With Microsoft offering Windows to tablets makers for free is the device is small, it's no surprise that we've seen a raft of new products which match this description at IFA 2014. Here's our hands-on review of the Acer Iconia Tab 8W from Berlin, Germany. See also thebest tablets of 2014.
Acer Iconia Tab 8W hands-on review: Release date and price
The Acer Iconia Tab 8W will arrive in October and will only set you back €149 (UK price TBC). That's a very budget price and is such because Microsoft is now offering Windows to tablet makers for free if the device is small (9in or less). This is why we've seen a number of these devices launch at IFA 2014 but price isn't everything. Related: Acer Aspire Switch 10 review.
Acer Iconia Tab 8W hands-on review: Design
There's little to say about design as the Tab 8W is a pretty standard tablet in this area. The back is made from plastic and compared to its Android counterpart, the Iconia Tab One 8, has a nice textured finish which provides good grip. The Android alternative has a rear cover pretending to be aluminium where the 8W only has this in a small quantity.
Buttons are located on the side and ports on the top including a microSD card which has no flap to cover it up which looks a bit rubbish.
We found the tablet perfectly thin and light (9.75 mm and 370 g) making it easy to hold one-handed in both portrait and landscape mode. The 8in size is quickly becoming more popular with recent entries including theSony's Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact and Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4.
Acer Iconia Tab 8W hands-on review: Hardware
That 8in screen is an IPS panel so you get good viewing angles but the resolution is nothing special at 1200 x 800. We'll talk about the screen more in the software section. Read: Surface Pro 3 UK review.
In charge of power is an Intel Atom Z3735G quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Performance seems reasonable after some hands-on time with the device but we weren't able to give the Iconia Tab 8W anything really demanding to put it to the test properly. This will have to wait until we get it in the lab back at PC Advisor towers.
There's a decent 32GB of storage and a microSD card slot for adding a further 32GB. Other specs are basic including dual cameras and Wi-Fi. Acer touts a battery life of up to eight hours.
Acer Iconia Tab 8W hands-on review: Software
The W in the product name of the Iconia Tab 8W stands for Windows and you'll get Windows 8.1 out of the box – the 32-bit edition. You'll also get a year of Office 365 Personal if you activate it within a certain time period.
While we have no major quibbles with Windows itself, we're struggling to think why anyone would want to buy a Windows tablet with a screen this size – apart from price as we talked about earlier. At least it's not as small as the Toshiba Encore Mini which is 7in.
They may be cheap, but that doesn't make a product good value and we can't imagine using Windows on an 8in screen on a day-to-day basis without getting truly frustrated. The device works in both landscape and portrait modes but that's not enough.
The tiled Start Screen interface works perfectly well and so do, on the whole, Modern UI apps but open the app menu and you'll need a magnifying glass to read the text. Furthermore, the Windows desktop interface we know and love is simply far too fiddly. Thinking about running two apps side-by-side? Well stop for a minute and consider how much space each is going to have on an 8in display, it's not great.
The software keyboard takes up the vast majority of the screen when it pops up so users will probably want to invest in a hardware alternative. Acer will offer its own 'Crunch Keyboard' with the Tab 8W.
We understand the concept of Microsoft pushing Windows tablets at a cheaper price to make them more accessible to consumers but we can't avoid the fact that the OS is simply too difficult and fiddly on a screen this size.