Acer Iconia W4 Review: Funky Design, Brilliant Screen, Low Value [VIDEO]

The Acer Iconia W4 is an 8.4-inch tablet with specs competitive in the 7- and 8-inch tablet market. But this version - the one Acer provided - is priced like a 10-inch tablet. Does it have the trousers to back up the price of admission?

Short answer: No.

For $350, here’s what you get:

Model: Iconia W4-820-2466

Size and Weight: 8.62" (W) x 5.31 (D)" x 0.38," 14.56 oz

Display: 8”, 1280 x 800 Acer CrystalBrite LED-backlit IPS LCD

Camera: 5MP rear, 2MP front

Platform: Windows 8.1

Performance:  1.33 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom Z3740, bursts up to 1.8GHz, 2GB RAM, 4960 mAh battery

Memory: 64GB internal storage, expandable via microSD card to another 64GB

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth® 4.0

Acer Iconia W4 The Acer Iconia W4 isn't going to win any awards for design.  Nick Deel/IBT

Aesthetics

The Iconia W4 looks much like its predecessor, the W3. The display is supported by an encasing that forms the skeleton of the tablet. The biggest difference is the color -- the W3 was a clinical shade of white, like a piece of plastic found in a hospital. The W4’s casing is more of a smoky gray, with a nice brushed effect on the back.

That aside, it’s still goofy-looking. The casing hangs down below the touch screen like a slack jaw, like it’s always awestruck.

You get three physical buttons on the gray casing: the power button on the top right (which works just fine), the Windows home button on the front (which is always a plus in my book), and the volume button on the side (which feels about as rigid as a toothpick). There’s a micro HDMI port below the volume button, which is actually a good spot to place your thumb while holding the W4. The last opening on the right side is a micro SD slot that, for some reason, Acer decided didn’t need a protective covering.

It’s not a particularly pretty device. And it certainly doesn’t feel like something you’ve paid nearly $350 for.

Acer Iconia W4 Performance The Acer Iconia W4 performed admirably in our graphics bench-marking test, keeping up with the best of them.  Nick Deel/IBT

Performance

The Iconia W4’s benchmarking tests are similar to the W3’s. That to be expected, considering the W4’s power sources are pretty much the same -- 2GB RAM, Intel graphics, Atom 1.33GHz (peaking at 1.8GHz) processor. It’s not a bad setup. Combined with Windows 8.1, it’s actually plenty quick and responsive, even during our patented Asphalt 8 Torture Test (patent pending).

There’s plenty of storage space in the W4 -- 64GB internal memory, and the micro SD slot allows for an extra 64GB of storage. The W4 is beefy enough to handle semi-intensive gaming (and the large storage space means you’ll be able to actually hold massive apps), but I can’t help but feel that, for almost $350, Acer should offer more processing power.

Or at least a better screen. Yes, the new “CrystalBrite” display is much better than the old W3 screen - the colors are rich, even at a variety of viewing angles. But it’s still a 720p screen, and there are tablets (both in the same class and larger) with 1080p resolutions at this price point.

Battery life on the W4 is disappointing. The claimed life is eight hours, but I never managed to eke out more than six and a half hours during normal usage (streaming, social media, gaming, etc.), all on the machine’s default settings.

Since the W4 is a Windows tablet, it comes equipped with Windows 8.1 - the interface experience here is no different from other Windows tablets we’ve reviewed, which is to say it’s quite good. But if you’re not a fan of Windows 8.1, this certainly won’t change your mind.

Acer Iconia W4 Speakers The built-in speakers on the Acer Iconia W4 leave something to be desired, so you'll want to use it with headphones.  Nick Deel/IBT

Auxiliaries

The Iconia W4 isn’t big on style, and it doesn’t have a unique trait (aside from its oddball appearance). But it does still have all the basics you’d expect from a tablet, like front and rear cameras. They’re 5MP and 2MP units respectively, which is ho-hum on paper. But for some reason (down to software, I reckon), the rear camera actually takes respectable shots. Points for the W4 there.

Speakers are ... okay. Nothing you’ll remember or particularly enjoy, especially since they come out of the bottom of the tablet. They’re hollow but decently loud; you’ll hear alerts, but don’t expect to enjoy movie dialogue without a set of decent headphones plugged in.

There’s a micro HDMI port, which is never a bad thing.

The W4 does come with Microsoft Office - but this isn’t necessarily a positive addition. Office is a great suite of programs, but as Acer proclaims in the papers that accompany the program key, Office is “a $130 value.” Do you need Office on a tablet this size? It was uncomfortable on the Dell Venue Pro 8, and it’s no easier here. The screen is just too small for office duty. Never mind that you’d have to buy a separate keyboard and stand to make proper use of Office, which would add to the W4’s already high price.

Acer Iconia W4 Value The $350 price tag on the Acer Iconia W4 is a bit too much for what you get.  Nick Deel/IBT

Value

It’s hard to recommend this W4. It’s awkward to hold and even weirder to behold. It doesn’t perform dramatically better than any of its Windows tablet brethren, and the battery is iffy. And its cheaper competitors still come with Microsoft Office if you’re into minute work stations.

The Iconia is just different looking. Whether that difference is worth the money is up to you, but if you do fancy the W4, I’d recommend the 820-2894 model, which has the upgraded screen like the $350 model, but comes with a smaller 32GB hard drive for $300. But I’d still have a Dell Venue Pro over the W4.

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