#AcerLiveBlog2014 part 3: Acer Liquid Jade rapid review

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This weekend I travelled to Edinburgh on an Acer-sponsored blogging expedition. We took in the sights and sounds of Edinburgh and got some interesting tech to test out too. I’ve already written about the flawed Leap smart band and surprisingly good Switch 10 convertible laptop; next up is the Acer Liquid Jade smartphone.

The Liquid Jade is immediately interesting; an ultra-slim mid-range device with reasonable specifications and a good price point. Here are my impressions after a couple days of using the phone.

Design

The Liquid Jade has a pretty cool design; essentially a modernised and super-slim variant of the iPhone 3G. That means a curved, glossy black back with a silver logo in the centre. The camera lies at the top centre with flash offset to the left, while the bottom centre houses the mono speaker and some obligatory branding.

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The front of the phone is more ordinary, with rounded corners that remind me of 2010-era Nexus devices. The Liquid Jade includes a five inch 720p IPS display, although software buttons marginally reduce the available resolution most of the time. Viewing angles and sunlight visibility are both quite good.  A front-facing camera sits at the top, while the Acer logo is at the bottom.

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The most incredible thing about the Liquid Jade is its size and weight. The phone feels suspiciously light in the same way that the iPhone 5 did, like the internals are empty and somehow everything is being piped in through the cloud. The curve of the back reaches only 7.5mm at its thickest point, with extremely slim edges. The overall effect is that it’s hard to remember which pocket you left the Jade in; something that happened to me and many of my colleagues at the Edinburgh event.

While a more premium material like metal or a Lumia-style polycarbonate would have improved the look and in-hand feel of the Liquid Jade, ultimately the phone remains impressive-looking at its price point.

Hardware & specifications

The Liquid Jade falls in the upper-mid-range of smartphones, with a quad-core Mediatek processor clocked at 1.3GHz. This is backed with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage, augmented via microSD. In a nice nod to flexibility, the microSD card slot can instead house a second nano SIM, allowing dual-SIM calling and data.

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Battery power is limited to 2100mAh, which seems a little low for a five-inch device… although the low-frequency Mediatek processor and less intensive 720p screen ameliorate this somewhat. A full day of moderate use is quite possible with the Liquid Jade.

Software

The Liquid Jade ships with Android 4.4 KitKat; the latest version of Android when the Jade was released earlier this year. The OS runs well, although some lag is apparent when scrolling down media-rich websites or rapidly between home screens. There have been many great changes to Android since version 4.0., so it’s good to see Acer stay up-to-date. Hopefully, that’ll extend into an upgrade to version 5.0 Lollipop over the next couple of months.

Acer have made some changes to the OS, although the level of customisation is broadly less than is typical for Samsung or HTC. The UI has been re-coloured in the Acer lime green in places, and some nice gestures have been added to launch apps from the lock screen by using five fingers (‘the claw’). There’s also a dts-HD branded equaliser, which provides some control that stock Android doesn’t.

There are a fair amount of custom apps installed as well. Many of these Acer apps begin with ‘Ab’, which seems to me tantamount to naming your business after an aardvark to be listed first in the Yellow Pages. None of these apps seem particularly essential, but can be disabled (if not uninstalled) in the normal way.

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I prefer stock Android to all others, but there isn’t enough that’s been changed here to be a deal-breaker. The launcher is different but not necessarily worse; the keyboard popups disappear too quickly but gesture typing is included; the SMS app is a little short on features. Thankfully, all three of these (and many other components besides) can be replaced by stock Google alternatives through the Play Store. The recent decoupling of stock Android apps from the OS itself has made third-party handsets much more palatable for fans of the stock system.

So on the software front, it’s a pretty even bag – nothing amazing that will really make you rush out and pick up an Acer phone, but also nothing terrible that will make you swear off the brand for good.

Camera

The camera on the Liquid Jade is a 13-megapixel unit, with a secondary two-megapixel front-facer. The Sony sensor provides reasonable image quality to start off with, although Acer’s processing seems a little inferior to that of other manufacturers. Low light shots come out excessively blurry on auto mode, and even in good light the quality doesn’t quite compare to flagships like the LG G3 or Galaxy S5 – to say nothing of Lumias and iPhones.

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One big help to photography on the Liquid Jade is its speed; the camera launches at a reasonable rate and takes photos quickly. This gives you a good chance to capture the moment you intended, rather than the one a few moments later.

There are the usual range of modes and features, all of which seem passable if not novel. The panoramic mode was quite useful for capturing spreads of Edinburgh from the tops of various hills and castles, with a simple UI and quick processing. I didn’t get a chance to test video performance or the front-facing camera beyond a few short samples, but the initial results were good if not amazing.

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Ultimately, the camera system on the Liquid Jade is good for its class, and pretty similar to that of other 13-megapixel phones released over the past couple of years.

Conclusion

The Acer Liquid Jade is an attractively slim mid to upper tier phone, offering decent specifications and a good camera at a reasonable price. While phones like the Motorola Moto G continue to offer excellent competition at even lower price points, if you’re looking for something a little more premium then the Liquid Jade is well worth a look.

 

Pros

  • Slim and light design, reminiscent of early iPhone models
  • Responsive, thanks to Android 4.4 and good-enough specifications
  • High resolution 13-megapixel camera works well in good light
  • micro-SD card slot pulls double duty as a second nano-SIM slot
 

Cons

  • Acer apps and other OS modifications offer little added value
  • Camera struggles in low-light situations
  • 2100mAh battery feels a little small for a 5-inch phone

About William Judd

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

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