multitask better.
Last, but not least, are the Quick Modes. These are, essentially, simplified launchers that replace the usual Android interface with a whole new one. They all remind a whole lot of the Windows Phone 8 interface, and are mostly targeted at beginner users, thanks to their very minimal, essentials-only interface.
Processor and memory
Acer kind of clammed up when it came to the processor. We're told that the Liquid Z5 will come outfitted with a 1.3GHz dual-core chipset, though no specific vendor was mentioned. If we had to venture a guess, we would say either a MediaTek MT6572 or a low-end Snapdragon S4 chip. Consumers have come to expect quad-core chips in even budget solutions nowadays, so this may be something of a let-down. Anyhow, looking at the memory department, the situation is much the same. The amount of RAM has also proven to be a detail not seen fit to be relayed, though we do hope to see 1GB of RAM. Internal storage, at 4GB, is also quite constrictive, though there is a slot for microSD expansion, which is still far better than nothing.
Acer must have realized that, so far, the Liquid Z5 sounds kind of bland, for they've apparently focused some more effort into the camera. We're talking a 5-megapixel BSI unit with 1.4um x 1.4um pixels, five, F/2.4 aperture lenses, and an LED flash. Furthermore, the software has received some love, meaning that there's an HDR mode, and intelligent exposure controls that allow you to decouple the desired focus and exposure points from one another.
We've gotta say, we were expecting a tad more. Sure, that's a pretty compelling price point, yet the Liquid Z5 does feel inferior to the Moto G in pretty much every aspect, despite the fact that they're priced pretty much identically. More over, the Zenfone 5 from Acer's local competitor, Asus, is also likely to make an appearance in markets where the Acer Liquid Z5 is sold, and it sure seemed a bit more impressive on a first look.