To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Acer Liquid E3 review

Acer Liquid E3

HANDS ON REVIEW: Acer's Selfie-loving Liquid E3 smartphone has a dedicated shortcut key on the back to give you instant access to Instagram ready to share your snaps.

Acer’s newly announced Liquid E3 smartphone is aimed squarely at the mid-range, but has a few party tricks that should set it apart from the competition; a rear-mounted shortcut key and a front-facing flash for taking perfect selfies – whatever the lighting conditions.

Acer Liquid E3

The rear-mounted shortcut key is more than a little reminiscent of LG’s G2 smartphone, although the Liquid E3 still keeps the power and volume keys on the sides. You can customise it to launch any app with a short press, but there’s no way to change what a long press does; it always opens the camera.

The rear-facing camera uses a 13-megapixel sensor, which is paired with an LED flash for better low light shooting. It opens fairly quickly and uses Acer’s customised Camera app, which is a little more intuitive than the default Android camera thanks to clearly labelled buttons. The real appeal is the 2-megapixel front-facing sensor, which has its own LED flash. It was bright enough to snap a clear picture of us pulling our best duck face (which was instantly deleted to save our blushes) in a dark meeting room, so should be more than sufficient for selfie addicts. Acer says the E3 has an “ultra-fast focus”, and admittedly it did feel quick during our brief hands-on, but we’ll have to wait to compare it to other mid-range handsets before giving a final verdict.

Acer Liquid E3

The phone itself is made primarily from plastic, but doesn’t feel cheap; the rear cover doesn’t flex or bend under pressure and the red grilles on the front give it a sleek appearance. It certainly doesn’t stand out as a budget phone.

The 4.7in, 720p resolution display is exactly what we would expect from a mid-range smartphone; it’s clear, reasonably sharp and produces vibrant colours – at least when brightness is turned up to the maximum level. On anything less, the screen looks rather dull. At least viewing angles were excellent thanks to the IPS panel, but otherwise it looked distinctly average during our time with the handset.

Acer has customised Android with a new user interface known as Liquid; it sticks closely to the tried and tested Google layout, only changing the quick settings drop-down menu, changing a few system colours and re-organising the settings order. The icons have been overhauled, but otherwise it feels very similar to a stock Android handset.

That’s true until you use Quick Modes. Quick modes are a major part of the new Liquid UI, which can toggle between the default Android interface and several simpler modes designed to limit the apps and features children have access to, or to put the most important features front and centre with large fonts and icons for the elderly. The icons themselves are a little patronising (backwards cap for kids, flat cap and walking stick for the older generation) but certainly makes it easier to make a call or send a text message. For everyone already happy with Android, however, it won’t see a lot of use.

Acer Liquid E3

Android itself felt reasonably snappy, thanks to the quad-core processor running at 1.2GHz and 1GB of RAM. There weren’t any particularly demanding apps pre-installed, so we weren’t able to judge raw performance, but at least there’s no major lag when opening or switching between apps. 4GB of onboard storage is a little mean, but at least there’s a microSD card slot to add extra capacity.

According to Acer the Liquid E3 will cost €199 throughout Europe when it goes on sale in April. That should equate to roughly £160 in the UK, when it arrives exclusively on the Three network. With the potential for much better photos than the £130 Moto G, Acer may have a mid-range winner on its hands.

Read more

First Look