Strong battery life; Great virtual keyboard; Office Home and Student included; Runs full Windows
Poor viewing angles and screen contrast; Mediocre performance
While the screen could be better, the Acer Iconia W3-810 offers a full Windows 8 experience, Microsft Office and long battery life in a portable 8-inch package.
Since Microsoft launched its desktop operating system last October, you have been able to buy any size Windows 8 tablet you want . . . as long as it's 10-inches or larger. Enter the $379 Acer Iconia W3-810 ($429 as tested with 64GB of storage), the first in a new breed of smaller Windows tablets that are significantly more portable and affordable than their larger siblings. With an 8.1-inch screen, a free copy of Office 2013 Home and Student and a relatively-compact body, the Iconia W310-810 provides an unabridged Windows experience that fits in one hand and lasts nearly 9 hours on a charge. However, to get that experience at this price, you'll have to make a few compromises.
At 8.6 x 5.3 x 0.44 inches and 1.1 pounds, the W3 is significantly larger and heavier than 8-inch competitors such as the 7.87 x 5.3 x 0.28-inch, 0.69-pound iPad mini and the 8.3 x 5.35 x 0.31-inch, 0.75-pound Samsung Galaxy Note 8. The difference here, though, is that the W3 provides a full desktop OS.
Whether we were watching a video or simply staring at the desktop, colors began to wash out significantly at just 15 degrees to the left or right. We were able to tilt the screen back nearly 90 degrees without too much color distortion, but if there was ambient light in the room, the glare became intense as we angled the display away from ourselves.
Just forget about using the Acer Iconia W3-810 in bright sunlight. Its dim display measured just 222 lux on our light meter, about 40 percent lower than the 364 lux tablet category average, and about half as bright as the iPad mini (432 lux) and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (489). Other Atom-based Windows tablets such as the HP Envy x2 (306) and ASUS VivoTab Smart (292 lux) also were much brighter.
The display supports 5-point touch and, in our tests, we were able to draw with five fingers at once in Windows Paint. In general, the digitizer was quite responsive but we sometimes had to poke at objects more than once to hit our target; this was particularly true with smaller areas such as fields in web forms.
MORE: Top 25 Windows 8 Apps
Keyboard Dock and Virtual Keyboard
For users who find reaching across the keyboard annoying even at this width, Windows 8 offers a split keyboard option, which we found less useful. The handwriting recognition keyboard did a pretty good job of converting our finger traced letters into ASCII characters, even recognizing our name "Avram," the first time we traced it.
Users who upgrade the OS to Windows 8.1 Preview version will get an even better virtual keyboard which provides three autopredict selections instead of the one offered by Windows 8 and lets you select them simply by swiping on the keyboard. The new keyboard also allows you to enter number keys simply by long pressing on the top row of letters, a huge convenience.
Typing on the keyboard was a mixed bag. The keys are fairly large and well placed and offer a reasonable amount of travel, but they also feel a bit stiff. On the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor Test, we scored just 68 words per minute with a 3-percent error rate, well below our 80 wpm, 1-percent average. As we performed the test we found ourselves missing letters we thought we'd hit, because the keys seem to require a more deliberate stroke. Like most tablet keyboards, there's no palmrest to support your wrists. Unfortunately, there's also no touchpad or pointing stick so you'll need to reach over the keyboard and touch the screen to navigate around, a process we found a bit frustrating.
The left back side of the Iconia W3-810 occasionally got warm during our use. After streaming a Hulu video for 20 minutes, the area of that chassis measured 95 degrees Fahrenheit, which is right at our uncomfortability threshold.
Don't expect the USB port to provide a lot of power on its own; a USB monitor we connected did not power on at all. Also, the Iconia W3-810 doesn't charge over microUSB, but instead uses a proprietary power jack.
The back-facing camera captured blurry but reasonably colorful still images and 720p video of a Manhattan street. However, when we pointed it at our notebook's keyboard for a close-up shot indoors, we saw a lot of noise.
Windows 8 Experience
Most of the preloaded Microsoft apps run well in portrait mode, including Bing News, Finance, Weather, Search and maps. The Camera, the People app, the stock email and Skydrive also rotate nicely. Whether Microsoft or third-party, most apps that play or show video such as Xbox Music, XBox Video, Skype, Netflix and Hulu Plus force the screen into landscape mode.
The Iconia W3-810's display was more than large enough for reading the content in Modern Apps like the news app or surfing the web in the Modern version of IE 10. Settings menus and charms were crisp and easy to read.
On PCMark 7, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the Acer Iconia W3-810 scored a modest 1,415, about half the tablet category average of 2,877 but on a par with other Atom-powered Windows 8 tablets such as the ASUS VivoTab Smart (1,399) and the HP Envy X2 (1,428).
Consistent with other Atom-powered tablets, the Iconia W3-810 takes a while to handle compute-intensive tasks. When we ran the LAPTOP Spreadsheet Macro Test, which matches 20,000 names with their addresses, the tablet took 30 minutes and 17 seconds to complete the task, nearly double the category average (17 minutes and 16 seconds) but on a par with its competitors.
You can play 1080p videos on the Iconia W3-810, but don't try anything too graphically intense. When we tried to play "Judge Dredd versus Zombies," a third-person shooter that ran smoothly on the Surface with RT and is Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, the game kept pausing for half a second in the middle of the action and flickering the screen black.
When we used Word and Excel in landscape mode without a physical keyboard, the virtual keyboard ate up more than half of the screen real estate with the tool bars and window widgets, leaving room for only about a paragraph of text or 9 rows of cells on screen at once. However, you'll want to attach a keyboard and consider adding a mouse if you're going to do any kind of serious productivity work.
Acer Crystal Eye controls the camera and provides a few options the Windows 8 stock camera app lacks such as white balance control, brightness and contrast adjustment, a timer and the ability to tag by location. Acer Explorer has links to support and tutorials but mostly just promotes apps the company would like you to buy or use, some of which are among the preloaded crapware and others of which you'd need to pay for.
In desktop mode, you get Acer Media, which plays music and video files either locally or stored in the AcerCloud service. AcerCloud is a free service that lets you share files, photos, music and videos amongst all your devices. Acer Docs is the document-sharing front end for AcerCloud.
The Acer Iconia W3-810 is available in just two configurations, a 32GB version that's priced at $379 ($349 at Office Depot) and a 64GB model that goes for $429 ($399 at Office Depot). The keyboard dock costs $79.
If you don't need the full WIndows experience, consider the $300 iPad mini, which has a brighter screen and weighs .4 less, or the $399 Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which comes with a stylus and a slew of powerful note-taking apps. However, if you want real Windows on your tablet, the Acer Iconia W3-810 is your most portable, affordable option.
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|CPU||1.8-GHz Intel Atom Z2760|
|Storage Drive Size||64GB|
|Storage Drive Type||Flash Memory|
|Display Resolution||1280 x 800|
|Graphics Chip||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator|
|Camera Resolution||2 MP|
|Front-Facing Camera Resolution||2.0MP|
|Card Reader Size||64GB|
|Warranty / Support|
|Size||5.3 x 8.6 x .44 inches|