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Acer unveiled the first 8-inch Windows 8 tablet just few months ago when they announced its Iconia W3. The Acer Iconia W3 features an 8.1-inch WXGA 1280 x 800 display, a 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 2MP front-facing and rear-facing camera and, of course, it features a full-blown copy of Windows 8 and not Windows RT as you would have expected.

Being able to carry around a full version of Windows 8 in an 8-inch tablet is probably something most people would be interested in as they could easily get all of their work done without breaking their back in the process. The Iconia W3 weighs in at a relatively light 1.1lbs, possibly making this the lightest Windows 8-powered device currently available. But does the Iconia W3’s extreme portability come at a cost in its performance? We hope not and is exactly what we’re going to take a look at as well as other things in our official review, so let’s get started.

Context

I’m someone who travels on a regular basis, which means when I carry a computer with me, I’d like for it to be light. I’ve used my fair share of tablets from the iPad, several Android tablets, and just recently, Windows 8 tablets and I find their portability to be a big plus when traveling, although they typically haven’t been able to offer the full computer experience I may need when covering events or writing a hands-on review.

There’s no doubt tablets are here to stay and being able to have one in such a small and light frame as the Acer Iconia W3 is something that I look forward to checking out in the coming days. Hopefully it’ll be able to keep up with all of the work I have to do throughout my days, which would be one of main reasons why I would carry it around in the first place.

Acer Iconia W3-810-1416 Specs

8.1-inch WXGA LED display (1280 x 800)
Intel Atom Z2760 Dual-Core 1.50GHz + Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD
2GB RAM
Windows 8 32-bit
Acer Nplify 802.11b/g/n
1x micro-USB, 1x micro-HDMI, memory card reader, 3.5mm microphone / headphone combo port
218.44mm x 134.62mm x 10.16mm (8.6in x 5.3in x 0.4in)
0.49kg (1.10lbs)
6800mAh Li-Polymer battery

Industrial Design (good)

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The Acer Iconia W3 is the first 8-inch tablet to feature a full Windows 8 experience, and because of that, Acer is certainly treading some new ground, although the company is certainly no stranger to manufacturing tablets nor Windows 8 machines. The first thing you’ll lay your eyes on when you pick up the Iconia W3 is its 8.1-inch display, which has an additional couple of inches surrounding it that doesn’t give the tablet and edge-to-edge display that has become so popular in smartphones and tablets these days. Surrounding the 8.1-inch display is a black bezel that measures around one inch in thickness. Above the display is where the tablet’s 2MP front-facing camera is located, while when it’s being held at its side, the Acer logo is prominently displayed, which we assume this would be the default method of holding the device. A physical Windows 8 button is available at the bottom of the tablet within a thick, white piece of plastic housed underneath the display’s bezel.

As you would expect with all tablets, there are a number of buttons and ports located in the outer rim of the Iconia W3’s body. The top of the tablet is where you’ll find its micro-HDMI, micro-USB and power button. The right side features the tablet’s volume rocker and microSD card slot, which can be used to expand the internal storage of the device. The bottom is where the Iconia W3’s power adapter can be plugged in, as well as your headphones since that’s where its 3.5mm headphone jack is located. At the ends of the bottom are two silver speaker ports, which at its highest setting, offers an sound experience most smartphones and tablets tend to offer, which is to say not great, but passable.

The rear of the Iconia W3 doesn’t have a lot going on as it’s completely covered in silver along with the Acer logo being prominently displayed at the right side of the rear in a reflective glass. The top-right portion of the rear is where you’ll find the tablet’s rear-facing 2MP camera. We noticed while charging the Iconia W3, this area tends to get very hot, so keep that in mind if you expect to use the tablet while it’s plugged in.

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Our Acer Iconia W3 review unit was sent along with its optional bluetooth keyboard, which isn’t necessary to use the tablet, but allows you to be a bit more productive as working on a physical keyboard allows a quicker typing experience than an on-screen keyboard would. The Iconia W3’s keyboard is a full-sized keyboard that offers a nice amount of space between keys that makes it comfortable to work on. Towards the top of the keyboard is where the Iconia W3 can be docked, although its docking is nothing more than placing the tablet into a groove on the keyboard which has a large piece of white rubber holding it in place. The dock can hold the tablet in place relatively well and even minor shaking keeps it in place, but don’t expect to be running and typing at the same time as the tablet will easily pop right out.

