Acer Stream Review

Introduction and Design
This is a global GSM phone, it can be used with AT&T's 3G network and T-Mobile USA's 2G network.


Acer's first heavyweight Android smartphone, the Liquid A1, did not really become a smashing hit, even though the company recently showed its readiness to support it by issuing an update to Eclair. The lack of record sale figures though seems to haven't made Acer give up on the high-end smartphone business, as we now witness their second foray with the Acer Stream. What do we expect from this handset? You know that in most cases the second-generation product is more mature than the first attempt. That said, Acer has already spent some time to feel the market and get into its rhythm, so we now feel it is about time for the company to come out with something impressive.

The package contains:
  • Acer Stream
  • 8GB microSD card with adapter
  • Carrying case
  • Screen protector
  • Wall charger with detachable microUSB cable
  • HDMI cable
  • Handsfree earphones
  • User guide and some other papers

As you see, the box is full of accessories and goodies that you'd otherwise need to buy additionally. Let's hope Acer has been just as generous with the realization of the Stream itself.


The Acer Liquid wasn't bad in terms of design, but wasn't anything unseen! For the most part, the same goes for the Acer Stream, which however is a bit more off the beaten track. The handset has some rather masculine looks with its boxy design and choice of metal-gray plus black color scheme. Of course, there isn't something totally unseen with it, but it presents a breath of fresh air on the current market, where the letters H-T-C peek behind every corner.

You can compare the Acer Stream with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The 3.7-inch display is living up to the expectations with its impressive real estate, capacitive technology and WVGA resolution. It is also AMOLED (yep, that elusive AMOLED), but to tell you the truth, we are no longer ecstatic about this. Yes, you get your lush colors and good viewing angles, but being able to literally count the number of pixels on screen is not our cup of tea. Things get especially bad once you open a web page in the browser and try to read some small text. You'll be forced to apply a significant amount of zoom before you can read something in a relaxed manner. Viewing colorful images on the other hand is a pleasant experience thanks to those 16 million AMOLED-powered colors, so you'll simply have to decide what's more important for you. Text clarity or color saturation. Decisions, decisions. Take the phone outdoors though, and you'll have some pretty tough time figuring out what's on screen. We promise. Moreover, the panel seems to be a fan of fingerprint smudges.

The Acer Stream is actually one of those rare cases where the interesting stuff happens below the screen. This is where you will find four navigation keys, namely Home (also serves as a notifications light), Search, Back and Menu. Now, Home is a normal tactile, physical key. The other three however are touch-sensitive, capacitive. A pretty unconventional design solution, which we don't mind. But there's more – below these four keys, you get three more buttons (all physical), which are your typical music controls - play/pause, next, previous. All of this has come together in a way that simply looks unique. This doesn't mean that it's going to win a beauty award, but it will surely generate its following.

All of the above-mentioned keys work pretty well, and, for the most part, this applies to the volume rocker and power/lock key that are on the left side as well. On the top is the 3.5mm jack, and on the right are the microUSB and HDMI ports, hidden under a single flap, as well as the two-stop camera shutter, which doesn't have the most pronounced travel.

Flipping the Acer Stream over reveals a soft-touch-coated backside and a 5MP camera without a flash, but with HD 720p video recording. Should you remove the back cover, you'll gain access to the 1400mAh Li-Ion battery, which has to be gotten out of the way in order for you to be able to install SIM or microSD cards. By the way, our unit came preloaded with an 8GB microSD - nice touch.

Overall, the Acer Stream feels good in the hand (seems like we've gotten used to holding BIG phones), while its plastic build seems reassuring, though not really premium. Still, it would have definitely been nicer if it was just a tad more compact. It is possible to operate the handset with one hand only, if you stretch your fingers a bit, but it's way more comfortable if you use two hands.

Interface and Functionality:

Acer seemed into the idea of personalizing the Android experience from the very beginning, although it has kept it to a minimum with its previous devices, usually tweaking the appearance a bit, or adding a custom widget or a two. However, now, with the Acer Stream, the manufacturer has fallen over backwards to deliver an entirely new interface, which we actually feel may have some future for it.

The keyword when describing this interface is “different”. Acer is introducing some pretty interesting concepts here like placing the status bar (that has always been at the top of the screen) at the bottom. And just before cell phone veterans have cried out “That's wrong! That's outrageous!”, let us start from the beginning...

There are three homescreen pages. The main one simply presents you with a clock, date and the scheduled alarm time. To the left of this screen you have your task history, which is a clever way to utilize the platform's multitasking capabilities and comes in handy. To the right you have a kind of a multimedia screen, which let's you quickly switch between previews of your photos, songs and videos.

At the lower portion of the screen you always have the status bar, along with twelve shortcuts to your most used applications. Pulling this whole thing up reveals the rest of the apps, which are arranged into pages. Meanwhile, tapping on the status bar (usually found at the bottom of the screen) will bring up some more stuff for you to manage, like quick alarm setup, notifications and handy on/off switches for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and Airplane mode.

