Acer Liquid S1 Duo review

Pros

  • Impressive display
  • Floating apps
  • Dual-sim support
  • Good value for money

Cons

  • Slightly suspect build quality
  • Relatively low capacity battery

If you fancy a “phablet” for Christmas, but think some of the prices are a bit difficult to stomach, then turn your eye towards the Acer Liquid S1 Duo. Its 5.7in screen certainly puts the Liquid S1 Duo in phablet territory, and its price is attractive.

You can spend £500 on the stylus-toting 32GB 5.7in Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and on the 16GB 5.9in HTC One Max, £540 on the 16GB 6.4in Sony Xperia Z Ultra, or £590 on the new 32GB 6in Nokia Lumia 1520. Even the lower cost 8GB 6.3in Samsung Galaxy Mega will set you back £295. But the Acer Liquid S1 Duo comes in at a rather less wallet-emptying £220. All these sim-free prices were taken from online retailer Expansys, by the way.

Now clearly the Liquid S1 Duo can’t match those other devices stride for stride. Whatever else it may or may not do, though, it offers two sim card slots, which none of those handsets can boast.

I’ve already mentioned screen sizes, so let’s take a closer look there. All the smartphones mentioned above (apart from the Samsung Galaxy Mega) have a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel screen. Acer can’t manage that and instead settles for 1,280 x 720 pixels – the same as the Galaxy Mega.

This means the definition isn’t as high as it is on those top-end handsets, of course, but in practice is there really much difference? I don’t think so. Web pages are readable, and ITProPortal’s side-by-side home page view works nicely. I downloaded the Kindle app and read eBooks quite happily. I watched video. It was all fine. This is the kind of money saving compromise I’d be happy to live with in everyday life.

The processor is pretty good, too. It’s not top drawer, but a quad-core 1.5GHz processor with 1GB of RAM in support is not to be sniffed at, and I found no particular problems with speed or responsiveness. Again, I am weighing up price and components here and coming out with a smiling face.

There’s an annoyance for fans of higher-end modern games in that there’s only 8GB of internal memory – and just 5GB of that is free. If you don’t need to install lots of big third-party apps you might be happy with this, though. And there are plenty of ways of augmenting what’s on board – most obviously the microSD slot. Or you could use Dropbox or any number of other cloud options. There’s also Acer’s own Acer Cloud which is pre-installed, complete with Acer Remote Files – a service that lets you get right into the files stored on your PC.

The Liquid S1 Duo runs Android 4.2, and there are quite a lot of pre-installed apps here. Acer Print is a tool for printing to Wi-Fi enabled printers, and wireless display is also supported. These could dovetail nicely with Polaris Office for the business-minded among us, or anyone who needs to create Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint compatible files.

AutoProfile is a profile switcher that can be set to change automatically depending on where you are – it uses GPS or network/Wi-Fi location for this. It’ll turn Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and mobile network connections on or off, and change screen brightness as well as ringtone and volume.

There’s a backup utility, barcode scanner, weather app, a utility for using the handset as a Wi-Fi hotspot which offers a QR code for login, Evernote, Facebook, a file manager, FM radio, HDChannel – which only delivers HD YouTube video – and LiveScreen, which lets you annotate screen captures or photos, or create notes on a blank screen, and more.

And that’s not all. Long press the multitasking button and up pops an apps shortcuts page. Two rows of four app shortcuts can be personalised. The third row gives you access to mini apps that you can open up on top of whatever else you are doing. These are not customisable – but there are already more than the four available when the Liquid S1 Duo launched. You can scroll horizontally to get to another three. There’s a calculator, camera app, Google map, notes app, web browser, timer, and a second tiny memo app.

In addition, an incoming call shows up as a floating icon making it easy to take – or dismiss – a call without interrupting whatever else you are doing.

There are two cameras on board. The front one shoots to 2-megapixels and has a wider angle lens than usual. When holding the handset in portrait mode this gives rather too much headspace for my liking, but it is potentially useful in widescreen format, particularly alongside the 720p video capture capability. You can get more in the frame when taking videos that include yourself. The main camera shoots to 8-megapixels and 1080p. In both cases you can take a photo by saying “cheeze” – or, if my experiments are good evidence, any word that ends with an “eeze” sound.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the size of the S1 Duo. Obviously enough, it’s big in order to accommodate that 5.7in screen. It’s far too large for most of my pockets, and at 195 grams it’s a bit heavy for carrying around all day, every day. I couldn’t reach right across the screen one-handed, and I felt a real chump taking voice calls. But that’s the price you pay for a big screen, and there’s a soft-touch finish to the back which helps with grip.

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It’s a little annoying that even with such a large body Acer has located the two microsim and microSD card slots so it’s necessary to remove the battery to get to them. No hot-swapping memory here, then.

The build quality is a little suspect – I could flex the phone in my hands a little and the backplate is rather flimsy – though slightly less than Samsung gets away with in its Galaxy S4. The left side power button and right side volume rocker are well positioned for one-handed use, and the headset and power jacks are where they should be – top and bottom respectively.

The 2400mAh battery may not see you through a day if you want to make use of the big screen for power-hungry features. It’s probably the biggest let-down of this handset that Acer couldn’t have squeezed more capacity in here.

Verdict

The Acer Liquid S1 Duo is very impressive, on the whole. If you want to dip a toe in phablet waters but are wary of the outlay, you’ll get plenty of good features here, and the added bonus of dual-sim support. It’s just a pity about the relatively low capacity battery and internal memory shortage.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Acer Liquid S1 Duo

Network

SIM1 3G; SIM2 2G

Processor

MediaTek 1.5GHz quad-core

Ram

1GB

Memory

8GB

Memory expansion

microSD

Display

5.7in, 1,280 x 720 pixels

Main camera

8 megapixel

Front camera

2 mgapixel

NFC

No

Wi-Fi

Yes

GPS

Yes

FM radio

Yes

Battery

2,400mAh

Size

83 x 9.6 x 163mm (WxDxH)

Weight

195g

OS

Android 4.2