Acer Liquid Jade S review - hands on

Acer's smartphone range has always focused more on the budget end of the spectrum than chase the high end, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few gems in the line-up. Last year's Liquid Jade was a competent mid-ranger that didn't set the world on fire, but did everything you would expect from a sub-£200 handset. So much so that it earned a successor at this year's CES, in the shape of the Liquid Jade S. The addition of 4G support and faster octa-core processor should give it the edge, but we still wandered over to Acer's booth to put one through its paces and bring you some first impressions.

In terms of styling, the glossy white finish and silver metal accents around the edges are more than a bit reminiscent of older Samsung Galaxy handsets. We wouldn't exactly call it a modern look, but the curved edges, sculpted rear that fits comfortably in your hand and glass that covers the entire front of the phone at least look reasonably sleek. It's surprisingly light, weighing just 116g, and is less than 8mm at its thickest point. You certainly wont struggle to slip it in a pocket. The top-mounted power button is a little bit of a stretch to reach, but you can wake the screen with a gesture instead.

Although little has changed on the outside from the previous model, Acer has upgraded the Jade S internally with a 64-bit, Octacore processor. Although Mediatek might not be the first name you think of when it comes to smartpone CPUs, there's no doubting the MT6572M's performance abilities; running all eight of its Cortex A53 cores at 1.5GHz and paired with 2GB of RAM, it absolutely flies through Android with no discernable stutter or lag when opening of switching between apps. Although we had no internet access at the Acer booth to download benchmarks or run our usual SunSpider Javascript test, it certainly impressed us with its snappy day-to-day performance.

You get 16GB of built-in storage, but you can add more using the microSD card slot. On certain models, this slot doubles as a secondary SIM card tray, letting you choose between more storage or a dual SIM setup.

We were a little disappointed that Acer won't be launching the Liquid Jade S with Android 5.0 Lollipop , but at least it runs the previous KitKat build rather than an older OS. Acer has also promised to release a Lollipop update later in the year, so prospective customers shouldn't have to wait forever to get their hands on an upgrade. Acer has skinned Kitkat with its own custom UI, which is fairly unobtrusive, although the cluttered app drawer feels rather outdated in the light of Lollipop's minimal layout. You also get the usual selection of proprietary Acer apps, including a basic mode which limits access to certain apps and services.

It certainly helps that Android looks bright and colourful on the 5in LCD display. Screen resolution might only be 720p, but images and text still looked reasonably sharp and you had to move fairly close before you could spot individual pixels. Viewing angles were superb too, and we had no trouble reading the screen under the harsh show floor lighting.

The 13-megapixel rear camera has an f/1.8 aperture lens which should be able to capture plenty of light, while and LED flash will help when it comes to low-light shooting. We weren't able to take any of our sample shots away with us for closer analysis, but it certainly seemed to capture enough detail of our brightly lit surroundings for posting on social networks. Zooming in revealed a fair amount of noise, however, so they may not be ideal for printing. Acer has focused primarily on usability, adding voice control features that lets you activate HDR or shout "selfie" to activate the front-facing 5-megapixel camera and start a 3-second countdown timer.

The Liquid Jade S looks like a fairly well-equipped mid-range handset that's slim, fast and looks pretty slick too. If Acer gets the price right it could slot into the current crop of middle of the road 4G devices comfortably to give Motorola's Moto G a run for its money. We won't have long to wait to find out; Acer expects the phone to go on sale later this month across Europe, with prices around €299 - roughly £230 here in the UK. We'll be sure to take a closer look as soon as we get a final retail unit.

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