The Acer Iconia W7 tablets are probably one of the closest things we have to the Microsoft Surface Pro in this region. Better than the Surface Pro, in fact, given the bigger battery and screen size, and the extra goodies. Understandably then, I was a bit disappointed to see that our review unit was running a two year old processor. But more on that later, let’s have look at the hardware itself.
The Acer Iconia W7 comes packed with a lot of goodies, not least of which is the powerful hardware packed inside the tablet’s body. We get a stand which expands the USB 3.0 port from just one on the body to three on the side. Furthermore you also get a separate Bluetooth keyboard which, unfortunately, doesn’t have the aluminum finish of the W7 tablet, but a complete plastic body. I guess it’s light, but doesn’t have a premium finish of the tablet. Still, I’m not truly miffed given the price point.
As for the W7’s body itself, the whole thing is one large piece of aluminum, with the 11-inch glass covering the face. The Windows key at bottom looks nice and unobtrusive to the eye, just below which is the mic, flanked by the speakers on either side. The right side houses the power/ sleep button and the volume controls in addition to the 3.5mm headphones jack. Meanwhile on the left we have the USB 3.0 and microHDMI port, plus the power adapter. And finally on the top we have the auto-rotate lock button and two grills for heat dissipation.
As mentioned earlier, our tester Iconia W7 comes with an outdated processor, specifically the Intel Core i3-2365M (Sandy bridge) CPU running at 1.40GHz, matched with 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD for storage. Two things to point out first, that with all the bloatware installed by Acer, including the extraordinary amount of disk space required by Windows 8, you’re only left with 29GB of useable space out of the box. Secondly, given that the Intel Core-i3-2365M comes with the previous generation Intel HD 3000 graphics, it doesn’t support any DX11 content.
The accompanying 11-inch screen is an IPS panel running in full HD 1080p resolution, making everything look extremely crisp, and that’s a huge plus.
The Acer Iconia W7 weighs in at 0.95kgs, but due to the large size it can’t be used comfortably with just one hand, especially in portrait mode. And despite my reservations about the hardware, the Core i3 processor along with the SSD undeniably gives a smooth experience when it comes to web browsing or watching HD videos. Switch from the Metro UI to any program opened in the back ground and everything just flows; there are literally no slow downs whatsoever.
Obviously once you start to use the desktop for some heavy duty stuff, like Adobe Lightroom or even running something as simple as Dota 2, and the processor starts to struggle, with unresponsive touches and alt-tabbing applications taking a lot of time. The whole smoothness of the experience is instantly crippled if you run anything that would require a moderately powerful processor by 2013’s standards.
There’s not much to run on the Acer Iconia W7 given that its peers have overtaken it in terms of raw power, but it’s nice to see that the machine is still capable of handling daily tasks rather smoothly, as seen by PCMark 7 score of 3278 points. Additionally DX9 games would also run smooth evidenced by the 3DMark Ice Storm test score of 15564 points.
Impressively, the battery is enough to give you up to 8 hours of constant browsing, watching HD videos and running the benchmarks noted above.
The Acer Iconia W7, like most Windows 8 tablets, will live or die on its hardware, which in turn defines the type of experience users will have. With the Microsoft Surface Pro, you know that the processor is more than enough to multi-task between proper desktop applications and games. With the multiple SKUs offered by Acer, however, it’s a tough choice for the customer to decide what hardware to go with and, more importantly, what kind of experience they will end up with.
Our test machine is brilliant for basic tasks like browsing and consuming HD video content, but then so is an iPad or any number of other Android tablets. The differentiating factor between a Windows 8 tablet and all the iOS and Android tablets is that the former allows you to use them as a proper laptop, where you can both work and play anything you can on your desktop. The Acer Iconia W7’s weak hardware simply doesn’t give that superior experience.