You might be wondering where all the widgets have gone? Well, in the dedicated widgets screen, of course! In addition to starting this one as a dedicated app, you also see it as a lock screen. It is actually divided into five pages, on which you can arrange the widgets you want (there are some nicely-designed custom widgets). It's a fine additional feature we can definitely live without, but it's still not bad to know it's there.

And that's about all there is to the Acer Stream's custom Android interface. We are pretty fond of it and believe it presents a much-needed breath of fresh air as far as Android smartphones go. Our only gripe with it is related to the uninspired and boring design of the icons. They are not bad, but look a bit outdated. Except for that one thing, it is a well thought out interface that is very easy to use. We definitely hope that Acer will continue to develop it, but also hope that it won't cause the company too much trouble when it comes down to issuing a software update to the next version of the operating system.

Basic apps like the Phonebook, Messaging and Calendar are pretty much the standard ones for Android 2.1. There is no other contact integration in the phonebook beyond your SIM and Google account contacts, which is not necessarily a bad thing, you know. The Messaging app is nicely executed as always, providing you with a threaded view for your conversations. While we are on the topic of messaging, we would like to note that the Acer Stream sports the standard on-screen QWERTY keyboard for Android, which is comfortable to use on the 3.7-inch panel, especially the landscape one. The calendar is also as advanced as always. Setting an appointment is a joy, thanks to the step-by-step nature of the task. First you simply select a date from month view, then you're switched to day view, where you pick the desired hour, and finally you can simply type your appointment title and you're set!

Internet and Connectivity:

The standard browser for the operating system is at hand here on the Acer Stream. It is a pretty good one, which loads pages quickly and lets you enjoy goodies like pinch-to-zoom and double-tap, although the latter is executed quite poorly. Scrolling is generally smooth, but you might experience some lag here and there, while viewing more complex pages in zoomed out view. We also tried Dolphin Browser HD to see if it won't perform better, but got similar results (plus, it loads pages more slowly). All in all, web browsing on the Acer Stream is not iPhone-like, but is pretty good to say the least. What bothers us is the overwhelming pixelation of the AMOLED screen, which gets in your way every time when you try to read smaller text.

Global trotters will be just fine with Acer's finest, because the Stream is a quad-band GSM phone with global tri-band 3G capabilities on the 900/1900/2100 MHz frequencies. In addition, you get Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n for fast local connection to the web, Bluetooth 2.1 and GPS.


For all the photographer wannabes out there, the Acer Stream packs a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and no flash. The shooter also allows for HD 720p video recording, but more on that in a while. The camera interface presents you with a decent amount of options, including photo resolution, white balance, brightness and contrast, timer, macro mode, anti-shake, ISO, auto exposure modes and effects. Unfortunately, the taste from all of that goodness is somehow bittered by the incredibly stiff camera shutter, which can be cause for a lot of muddy photos.

Anyway, the images that the Acer Stream takes with its 5MP cam are nothing extraordinary. One can see quite a lot of blurring going on around the more exposed places, plus do you know why Prince sang that “Purple Rain” song? It's very simple, because the skies are purple, or at least that's what the Stream tries to convince us into. While we personally might live with that, the detail level is yet another point of concern (read: “It's pretty bad for such a device so we are really disappointed on the whole. Shame on you, Acer!”).

Alright, we came to conclude that the 5MP photos are good for nothing, but how does the camera fare when it comes to shooting HD 720p video? Is it awesome? Is it magnificent? Superb? Gorgeous? Have you ever heard of that saying: “Like mother, like daughter”? Well, it's the same here – the videos suffer from the exact same issues that the photos do. Pinkish whites, scarce details, and on top of all, they are choppy, even though they should be running at 24 fps. Of course, we don't question them running at 24 fps, but these are not those 24 fps one would usually expect.

Acer Stream sample video 1 at 1280x720 pixels resolution.
Acer Stream sample video 2 at 1280x720 pixels resolution.

All in all, we “enjoyed” an unsatisfying camera performance with the Acer Stream. Sad face.


As the Acer Stream seems to be a media-savvy smartphone (judging by the dedicated music controls and multimedia homescreen page), we weren't surprised to find it preloaded with some additional software to complement the standard music player. Namely, there are the MusicA app, which is a music recognition service that automatically provides you with YouTube results, and nemoPlayer, an alternative multimedia player.

The standard music player's visual presentation is pretty simple and can hardly impress someone from the 21st century, so we don't really care for it. NemoPlayer is a bit more graphically-rich, but still nothing out of the ordinary. Buy why are we talking about graphics when we just have to listen to the music! Unfortunately, the right speaker of the earphones that came bundled with our Acer Stream unit had some annoying hiss to to it, which hints that it might have as well been defective. At least we hope so. Plugging in another pair of earphones fixed the issue. It's worth noting that the Acer Stream comes with support for Dolby Mobile, which basically allows you to take advantage of some equalizers and fine tuning options. We were unable to achieve ground-braking sound quality, but this might have been due to our earphones, of course. The loudspeaker is also nothing spectacular. To be honest, it sounds quite tinny, and its power is lacking.

