Acer Liquid Z220 review: unfortunately a bit dim

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Today I’m looking at the Liquid Z220, a budget smartphone from Acer. The phone has low-end specifications, but does at least include Android 5.0 and costs only £65. The mid-range market has advanced significantly in the past few years, so I’m hopeful that we’ll see similar changes at the lower end too.

 

Specifications

  • 4-inch 480 x 800 LCD display
  • 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor
  • 1GB RAM, 8GB internal storage + micro SD
  • 5MP rear camera w/ flash, 2MP front camera
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

For more specifications, see GSMArena!

 

Design

The Z220 is a small phone, but relatively thick (9.6mm) and heavy (120 grams) for its screen size. It’s available in white or black; this is the black model.

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The front of the phone includes an Acer logo and earpiece sitting on a large bezel above the screen; the bottom bezel is also sizeable. The massive bezels result in a 55% screen-to-case ratio, which is some distance below the 70%+ ideal.

The earpiece is also the only speaker on the device, which is nice as it’s front-facing… but it’s not very clear or powerful. The top of the screen also contains a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, which at least in terms of megapixel count beats out the current iPhone.

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The display is 4 inches across the diagonal, but this is reduced somewhat by the software buttons. This is a low-contrast, low-brightness LCD panel set far below the glass; it’s the worst display I’ve seen on a phone in some time. It feels like staring into an old, dusty box in a poorly-lit antique store.

The back of the phone is simple matte gray plastic, with a subtle “fabric-inspired” motif. The 5-megapixel rear camera (with flash) sits above another Acer logo; there are no other features here.

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The side of the phone is more unique, with a plastic ring around the device with the texture of fine studded metal; this provides some added grip and visual interest. The ring contains spongey volume and power buttons on the right side, headphone and micro USB jacks on the top and the microphone on the bottom.

z220-sideThe bottom also contains a small opening that lets you take off the battery cover. This allows access to the micro SD card slot, micro SIM slot and of course the battery itself.

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Also in the box is a micro USB cable, mains charger, headphones and a thick stack of user manuals and other literature.

 

Testing

In order to put the Z220 through its paces, I used it as my primary phone for about a week. That included traveling, web browsing, Twittering, music and even a few games.

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The first big issue I ran into was the screen. The 4-inch 480 x 800 display made text coarse and photos hard to make out, colours and viewing angles were also naff (as you can see below). Sunlight visibility also approached zero, due to the low maximum brightness of the display.

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Generally, I found that the phone was as low-end as its specifications suggested. Even compared to mid-range and other budget phones, loading apps and web pages took a fairly long time and 3D games had generally poor performance – although Dead Trigger 2 was still fairly playable (although the dim screen made things challenging).

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Benchmark performance suggested the phone is a little faster than the HTC One X and Galaxy Nexus, phones from 2012, and that felt about accurate.

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I was anticipating a phone with a lot of crapware installed, but on this model (from 3) there was fairly little – a few Acer apps of dubious value and a few bits and pieces from 3. The OS itself was also nearly untouched, which was great to see. The only notable inclusion that I hated was the simple mode launcher (below), which was unintuitive and confusing.

Liquid_Z220-benefitwow-images-03The camera was also par for the low-end course, producing photos with little detail even in great conditions – and absolutely dire results in anything else. Colours were frequently washed out, dodgy autofocus resulted in half of the photos being a blurry mess, and generally things were disappointing.

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Videos produced were also pretty awful, with little detail present in the 720p files. The camera interface also sometimes lagged for a few seconds, causing me to miss shots.

Battery life was generally alright, usually lasting the day thanks to the low energy processor, small screen and a decently sized battery (1300mAh).

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Another nice thing was the size of the phone; after using phablets for so long it was nice to have something a bit smaller in my pocket for a change. The phone is nearly double the thickness of flagship phones, but its small dimensions mean that it’s not really an issue. It’s also fairly weighty, but this makes it feel a bit more durable than it would do otherwise.

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The final highlight was Android 5.0; it’s nice to see a low-end device with a nearly up-to-date version of Android for once. All the usual niceties are here: rich notifications, beautiful Material Design, battery saver, Google Now and more.

 

Conclusion

The Acer Liquid Z220 is a phone that struggles to escape from its low price point and meagre specifications. While there are some bright points here, including decent build quality and relatively clean Android 5.0, the terrible screen, poor performance and woeful camera doom it to obscurity.

Pros

  • Decent build quality and overall design
  • Android 5.0 makes the most of the weak specs
  • 2-megapixel front camera bests the iPhone
  • Micro SD card support, removable battery

Cons

  • Screen is the worst I’ve seen in years
  • Generally poor performance throughout
  • Camera is nominal at best

Score

score5

Links

About William Judd

Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @Expert_Will or on G+.

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