Review: Acer Iconia W700

Windows 8 makes a heck of a lot more sense on a touchscreen device. It’s still not perfect but the logical behind the live tiles and everything sure makes the designers seem less like raving loobies and more like sensible adults.

Acer Iconia W700: a very solidly built tablet

The Acer Iconia W700 is a bit of a beast of a tablet and it runs a proper grown up operating system in Windows 8. It’s got an 11.6inch screen and comes with an Intel i3 (like the one I’ve tried) or an i5 processor. These are both miles away from the processors usually found in tablets or smartphones. Or even netbooks come to that. I’m actually writing this on i3 laptop that’s my day to day computer, so I can vouch for the oompf. It’s good for everything up to a light bit of video editing and some gaming. So the processor is good, it’s backed up by plenty of memory and lots of storage. So far so good. The SSD is pretty big- 64gig- although there isn’t a recovery partition but refreshingly there is a 3 CD reinstall procedure you can go through (if, for example, the review unit still has the previous reviewers credentials and password on which means you can’t get into the device!). Irritatingly there isn’t an SD/microSD slot on the actual device for bumping up the storage capacity but the dock does contain 3 USB ports so you can use a thumb drive. It also has a mini HDMI out but the screen is so good, I can’t see the point of hooking it up to a monitor really.

lovely bluetooth keyboard and screen

The chassis of the W700 is unibody aluminium, which means it’s as sturdy as something like a MacBook Pro. This is nice but it adds to the weight of what is already a pretty substantial tablet. Given that a lot of the innards have more in common with a laptop than either an iPad or an Android tablet, don’t get your hopes up that you might cut yourself on it’s razor thin profile either, the W700 is a bit of a chunky beast. It rests well on a pair of knees or a table but it’s too heavy to hold one handed for anything other than a few seconds. Admittedly the same can be said for a lot of 10inch+ tablets but your wrists will really start complaining with this one in short order should you try.

The screen is an absolute joy to behold- it’s an IPS (which is good) screen at a full 1080p resolution, so high definition video looks clear and vibrant. I’d go as far as to say it looks as good as the Nook HD+ playing full HD movies, which is about as higher praise as you’ll get. The extra inch and half over a ten inch tablet also makes webpages navigation and reading a lot easier, and although the tablet is designed primarily for landscape use, it is pretty good in portrait mode for magazine or book reading (just remember to keep those knees in place).

kick stand is a bit flimsy

The great idea with Windows 8 tablets is the inclusion of a dock and keyboard and here’s where the W700 slightly disappointed me. The cheaper and much lower spec’d W510 comes with a keyboard dock, effectively turning it into a top heavy touchscreen laptop. THe Iconia W510 has an Atom processor, a much lower resolution screen that’s also about an inch an a half smaller but for all it’s foibles it’s a bit more usable. The W700, presumably because of it’s weight due to all that power under the hood, comes with a dock/stand that’s a bit fiddly to put the device into and a Bluetooth keyboard. This pretty much precludes lap use and means you have to be sat at a desk to use it. The W700 also wobbles a bit disconcertingly in the dock if you’re using the touchscreen because the adjustable stand  just isn’t quite sturdy enough. It’s as though somebody said, “sorry, we’ve used 98% of the overall sturdiness quotient on the W700, the rest will have to suffer.”

Some of the photos I’ve seen of the W700 make it look very much like the keyboard is attached to the dock but unfortunately it isn’t. Whilst the dock is fiddly to fit the tablet into and not something you’d choose to do for ten minutes work, the keyboard itself is very good for what it is. Unlike even some netbook keyboards, there’s a reassuring click when you strike a key and I personally love the fact it uses a couple of triple A batteries (which last ages anyway) because if the batteries do go, you don’t have to wait to charge the keyboard up.

W510- better form factor

Overall then I’m a bit torn. What I really want is a device than Acer don’t make yet, a supercharged W510, with the dockable keyboard but with the build quality and power of the W700. As a tablet the W700 is completely unlike anything I’ve used. The screen and power under the hood blow pretty much everything away and since it runs a proper operating system, the access to properly useful applications make it great for creating as well as consuming. Yes, it could do with going on a diet as it’s a bit porky and a tad heavy. I’m assuming an upgrade to the latest Haswell processors should do this as they’re more power efficient and consequently run cooler.

The RRP of the Acer Iconia W700 is £599 and you get a lot of tablet for your money. An extra £100 will get you the i5 version with a much larger 128gig SSD. You can pick the i3 version up for under £549 if you shop around, which is comparable to a similar spec’d laptop at that price. The issue with budget laptops is often the screen resolution and to get a full HD screen in a unibody aluminium shell, you’ll end up spending quite a bit.

In conclusion, the W700 works best if you’re not hellbent on taking it out and about everywhere. It does come with a case, which is something Acer should be commended for. This case also does that trick of having a cover that folds back to make a stand, so at a pinch you can use that and the BT keyboard out and about if you want to do some serious work. I wouldn’t ever contemplate taking the dock with me that’s for sure. But the screen is the thing that’s going to stick in my mind. If you get a chance to have a play with a W700, do because you will fall in love with it’s display.