Acer M900 review -

2

Review by Sunetra Chakravati, 12/12/2011 3:56:07 PM

4out of 10
Performance
4 out of 5
Look and feel
6 out of 5
Ease of use
6 out of 5
Features
6 out of 5
Battery life
Pros:

Lag-free video streaming, works well with Microsoft Outlook.

Cons:

Unresponsive touch-screen, low-rent chassis, fiddly user interface.

Singers turned actresses – a dicey proposition, right? In the world of geek, laptop makers turned phone manufacturers haven’t turned out better, with Acer being the latest to churn out a sub-par smartphone in the media-oriented M900. Though the handset packs a five-megapixel camera, GPS and a video streaming player, these features don’t make up for patchy performance and a glitch-ridden user interface (UI).

Low-rent look

Think PDA days of yore and you’ve got a handle on how the M900 looks, feels and plays. It’s a chunky mother with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and push-off back cover, which only detaches because of a loose bottom flap that actually falls off sometimes. Between that and the rickety sliding mechanism, the phone feels far more low-rent than it should. The front is all touch-screen, and its 3.8-inch display is one of the hardware high points.


Once the device is turned on, Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional rears its capable but ugly head. Acer has skinned the operating system with its widget-based ‘Shell’ interface, simply icons in a grid menu. Easy enough to figure out, but an unresponsive touch-screen makes the experience frustrating.


The phone can be used in landscape or portrait orientation, though a buggy accelerometer means there are sometimes lags
of 1-2 seconds.

Inside the software

Thanks to plug’n’play syncing with Microsoft Outlook, getting your email, contacts and calendar appointments onto the phone is a breeze. You can get push-email for Exchange email, and set up webmail accounts like Gmail and Hotmail too. Like all WinMo devices, this one automatically searches for email settings, a nice user-friendly touch. However, the keys on the QWERTY are just a little too widely spaced for comfortable typing. Using the touch-screen keyboard in portrait orientation isn’t really an option as the touch-screen frequently freezes and doesn’t register touches.

Audio, video and sat nav

Of the four handsets that are part of Acer’s initial foray into smartphones, the M900 was flagged as the media-centric one. We liked the video streaming player app, which played YouTube videos with no lags whatsoever and loaded quickly via a direct link to the site in the home menu. However, you can’t flip the phone to landscape mode, and the sound at maximum volume is only just loud enough for indoor listening without headphones. Coupled with the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack, this makes the phone pretty lacklustre as a dedicated media device. Then there’s the five-megapixel camera – though autofocus ensures non-blurry snaps, the resulting image is over-sharpened and looks unnatural.


We were disappointed in its sat nav prowess too. Though GPS was able to get a fix on our position in about 10 seconds, it pinpointed our location as two streets away. Browsing the internet is also glitch-ridden – aside from touch-screen issues, the preloaded Internet Explorer 6 browser doesn’t zoom in closer than full-screen, which means some pages have links that are nearly impossible to hit accurately without a stylus.

Conclusion

For a media handset, the M900 doesn’t perform well in its camera, sat nav, or internet features. Video streaming is decent, though the inability to view in landscape mode is a surprising oversight. It’s the business features that the phone excels at, but because the UI is so fiddly, this is no more a business device than it is a multimedia phone. Back to the drawing board.