Before Christmas I took a look at a low cost, giant-sized smartphone from Acer, the Liquid S1 Duo. This dual-sim, 5.7in screened monster came in at £220, and I really liked it. No it didn’t have top-end specs, but it did well enough considering its price.
Now I have the Acer Liquid S2 to review – the follow up to the S1, of course. It has a standout camera related feature which I’ll get to shortly. However, unlike the dual-sim toting Liquid S1 it has just the one sim slot.
With its 6in screen, the Liquid S2 offers slightly more viewing area than its predecessor which has a 5.7in screen. But the overall handset size is about the same – 83 x 9.6 x 163mm (WxDxH) and 195g for the Liquid S1 plays 89 x 9 x 166mm (WxDxH) and 229g for the Liquid S2.
The price of the Acer Liquid S2 is pitched at £429, which isn’t bad for a phablet. At the time of writing, I priced up some rivals using an online retailer: The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is £480, HTC One Max is £599, Sony Xperia Z Ultra is £499, and the Nokia Lumia 1520 is £560.
The Acer Liquid S2 stands out immediately thanks its bright red backplate. It has a metallic finish and quite simply it looks stunning – to the point that I’m not sure I’d want to hide it away in a protective case. The backplate isn’t removable, so the nano-sim card slot and microSD card slot are both on the right edge. The latter is protected by a hinged cover, the former needs to be prized open with the usual pointy tool or paper clip end. The on/off switch is a thin sliver on the top of the chassis, and the headset slot is on the top too. The volume rocker is another sliver, though a long one, on the right edge. The microUSB port is on the bottom of the right edge, which is a bit awkward as a location. I’d have much preferred it on the bottom edge.
That’s it for ports and connectors, although there are also twin speaker grilles on the left long edge. These are powered by Dolby Digital Plus – a first for a smartphone. You get an app which lets you customise settings for various different types of audio content. Sound quality is reasonable, but not amazing. It is when you use the earphones, designed, by the way, with a black and red livery that matches the Liquid S2, that you notice the difference. Sound is sharp and details are very good. The experience of movie watching can certainly be taken up a notch with this handset.
The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 3, and it curves gently into the four sides of the handset. Acer’s trademark circular touch sensitive home button sits beneath the screen alongside back and recent buttons. Above the screen is Acer’s familiar curved styling with a flash of red that is seen if you hold it at certain angles, mirroring the backplate colour.
The screen is a bright and sharp 6in IPS LCD panel with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels on offer – that’s a pixel density of a very respectable 368 ppi. The levels of sharpness and clarity are impressive, but viewing angles aren’t brilliant and the screen is quite reflective.
One of the key claims to fame of the Acer Liquid S2 is that its 13-megapixel main camera can shoot 4K Ultra HD video (the next step up from 1080p). Good luck actually viewing video shot at this resolution – you can’t do it on the Liquid S2 itself, and compatible TVs are a mite expensive. Even saving 4K camera clips onto microSD can only be done if you have an ultra-high speed microSD card in the slot.
There are other shooting options that might appeal to mere mortals. Video can be captured at 2x (720p) or 4x (1080p) slow motion, and there’s a time lapse option too. Panoramas are shot to a massive 27-megapixels.
One camera feature I really like is the ability to save five preset profiles for easy access. If you do a lot of shooting in particular situations this might well appeal. Also, the four LED flashes sitting around the camera lens bring a bit more light into dimmer situations than is usually the case with smartphone photography.
Effects can be applied right onto photos as you shoot them, which reduces the need for editing later but probably means you should take two shots – one normal and one with your chosen filter on top. The front camera shoots to 2-megapixels and is primarily your selfie and video call camera (though it does record 1080p video).
There are some other nice extras. You can shake the handset to mute alarms, and the “float menu” that I liked so much in the Liquid S1 is back again. You long-press the recent apps button to call it up, and it allows you quick access to eight apps, along with a further four that will sit on top of whatever app you are in. The last four are the camera, maps, calculator and notes apps.
Android 4.2 has been expanded with a large range of add-on apps. I like Live Screen which lets you annotate a captured screen or photo, or write to a blank sheet. A full version of Polaris Office is provided, which is also good to see. You’ve got Acer Cloud storage in addition to 16GB of memory on board – reduced to 11.5GB actually available – but that microSD card slot can be used to add more.
This is a 4G LTE handset, and it supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, with both Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA. There’s NFC in the mix, and an FM radio. The top-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 is partnered with 2GB of RAM and it proved flashy and fast under my fingers. Furthermore, the 3,300mAh battery is easily good for a full day unless you want to spend that day watching videos or playing high-end games. My one slight concern is occasional hot running while the battery is charging.
When I reviewed the Liquid S1 Duo, I noted that it was let down by a low capacity battery and lack of internal memory. Both those issues have been addressed this time round, though 16GB, while double the storage of the S1, is arguably not enough for such a media capable handset. At least a very accessible microSD slot lets you add much more storage easily.
This handset’s build is solid, and its features plentiful and imaginative. While 4K video is not something many of us can actually enjoy at present, at least there’s a future-proofing element here. Acer deserves to have success with the Liquid S2, although the company’s relatively low profile might be a hindrance in that respect.
Manufacturer and Model
Acer Liquid S2
2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
6in, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
86.2 x 8.99 x 166 (WxDxH)