When it comes to video playback, you've got to know that the Acer Stream is one very suitable smartphone for the purpose. It has no problems at all playing MPEG-4 and Xvid coded videos in resolutions of up to 1280x720 pixels, while it also plays H.264, but... without the sound. We tried some additional software, but got the same results. However, this doesn't mean that you won't find some capable player buried deep in Android Market. DivX is also a no-no with the Acer Stream right out of the box. The AMOLED screen might not be very suitable for reading smaller text, but it is damn good when it comes to video playback, thanks to its great viewing angles and rich colors. Of course, the experience wouldn't have been this good if it wasn't for its generous 3.7 inches. The lousy speaker isn't really doing much to complement your lone movie nights, but one can never have it all, you know. In addition, you'll be able to easily utilize the Micro-HDMI port (type D) with the included cable.


The Acer Stream is an Android smartphone, on which you can install quite a lot of applications (should be about 70,000) for an array of different purposes. However, it also brings some preloaded ones, some of which might really come in handy. To start with, the Stream packs the above-mentioned nemoPlayer, a music recognition service app, called MusicA, Media Server that allows you to serve media over a Wi-Fi network, Spinlets (for free music streaming), Documents to Go (Acer Bundle edition, meaning - not full version), a Barcode Scanner and some others.

The 1GHz Snapdragon 8250 chipset powering the Acer Stream does a good job in guaranteeing smooth system performance. Well, you might run across some lag in the browser, but there seems to be no hint of it in Raging Thunder 2, which is that beautiful 3D racing game, so we have no concerns whatsoever, in terms of gaming on the Stream. In addition, the handset features ample 512MB RAM and 512MB ROM in order to give you some additional comfort about the hardware. As a whole, the software shows no signs of slowdown, although one can clearly see that the frame rate when switching between screens and so on is not particularly high.

We have seen many great smartphones fail the ultimate test of call quality, but we've also seen some of them raise victorious. So where does the Acer Stream stand in this chart? Somewhere in the middle, we would say. Voices in its earpiece sound quite tinny, although loud enough to be comprehended. On the other hand, the opposite side enjoys some much clearer and frequency rich tones. Not the most outstanding performance, but still good enough for such a feature-rich device that does so much more.

According to the manufacturer, the 1400mAh Li-Ion battery should hold up for about 7 hours of talk time and 500 hours of standby on a 3G network. However, these times depend on a lot of stuff including the signal strength, running background applications, screen brightness... you get the point. Our impressions are that the Acer Stream is able to run full-speed for about a day, which matches today's standards.


The Acer Stream managed to surprise us pleasantly, we won't hide it. We would even go as far as to say that it reinvented the image of a mediocre smartphone maker the company had established for itself for us. You usually have to come up with something truly noteworthy when you find yourself with a bunch of uninspired devices behind your back. Sometimes, this means you have to get off the beaten track and... you know, go for it. Acer has done just that with the Stream, and they've managed to reach the end of the tunnel just before it collapses.

While we wouldn't proclaim the Acer Stream to be the most beautiful gadget of the year, it is definitely charming and has a relaxed, yet attractive color scheme. Its features, of course, are there to complement its design, including the 3.7-inch AMOLED screen, 1GHz Snapdragon and 512MB RAM, which are somewhat of a must-have in the upper range of Android smartphones these days.

So, the design and hardware aspects are well-covered. Equally important however is the software realization, as this is what differentiates the true smartphone that's going to accompany you for a good deal of time, from one that you'd never wish to use for more than a month or so. Acer has chosen the unsafe approach here as well, by crafting an unconventional Android homescreen personalization, which doesn't try to alter the whole Android experience, but is quite intuitive and and fun to use.

It's not all rosy, of course, with the Acer Stream's mediocre photo/video capturing, lack of flash and average call quality, as well as screen that's not really well-suited for reading. Interestingly enough, these drawbacks were not enough to spoil our overall experience with the phone, which comes to prove that Acer has a pretty darn good smartphone in its hands. It just needs to market it right. Either way, a good device would remain a good device.

Still, if something deep inside of you doesn't really feel right about the Acer Stream, we would recommend that you take a look at the HTC Desire, as it is the closest contender to the Stream we can think of. Another great option would be the Samsung Galaxy S, which has a simpler design, but larger, 4-inch screen and better graphics performance (not that you can really take advantage of it yet).

Acer Stream Video Review:


  • Easy to use, unconventional interface
  • Box full of accessories


  • Mediocre camera quality
  • Lacks flash
  • Interface could be more fluid

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