Acer X960 Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

Acer made its debut as a smart phone manufacturer earlier this year, which led to our critical review of the world´s first Windows Mobile cell phone, simultaneously working with two SIM cards, namely the Acer DX900. Now, we are about to take a closer look at something rather different coming from Acer again – the X960. Aside from looking quite well, it delivers the company´s new Acer Shell interface that also appears promising, although it hasn´t proved itself in real life yet.

The package contains:
  • Acer X960
  • Charger
  • Earphones
  • miniUSB cable
  • User Manual with CD
  • Warranty card
  • Software CD


Design:

The Acer X960 doesn´t look bad at all, as a matter of fact, it´s pretty likeable. Not too much on the heavy side, it feels solid, yet comfy and using it with one hand is entirely possible. Its 2.8-inch 480x640 pixel screen is easy to tackle, due to its adequate response to touch, without being overly sensitive. Unfortunately, sunlight causes details to vanish on the spot, which renders the display virtually unusable in bright, outdoor areas.



You can compare the Acer X960 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Acer designers seem to have managed to keep away from the prevailing trend in terms of number of hardware buttons. The X960 has send and end buttons, one that start the built-in GPS, another to let you navigate to the home screen and a round shaped D-Pad on its front. The voice note key and the volume rocker are on its left hand side, while the microSD slot, as well as the power and camera shutter buttons, are located on the opposite. If you think you can hot swap expansion cards though, you are sorely mistaken. Actually, to open the slot you need to remove the back cover first, which is funny peculiar of Acer. Fortunately, the back panel is easy enough to take off (it´s not loosely fit, though), so you won´t find yourself wasting too much time on this. What you are to find on the back of the phone are a 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash and a mirror. We just have to point out that all buttons are conveniently located and really pleasing to use.



So far, so good! The Acer X960 does look attractive, build quality is awesome and all materials create just the right feeling on touch. Now, it is time we went over the new Acer Shell personalization pack for the all too known Windows Mobile. We hope it penetrates the whole interface and doesn´t turn out to be a single menu deep.

Acer X960 360 Degrees View:





Acer Shell interface and functionality:

However, just after the example of most cell phone manufacturers, we are going to hold out on the presentation of the most important thing for a while. Let us tell you about the operating system first. It is Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional and its key features are great functionality for business users and excruciatingly uncomfortable interface when it comes to using your fingers. If you have ever had anything to do with it, you must have noticed both its miniature icons that are a real pain the back to press, and the unattractive overall interface. So, this is why manufactures fall over backwards to provide their own unique personalization to replace at least the typical home screen of the system with something more agreeable.

In this line of thought, Acer Shell is perhaps one of the best personalization packs we have ever seen. It may lack the polished look of HTC´s TouchFLO, but still, it´s quite likeable and offers more than decent functionality. It has two separate home screens that you switch between by sliding your finger up or down. The first one is merely a list of icons that spreads on several pages, but the real power of the Acer X960 interface lies with the second one – the virtual 3D office. 



Although the 3D office features only two colors – blue and grey, it looks friendly and using it comes in really easy. As we mentioned, its purpose is to recreate your own environment at work and it depends on you if it is tidy or messy. How come? You have 11 different objects that are actually mini apps, plus a window that shows whether it´s day or night and leads you to the weather forecast screen. On the wall and to your left of the window is located the object that shows the carrier´s name, current date and time. Pressing it gets you to your personalized world watch that pinpoints the location of the city you are in onto a 3D model of the Earth.



Most shortcuts are right on your desk. You can place any object here, except for the latter two we told you about, with the most important of them being a telephone that lets you see all recent calls, open letter that gets you to your personalized email inbox, calendar, sealed envelope with information about your messages, futuristic CD player, etc. Your 3D office space is divided into three separate sections and there is a shelf in the right most one, where you can store up to three single objects.

Placing objects in different locations is performed in a standard manner – hold your finger pressed against the screen to enter arrangement mode. The cool thing is objects get smaller when you move them farther into the background and vice versa, which creates the actual 3D effect. Extra room that allows you to store objects you don´t use is available at the bottom of your screen.

We are extremely pleased with the Acer Shell interface. It is functional and you will almost never need to leave it to dive into the unfathomable depths of Windows Mobile. The level of personalization is the same as what HTC´s TouchFLO delivers. It may be a tiny bit more difficult to use, but looks better.

Camera and multimedia:

The Acer X960 sports a 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash, but honestly, we didn´t expect much of it. The several snapshots we took revealed a situation that could have been much worse though. Pictures taken outdoors look decently with colors being somewhat warmer than normal. Unfortunately, the built-in LED flash wasn´t up to its task and proved to be almost useless in dark places. The problem is the camera tries to focus on the object while the LED flash fails to light up the scene properly, so the final result is blurry images. Still, the camera is pretty usable in other conditions, especially thanks to the fact it´s lighting fast. 





We are pretty unhappy with the video capture function. The maximum resolution is 640x480 pixels, but the videos are rather blurry and the sound is muffled to the point of being inaudible.

Alongside of other Windows mobile phones, the video player is a decent performer. We managed to play MP4/H.264 coded videos with width of up to 640 pixels, since image artifacts began to appear at greater resolutions. Xvid videos wouldn´t play, but those coded with DivX ran smoothly and without issues at resolutions of up to 320x240 pixels, since anything above renders them virtually unusable.




Performance:

As a phone, the Acer X960 performs decently. We were able to understand people on the other end; their voices were audible and clear even if a touch more quiet than we would like. We are pleased with this particular aspect of the device. People on the other end claimed they have had a less pleasing experience, though with our voices sounding loud enough, yet sharp and surreal. Still, we believe the overall in-call quality is at par with other cell phones in the same class and we consider it passable for business calls.

The Acer X960 utilizes a 533Mhz Samsung SC3 6400 processor that, we must say, performs admirably. The phone comes with 128 MB of RAM and as a whole, the hardware packs enough punch to allow smooth running of software. The interface itself is also stable and won´t give you any troubles that would keep you distracted from the important things at hand.

Conclusion:

The Acer X960 definitely fares way better than it sibling, the DX900. Although it doesn´t allow simultaneous use of two SIM cards, it is unique with its novelty Acer Shell interface. We sincerely recommend it to anyone who is on the lookout for a new smartphone that is fast and offers great functionality. We also like it for its great personalization capabilities that make it stand out from the crowd that the Windows Mobile market is. Not last, it looks personable, so everything seems to be clear now – the Acer X960 makes for a wonderful option to any business user.

Acer X960 Video Review:





Pros

  • Pleasing design and overall look
  • The Acer Shell interface is unique and functional
  • Fast hardware performance

Cons

  • In-call quality is not good enough
  • Mediocre camera quality
  • Display is rendered unusable in direct sunlight

PhoneArena Rating:

8.0

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