The keyboard has an overall aluminum look, but it’s made of plastic, making it extremely lightweight. The keys are all white along with black characters along with cyan-colored function keys. The top-right side of the keyboard is where its power and bluetooth connect button are located, which only needs to be activated the first time you pair it with the Iconia W3. The bottom of the keyboard is where you can put in its batteries, which it accepts two AAA batteries, although in 2013, we’d certainly prefer our bluetooth keyboards to be rechargeable and not have to rely on batteries.

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The most interesting portion of the keyboard’s rear is its housing to hold the Iconia W3 inside of it. When the tablet is combined with the keyboard, it automatically goes into sleep mode, which helps in saving its battery when not being in use. Docking it into the keyboard’s rear is easy, and it’ll grip onto the tablet surprisingly well. To remove the tablet from the keyboard’s rear dock, you’ll need to flip up a plastic switch in order to free them from one another. If you’re going to be traveling with both the bluetooth keyboard and Iconia W3, this serves as a great way to keep them both together in your bag.

Display (poor)

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The display on the Acer Iconia W3 won’t be winning any awards any time soon as it has a WXGA LCD display at a resolution of 1280 x 800. We’re sure Acer had to make some sacrifices when they put together an 8-inch Windows 8 tablet, and this seems to be one of them as the display doesn’t look as crisp as other tablets we’ve seen this size running on competing operating systems. When you look closely, you can see there are small grains in the display which reminds us of how early touchscreen devices looked when they were first introduced into consumer electronics.

At its brightest setting, the Acer Iconia W3 is capable of producing a brightness of 300 nit which we found it to be the most comfortable to work on the tablet at 60% – 70% of its full brightness while working indoors on a sunny day. Seeing how the Iconia W3 is extremely portable, using it outdoors would probably be a no-brainer, but keep in mind you’ll have some trouble viewing the display in direct sunlight, even at its brightest setting.

Cameras (good)

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The Acer Iconia W3 features 2MP cameras both at the front and the rear of the tablet which means you should expect the same quality in both cameras. For the purpose of our review, we put up the Iconia W3’s main camera up against the iPhone 5’s, considering both of these are mobile devices, regardless of what operating system is running on them.

In our camera test, we noticed the camera performed just well enough where we could consider it a good camera. The image the Iconia W3 produced had a nice amount of colors in it, although we certainly wish the image was a bit sharper as before comparing it with the iPhone 5’s camera, we notice the image is slightly blurry. When compared to the iPhone 5’s camera, we can see the amount of color the Iconia W3 doesn’t capture as much color, making the image less vibrant, and its blurriness is made even more apparent.

The Acer Iconia W3’s cameras will be able to perform their job without having any weird effects thrown into the image, but we recommend you don’t use it as your main camera if you want to upload great looking images. It should really be used if you absolutely have nothing else around you to capture whatever is going on around you.

Performance (good)

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Inside of the Acer Iconia W3’s 8-inch body is an Intel Atom Z2760 Dual-Core processor clocked at 1.50GHz. Just by the processor included in this tabet, we already know it won’t be the most powerful device on the block, but it should be able to get you through the day while taking care of some work while you’re on the go or traveling.

One of the first benchmarks we like to run for our PC reviews is PCMark 7, which is a benchmark used in order to simulate real-world tasks such as opening applications, booting up your computer and doing some mild graphical tasks.

PCMark 7 results

As expected, the Acer Iconia W3 didn’t perform well in PCMark 7’s benchmarks as it scored a total of 1440. This isn’t as low as the score we saw with Lenovo’s ThinkPad Tablet 2, as it scored a 1418, but a computer within this range shouldn’t be overburdened with tasks anyways as its speed could begin to suffer if you do too much multitasking on it.

The second benchmark we like to run on our test machines is 3DMark 11, which is a benchmark that is more demanding as its primary focus is how well it’ll perform as a gaming machine. And we’re not talking Facebook or Flash-based games here as those tend to not demand so much from a system, but instead, actual games like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed or any other current-generation games.

