We can’t pretend to like the term ‘phablet’ but it does do a fairly good job of describing a device that is too large to be strictly speaking called a phone and too small to be strictly speaking called a tablet. Screen sizes below 7-inches but over 5.5-inches fall into this category and for want of a better descriptive word, we’re sticking with it.
A lot of phablets are expensive and for the most part you are looking at more than £500. While Samsung’s Galaxy Mega is under £300 there’s nothing in the phablet category that can match the £220 of the Acer Liquid S1 Duo which has the added advantage of two microSIM card slots.
Considering its relatively low price there is an awful lot going here. We did find a bit of flex in the chassis, but the overall design is attractive and the 5.7 inch screen nestles quite well without too much bezel adding to the overall device size. Even so, the Acer Liquid S1 Duo is large for holding to the ear to take a call and slipping into a pocket.
The screen itself is not the highest resolution, but its 1,280 x 720 pixels are good enough for the full range of activities from watching video to web browsing and reading ebooks. More expensive phablets like the Galaxy Note 3 have since moved up to full 1080p HD.
One big disappointment is that there’s only 5GB of accessible internal storage from the 8GB that’s installed, but that is partly assuaged by the fact that there is a microSD card slot that you can use to add more storage if you need it.
The quad core processor is good enough too. It is not a top of the range model, but it handled what we threw at it well, and really, considering the price of the Liquid S1 Duo it is perfectly acceptable.
Acer adds a fair range of apps to Android 4.2, and many of these will please you if you want to use the Liquid S1 Duo for work. There’s a print utility for using wireless printers, and support for wireless display too. There’s also Polaris Office. Add in that dual SIM capability which means you can have both work and personal SIMs in the same device, and the Acer Liquid S1 Duo might make a very good business phablet.
There are also some other utilities including a notes app called LiveScreen which lets you annotate screen grabs or photos, Evernote, Facebook, and a file manager. It’s quite a nice bundle.
Acer has taken a cue from those other handset makers who let you run pop-up apps which sit on top of whatever app you are running at the time. You can long press the multitasking button to call up a menu that offers a selection of these including a calculator, a couple of notes apps, timer, web browser, Google maps and even a camera applet making it easy to take a quick photo without leaving the app you are in. This long press action also pops up an additional eight app shortcuts so you can have all your favourites readily accessible.
This is a really useful added bonus feature, and there’s another which might not seem so useful at first thought. The two cameras, front and back, can take photos when you say ‘cheese’. This is probably most useful when the front camera is in action and you’re taking a group shot that includes yourself as you can stand back from the camera to better frame a photo. An added bonus on that front is that the front camera has a wider angle lens than usual, so that when used in wide screen mode in particular you can cram more into a shot.
If you have wanted to dip your toe in the phablet waters before now, but have found the options available just that bit too rich the compromises the Acer S1 has made to reach its £200 price point are small enough that it becomes worth a look.