Acer is just one of many PC makers trying to crack the smartphone market. It's latest effort is the Liquid Jade and it looks rather good. But can it impress in all the other ways necessary to be worth your money? Read our full Acer Liquid Jade review. Also see: Best smartphones 2014 and Best Android phones 2014.
Acer Liquid Jade review: Price and competition
When Acer announced the Liquid Jade it said the phone would cost a maximum of £229. It made its target of £199 which is the official price placing it at the bottom end of the mid-range. For us, £150 and below is classed as budget.
This puts it in a tricky position and there are some decent budget smartphones around from Motorola and Nokia plus there are some outstanding mid-range devices available for a little bit more than the Liquid Jade – the Honor 6 at £249 springs to mind.
The firm is known for making cheap devices but the Jade certainly doesn't feel particularly budget. It's by no means in the same class as the LG G3,HTC One M8 or iPhone 5s but we didn't expect that. What is impressive is the screen-to-body ratio on the front which is partly where it gets its good looks from.
The phone looks and feels nice in the hand with its smooth curves and a nicely thin and light design. It has a desirable nature and is easily Acer's best smartphone to date in the area. A couple of things to point out include the way the rear cover attracts fingerprints and marks which detracts from its stylish looks.
Although the rear cover is ergonomic in the hand, the camera sticks out a fair way and using the Liquid Jade on flat surface such as a desk is near impossible as is simply rocks from side to side.
Acer Liquid Jade review: Hardware and performance
For your money you get a large 5in screen but anyone expecting a Full HD resolution will be disappointed. The Liquid Jade uses 720p HD which spread across the big display results in a pixel density of 294ppi – it's not ideal but doesn't look awful.
There's decent brightness on offer if you crank things up and good viewing angles, too. However, we have found the display to be unresponsive at times which is quite frustrating.
Hiding underneath the smooth curved plastic exterior is a Mediatek 1.3GHz quad-core processor and 2 GB of RAM. That sounds reasonable on paper but in practice, the Liquid Jade isn't the smoothest of performers.
We could be forgiving if the device lagged out during demanding games or similar activities but it struggles with the simplest of tasks. We're talking unlocking the phone, opening apps calling up the recent apps menu – all of which cause a visual delay to varying degrees.
This is backed up by the benchmark results with the Liquid Jade only managing 1188 in GeekBench 3, 7 fps in the T-Rex GFXBench graphics test and 1464 ms in SunSpider. Those numbers are similar to the older original Moto G but Motorola's phone offers noticeably smoother performance.
The specs aren't the kind to blow anyone away but you might be surprised to learn, as we were, to learn the Liquid Jade features a 13 Mp rear facing camera. Up front is a more regular 2Mp camera.
The camera isn't at the same level as some others of the same rating such as the LG G3's. However, it is good quality and one of the best for a phone this price. Cameras are typically poor at this end of the market.
It shoots at 13 Mp and 16:9 by default and you can adjust the ISO manually should you wish to do so. Video can be captures at up to Full HD resolution and we particularly like the 'favourite shot' feature which adds another button alongside the regular shutter for taking panormas, HDR shots and other modes. The main downside is the slow performance as it can take an age to shoot and process just one image. See our samples below.
Remaining specs are basic so there's Wi-Fi (b/g/n) and Bluetooth but no NFC, IR blaster or 4G LTE support. So that's partly why Acer has achieved the relatively cheap price tag but it's worth bearing in mind that there are budget phones with 4G such as theMoto G 4G and EE Kestrel.
Interestingly, the Liquid Jade is a dual-SIM phone which might be handy if you're the kind of person who carries around two different mobile phones. There's a single tray for both but if you want to use two SIMs then you'll have to sacrifice adding a microSD card.
It's two SIMs or one plus a memory card and you might want to make use of that since there's only 8 GB of internal storage on the Liquid Jade as standard. Our review sample has 16 GB but this model seems extremely difficult to find online.
On the battery side of things, a non-removable 2100mAh battery will see you through the day but realistically no further. Acer does offer CPU limiting to save power but you won't want to drop performance. There's also a Power save app which lets you customise how you want to save battery.
Acer Liquid Jade review: Software
On the software front, the Liquid Jade runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and we're told it will be upgradable although an update is not available yet. As can see from the photos, things are relatively 'vanilla' but with Acer's green colour running through. The main change is the recent apps menu which shows a grid rather than a list.
Aside from the laggy performance which we mentioned earlier, it's disappointing to see a lot of bloatware on the Liquid Jade. There are a lot of pre-installed apps including Acer Cloud, Acer NAV, Acer Portal, Acer Extend, Quick Mode and Easy Hotspot. Even worse is the fact you can't uninstall them.
Buying Advice The Acer Liquid Jade might looks and feel quite premium but at the end of the day it's a let-down in terms of performance. It might be one of the best phones Acer has produced but it ultimately outpaced by some even cheaper phones – namely the Motorola Moto G in its various models.