If you've seen the Liquid S100, you've seen the Liquid E. It's the exact same design, and it's not something that Acer is hiding, despite well-justified concern over the first phone's cheap-looking exterior.

Acer liquid e

The big selling point here is the new incarnation of the operating system.

At 135g, it weighs exactly the same as the HTC Desire, and it's 2g lighter than the iPhone 4.

It feels a good deal chunkier than both of those blockbusters though, measuring up at 115mm long, by 64mm wide, by a chubby 12.7mm thick.

Acer liquid e

The design itself is very minimalist without a single hard button nestling next to the 3.5-inch capacitive multi-touch screen.

There's plenty of space around that screen, with the SIM-free model we're reviewing boasting a white casing.

Acer liquid e

Indeed, one of the best things this phone has going for it, is that it looks like an Imperial Stormtrooper. We only hope it's smarter.

Occasionally, it struggles to be as receptive when hitting the smaller icons, like the Google voice search microphone, but swiping between Home screens is very slick, although not quite as rapid as on phones like the HTC Desire.

Below the screen are four touch-sensitive icons offering the Android buttons we've become accustomed to: Home, Search, Back and Menu.

Acer liquid e

We like the way they're designed here, nicely lit from beneath. They don't come alive unless the screen is unlocked.

Once the screen is unlocked, it's apparent that it's a strong effort. Icons appear in great detail and it's bright, colourful and very vibrant.

Acer liquid e

It's a shame that it's rendered practically useless in direct sunlight.

Housed on the rounded side-edges are the phone's only hard buttons. On the left is the power/lock screen switch, while the volume keys sit opposite.

Acer liquid e

The silver metallic keys would appear to be handily placed to use when handling the phone naturally, but they're actually quite difficult to press without squeezing those on the opposite side.

The phone's glossy plastic casing is also quite slippery. The seemingly convenient positioning turns out to be more of a hindrance.

Beneath the volume keys is the hard camera button and, when pressing the power switch it's also nigh-on impossible not to push this too. It never really matters as the camera key requires holding to open the app.

The back of the handset features the same five-megapixel camera and the external speaker, while the black bottom features the mini-USB charging port.

Acer liquid e

The top of the device offers a little more interest with flashing white lights emerging from the black casing when the phone is charging or when new messages arrive.

It can be a little distracting when you're trying to sleep at night, but all in all, it's a nice touch. Also housed at the top of the handset is a 3.5mm jack.

Somehow the device doesn't sit as well in the hand as the iPhone 4 and the HTC Desire.

The squarish top edges and the 64mm width mean it's not quite as comfortable in the palm as we'd hoped, and it's difficult to find a manageable position. As we mentioned, it's also rather slippy too.

Taking the back off involves pressing down in the centre of the handset and digging your fingernails underneath the top; something that doesn't really inspire that much confidence that you won't just snap it in two.

Acer liquid e

The battery may be housed in the upper half, but it's the lower half that gets quite warm.

It's a rather cheap and plasticky design, reminiscent Acer's laptops, but not necessarily an unattractive one. It's just not going to win any style points against the iPhone 4s and the HTC Legends in the densely-populated, drop dead gorgeous smartphone stakes.

In the box

Compared to what we're used to seeing these days, with Palm, HTC and Apple's minimalist offerings, the Liquid E's box is gigantic.

Beneath the handset are a few manuals and an instructions CD, and then box opens out like something out of Indiana Jones. Why? We're not quite sure. There's certainly no Lost Ark to be found.

There's a USB charging cable, separate mains plug and a set of decent headphones, which double up as a hands-free kit. There's a 2GB microSD card also bundled in, alongside an SD card adapter to slide it into. Nice touch.

There's also some screen protectors and a velvety sock with a drawstring. Kind of like a mobile phone sleeping bag.