You probably know Acer for its good-value laptops, but with the Liquid Leap it's having a crack at the big noise in lifestyle tech: wearables. The Liquid Leap is a fitness tracker with a hint of smartwatch functionality.
At £80 it's not a price for a band with a full display. However, with a fiddly fit and only surface-level features in each of its areas, it's best used as a simple watch and pedometer.
Design and Screen
The great thing about opting for a fitness tracker rather than a full-blown smartwatch is that it'll likely be a good deal smaller. At about an inch wide, the Acer Liquid Leap's face doesn't bogart your wrist and doesn't scream for attention either.
Of course, it doesn't look like a normal watch either. A rubbery plastic strap snakes around the front to meet a rectangular display. There's no curved glass Samsung-style flashiness here, and, in the white version at least, the great difference in tone between the screen and the strap is a bit jarring. The Acer Liquid Leap is not an especially stylish device, although the black version does seem to look a bit better, and is less likely to show up grime.
Like many other fitness bands, the Acer Liquid Leap uses two little metal prongs that jam into slots on the other side of the band to secure the band on your wrist, rather than a more traditional watch strap. Get the thing on and it's very secure, though doing so can be easier said than done at times.
As the Acer Liquid Leap rubbery-plastic strap is a little on the hard side, you have to push very hard to get the prongs through. This gets a little better as the strap wears a bit, however, and should become easier with practice.
The rival Sony SWR30 is a good deal easier to work with, and a bit more comfortable. Where the back of the SWR30 is curved, the Acer's rear plate is pretty flat so doesn't hug your wrist.
However, it's pretty comfortable regardless. The Acer Liquid Leap weighs just 15g meaning it pretty much disappears on your wrist unless you do the thing up tight enough to make your hand turn blue.
There are also zero buttons to worry about. The Acer Liquid Leap uses only gestures and its teeny-tiny touchscreen for operation.
Two taps turn the band on, with a little metal bit next to the screen acting as a suggestion of where you might tap. This gesture takes a bit of getting used to, though. As it seems to rely on the accelerometer rather than a capacitive sensor, you have to give the Acer Liquid Leap a fair old whack to make it wake up. Two tiny taps won't do.
Still, the screen is one of the Acer Liquid Leap's best bits. The £80 price makes this one of the cheaper fitness bands to offer a proper screen, and it's about as crisp and clear as one of those blue-sky winter mornings where your breath comes out like freezing fog.
The Acer Liquid Leap has a 0.9-inch OLED screen of 128 x 32 pixels. Resolution is very, very low, but as the screen is monochrome it's able to look crisp and pixellated at the same time — as if deliberately lo-fi.
Liquid Leap: features, including fitness
This isn't a real smartwatch, either, so what you'll see on the little display is basic. Two taps will show you the time and date, while sideways flicks on the screen take you to pages showing your steps that day, how far you've walked, the calories you've burnt up and the minutes spent active.
One flick further takes you to the apps section. But don't get too excited as the Acer Liquid Leap's extra features are pretty limited.
You can engage sleep tracking, check out your phone notifications and go to the music controls section. There are no bits beyond this as the Acer Liquid Leap doesn't run Android Wear or another pre-existing OS, but a system Acer seems to have cobbled together itself.
It hooks into an app on your phone called Leap Manager, and while it works for Android and iOS, it's not the slickest and is a bit basic. I had a few issues hooking it up to a couple of test phones, and even within the Acer Liquid Leap's limited scope, it's pretty rudimentary.
While the Acer Liquid Leap handles notifications, it only relays those of calls, texts and meetings, not Whatsapp messages and so on. You'll see the same deal in the music controls. It'll work with the default player, but not Spotify. It's limited.
The Acer Liquid Leap is only meant for very basic fitness tracking. While it can do a few things, its brains are really pretty basic. It uses an absolutely tiny Cortex M0 processor and it only really has one actual sensor — a motion tracker 'G-sensor'.
This can tell when you're moving, but has no clue about where you are, the actual speed you're travelling (beyond a guess) or whether you're moving up/downhill. Serious runners will want GPS in their watch and rival Fitbits offer an altimeter, which offers a count of the number of steps you climb each day.
Like all other wrist-worn trackers, the Acer Liquid Leap also struggles with accuracy — judging between when you're walking/running or just flapping your arms around in angry conversation. However, comparing with a tracker measuring in the pocket (which doesn't have the same problems) the results are only generally a few per cent off. Unless you're a wildly gesticulating kind of guy, at any rate.
The Acer Liquid Leap is best thought-of as a simple way to see how truly lazy you are and act as a motivation to get your backside into gear to change that. In actuality it's pretty basic.
The sleep tracking is hardly Olympic standard either. It really doesn't do much more than time the gap between the point where you press the 'sleep' button to where you tell the band you've woken up. If you're expecting a scientific run-down of the quality of your sleep from hour to hour based on your movements, you won't find it here. Not unless Acer adds that in an update.
One real sore point is the Acer Liquid Leap doesn't have an alarm. It really isn't a 24-hour buddy in the way the best smartwatches and fitness trackers are. You can't sync the data with other fitness platforms like Endomondo either, so if you don't like Acer's software you're pretty stuffed, for now at least.
Liquid Leap: battery life and verdict
One benefit of the Acer Liquid Leap's basic style is that the battery lasts for a fair bit longer than a full-on smartwatch. I got five days' use off a charge, so it won't feel like you're plugging the thing in as often as your phone.
As there's no charge socket, the Acer Liquid Leap also has IPx7 waterproofing. This means you can submerge it in water for 30 minutes with no problem — a shower or a bit of rain is no problem at all. Acer even claims you can swim in the thing, which is generally not supported by watches that use rubber seals, because of the chlorine or salt.
Like most other fitness bands, though, charging is a bit of a faff. You need to lock the Acer Liquid Leap into a little plastic shell that has its own microUSB socket. I found the thing a bit too easy to misplace, but this means you can use the same charger as your phone, if you're an Android user.
Of course, the battery stamina doesn't seem all that hot when you compare the Liquid Leap to something like the Garmin Vivofit, which gets you a year of use from a battery.
A year or so ago, this would have been a buzz product, but with so many fitness bands coming out now, the Acer Liquid Leap struggles to stand out. There's nothing about it that's bad as such but the feature set is limited, the style lacking and seriously, a digital watch with no alarm?!
The screen on the Liquid Leap is very good, and it's competitively priced at £79.99. The addition of limited smartwatch-style notifications and music controls inches the VFM ticker up a little further, too.
To be honest, there's as little to actively dislike about the Liquid as there is to like about it. You can't say it does anything exceptionally, and it can be slow to respond, and a little inaccurate when counting steps. It's short on features and those it has are unexceptional, basically. But nothing about it is outright terrible. "Meh" might be the word, here.
If you're in the market for a fitness band, you can do worse than the Liquid Leap, but you can also do better - there's the Garmin Vivosmart, for instance. The price is low, and it may get lower online, but for now, while I wouldn't say "No way" to anyone considering the Liquid Leap, I also wouldn't enthusiastically urge them to dive in.