Since the Acer Iconia W3 features the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD, the tablet wasn’t able to run our 3DMark 11 benchmark. This should be no surprise as one of the last things you’re going to want to do on this tablet is play any serious games. The main focus of this tablet is productivity, although you may be able to get away with a Facebook game here or there, as long as you’re not multitasking too much.

The last benchmark we like to run on our computers is Geekbench. The purpose of Geekbench is to test a system’s raw CPU performance by throwing mathematical equations at it. This benchmark doesn’t test a laptop’s ability to handle real-world applications, so keep that in mind when viewing its results.

Geekbench results

The Geekbench score we received echoed pretty much the results we received in our PCMark 7 benchmark, which is to say the Acer Iconia W3 isn’t a powerful computer. With a score of 1212, we think it’s safe to say once again you’ll be able to work comfortably on the Iconia W3, but be sure to keep the multitasking down so you don’t slow it down unnecessarily.

Considering Acer was able to fit an Intel processor into an 8-inch tablet is still impressive and even though it may not be as powerful as some laptops, we still think the Iconia W3 deserves a good rating in this category after factoring in this is all inside of a tablet that you can easily carry around with one hand.

Value for the weight, price (very good)

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We know when purchasing a new computer, the weight of your device may make or break your decision to make your purchase depending on just how much performance you get out of the device in relation to its weight. Tablets are known for being light devices, and the Acer Iconia W3 weighs in at only 1.1lbs, making it a very light 8-inch tablet.

weight price

In our equation, we find the Iconia W3′s performance in relation to its weight makes this a very good device to carry around. The tablet won’t blow you away with its internal specs as it didnt’ score very high in our PCMark 7 benchmark, but when you consider it’s all within a 1.1lbs package, you’ll be getting a very good bang for your buck with this device.

Battery Life (excellent)

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With all of the limits the Acer Iconia W3 has with its performance, you would expect it to kick some serious butt in the battery life category, especially since its processor is known for being a low-energy consuming chip.

One of the first battery tests we run on our machines is a simple battery drain. The way we do this is by having the device run for an hour with its Wi-Fi kept on and its brightness set at 50% of its full setting. After leaving the Iconia W3 on for over an hour under these conditions, we noted an 8% drop in the tablet’s battery, which means under these conditions, you can expect 12 ½ hours of battery life making it a device that can easily get you through an entire work day, and more.

Since you probably won’t want to stare at your newest Windows 8 tablet all day, and will in fact want to use it at some time during your day, we ran some additional tests on the Iconia W3 to see just how well its battery would perform through regular use. The first test we ran involved watching a 720p YouTube video for an hour with the tablet’s display set to 50% of its brightness. Once this test was complete, we noted a 14% drop in the Iconia W3’s battery life, which means you can expect a little over 7 hours of battery when watching streaming videos. The second video test involved watching a local 1080p video for an hour with the tablet’s Wi-Fi kept on and its display set to 50% of its full brightness. At the end of our test, we noted a drop of 12% in the tablet’s battery, which means you can expect over 8 hours of battery life when watching videos stored locally.

Battery Charge (very good)

Even though the Iconia W3 features excellent battery life, there’s going to be a time when you need to plug it into your wall to give it its regular dose of good ole electricity. We feel knowing how long a device will charge is also an important factor to consider in our reviews, and in the case of the Iconia W3, we found it took over 2 hours to charge from 0% to 100%, which is a pretty standard rate for most devices.

Conclusion (good)

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Being the first 8-inch Windows 8 tablet means Acer has set a precedent not only to itself but to other companies who want to deliver the same kind of device in the future. The Acer Iconia W3 may not be the best Windows 8 tablet out there, but seeing how it’s the only 8-inch tablet available, it’s pretty much your only option if you’re looking for a device like this.

The Iconia W3 doesn’t have the best display, most powerful specs or a great camera, but its portability and battery life make it an overall good tablet. As long as you aren’t looking for fancy bells and whistles along with a Windows 8 tablet, and instead want to use it in order to be productive while you’re on the go in an extremely light package, then the Iconia W3 can be seen as a good choice.

Overall product rating: 6/10

Filed in Featured >Reviews >Tablets. Read more about Acer, Iconia W3, Tablet Reviews and Windows 8.

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