Hands on: Acer Iconia One 8 review

The tablet that works with a pencil

What is a hands on review?
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For

  • Precision Plus tech makes for accurate drawing
  • Affordable
  • Android Lollipop is mostly untouched

Against

  • Poor front camera

The tablet category is decelerating, which is possibly down to a number of factors: a lack of innovation; the fact that people aren't so inclined to refresh their tablet as frequently as their phone; and, of course, the rise of the phablet.

Acer's trying to solve at least the first of those problems with the Iconia One 8, the cheap and cheerful new slate that wants to appeal to artists and education types. Its big selling point is its super-sensitive touchscreen, which comes about due to Acer's Precision Plus technology.

Iconia

Every tablet manufacturer wants their slates to appeal to designers and artists, but technological barriers too often prevent a touchscreen from being a real replacement for a bit of paper or a canvas. Precision Plus uses smaller sensors than most other tablets, meaning that your sketches and lines are much more accurate.

Iconia

In fact, you can even use a pencil if you don't have a stylus lying about. While I thought that this might go for any pointed object, and Acer rep told me that the screen actually detects the led material - and it works pretty nicely.

This added precision is also useful for cutting and editing pictures. A three-finger swipe gesture on the the display will take a screen grab that you can then chop and manipulate in Acer's editing suite.

Speaking of the interface, the Iconia One 8 is the first Acer tablet to run Android 5.0 Lollipop, and Acer has actually left it largely untouched aside from the small suite of its own app offerings. The result is a UI that's surprisingly nimble for a budget tablet, even with just 1GB of RAM.

As someone who prefers Android to be as close to stock as possible, I'd be happy using Acer's take on Lollipop.

Iconia

Design

At £139.99 ($149, about AU$190) you wouldn't expect the One 8 to look like the most premium tablet on the market, but it's not bad. The bezel is just small enough and the body is only 9.55mm thick, making it comfortable in the hand.

Another display feature Acer is singing about is "zero air gap" technology. It sounds like marketing spiel, but what it actually means is that everything is a bit more readable and less prone to reflections - it was actually a feature on the Iconia W4.

Iconia

Following in the footsteps of its predecessors, the One 8 comes in a range of colourful options - 10, to be exact - and with the option of some fun cases too.

Ticking off some of the other boxes, the One 8 also comes with a microSD slot on the left hand side which will accept cards up to 32GBs in size. The tablet has 16GB of internal storage to start with.

Iconia

There's a 5MP rear camera and a 0.3MP front-facer too. I always feel like a tablet's front-facing camera should be the better of the two considering that you're more likely going to use it for something like Skype than you are for taking pictures out in the wild.

But anyone who knows me will be aware I generally despise the idea of people using their tablet as a camera. Not that I'm judging you if you're that person. But I totally am.

Still, 0.3MP is quite poor in this day in age, so this aspect is a bit of a letdown.

Iconia

Early verdict

The Iconia One 8 feels like a good tablet for its low asking price, but it's mostly down to Acer's Precision Plus technology. It's the sort of slate that would be perfect in a classroom or for any budding artists who wants something better for sketching.

Acer has done a good thing in leaving Lollipop alone for the most part, and while there might not be too much to get excited about here, the superior touchscreen accuracy on offer could separate this from its other budget rivals when it arrives in the next couple of months.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.