Windows 8 was made to be touched, swiped and manhandled on the go, so why hasn't there been a pocket-sized Windows 8 tablet yet? Acer has heard our cries, and introduced the Iconia W3: an 8-inch Windows 8 tablet for the masses. Is it any good?
What Is It?
The Iconia W3 is an 8-inch Windows 8 tablet, packing a new 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2760 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 1280x800 display, 32GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD to another 32GB), dual 2-megapixel cameras, a microHDMI out and a MicroUSB in for connecting accessories. It retails for $449.
In a way, this form factor is perfect for using Windows. It's what the tablet market has always needed: a pocketable, portable, fast and beautiful tablet running a fully-featured operating system in Windows 8. It's your laptop that you can stick in your jacket pocket.
It's wonderfully versatile, too. Because it's Windows, you can do just about anything you want with it. Connect a display via microHDMI, a keyboard dock and a Bluetooth mouse and you have the perfect bring-your-own-device gadget for work and play at a price that won't make you baulk.
The new Intel Atom chip makes the device super-fast and fluid to use, and it hasn't missed a beat in the time we've been using it.
The battery is also brilliant. You'll get a week of stand-by time out of the device easily, and you can expect to use it for around six hours straight (although Acer quotes 8 hours) before you start looking for your charger. That's pretty impressive for a device running a grown-up processor and a bigger OS.
Oh God. That screen. It's awful.
We thought the screen on the original Nexus 7 was terrible, but this is next-level bad. The viewing angle is such that the edges of the screen become nigh unreadable when you hold it in either portrait or landscape right in front of your goddamn face. The pixels are so large that everything looks like it was made in MS Paint. How is it 2013 and we're still screwing up on panels? It's beyond me.
Screen aside, the real Achille's heel of the Iconia W3 is also one of its best features: it's the size. Yes, we said it was great, pocketable, portable, fast and beautiful, but it's also cumbersome when you actually want to get stuff done.
The high-resolution screen also means that Windows 8 makes everything tiny by default, making slider bars, action buttons and window bars nigh unclickable. You'll find yourself tapping everything at least three times before you actually land on what you want.
Also, because of the screen size, the Windows keyboard takes up about half the screen, meaning you just have to hope and guess that what you're typing is both in the correct place and all the right words.
If you want to use this tablet with any precision at all, it's worth getting a decent capacitive stylus, or even a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. The latter kind of overrides the point of buying a small tablet, but at least it makes it useful.
Acer sells a keyboard dock with the Iconia W3, and with it you're halfway towards solving the problem of an unproductive Windows 8 tablet.
Should You Buy It?
If you want a tablet for consumption and not content creation, then a 7- to 8-inch tablet will suit you quite nicely. The same can be said for the Acer Iconia W3: great for consumption, not so much for creation.
Movies, light gaming, VOIP, social networking, reading (the Windows 8 Kindle app is excellent) and web browsing are what the Iconia W3 is perfect for. That's why the Nexus 7 and even the iPad Mini are perfect: they know their knitting and stick to it.
The Iconia W3 can support stuff like Word, Outlook and Powerpoint, but you'd go mad using it as a primary device every day. To be fair: this sort of device is what the Windows RT platform was intended for.
The bottom line? It's great hardware let down by its form factor and a crappy screen, but by virtue of being the only competitor, it's the best 8-inch Windows 8 tablet on the market.