Acer liquid metal

If we sit the Acer Liquid Metal next to its own stablemate the Acer Stream, we think we like the Stream more. A bigger screen, faster processor, more pleasing physical design and FM radio give it a lift. But then, it's a little more expensive.

Looking further afield, the (soon to be) Android 2.2-toting HTC Wildfire is still a good buy and considerably less expensive than the Stream, while the Samsung Wave, though not an Android handset, might be a viable alternative for some people.

Our top alternative choice, though, has to be the Motorola Defy. With its toughened glass, water resistant design and generally shockproof credentials, it adds in Motorola's MotoBlur social networking system and gives the Acer Liquid Metal a good run for its money for a roughly similar price.

We liked

The screen, while small, is clear and sharp, and very responsive. A definite plus.

Facebook and Twitter are integrated into contacts, and it was great to be able to start making calls and posting on walls within minutes of powering up. Note, though, that the contacts app refused to pick up our Twitter contacts, indicating an early glitch.

Sound quality is relatively good thanks to Dolby mobile, and video playback smooth. We could easily fritter away time on YouTube.

We disliked

We aren't too sure we like the physical design of the Acer Liquid Metal a great deal. That curved back causes desktop usage problems without having a strong plus point.

The user interface, despite being called Breeze, is a bit of a pain to get used to. Some people may like it, but we found it rather convoluted.

The camera seems to have trouble focusing and dealing with light variations. Maybe it was just a problem with our sample, but if you really care about your phone's camera, give it a try before you buy.

We didn't appreciate having to install Flash for ourselves or to needing to sign in to Facebook and Twitter twice.

Verdict

Acer has followed up its Stream with another smartphone that doesn't quite live up to expectations. The price is attractive, and the screen is very good, but there are some irritations too. We aren't sure we like Breeze as a user interface, the camera needs some work, and for all its social media integration we don't appreciate how convoluted the process is.

This is a step in the right direction for Acer, but we still struggle to see how this phone really differentiates itself from the rest of the Android crowd. Its mid-range price and standard specs are pretty consistent in the market these days, and although Breeze is a different UI, it's hardly a Breeze to use.