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Acer Liquid Z4 review

Acer Liquid Z4

HANDS ON REVIEW: Acer is looking to take on the might of the Moto G with its budget Liquid Z4 smartphone, which matches it in some areas but trounces it in the most important one: price

When Motorola proved budget smartphones didn’t have to be terrible with the Moto G, it forced the rest of the mobile world to sit up and take notice. Following rave reviews and stellar sales, Acer is now looking to take a piece of the action with the newly-announced Liquid Z4. It’s a 4in budget handset that borrows more than a few ideas from Motorola, as well as a few other smartphone manufacturers.

Acer Liquid Z4

Built entirely from plastic, the Liquid Z4 manages to avoid feeling cheap thanks to sturdy construction and a lack of flex in the rear cover, which is removable should you want to replace the battery. It’s incredibly compact, so larger hands may struggle to type quickly using the on-screen keyboard, but will fit in the skinniest of skinny jeans pockets.

The display is the main area Acer has reduced costs. The 4in panel has a lowly 800×480 resolution which looks pixellated and blocky when placed next to a 720p or Full HD handset. You can also clearly see the touch-sensitive layer baked into the screen when it reflects light at a certain angle. Brightness was only average, as was colour reproduction, but we’ll have to compare it directly with the Moto G to see how overall image quality compares with the best budget handsets.

Acer Liquid Z4

the shortcut key will always open the camera, but can open other apps too

Like the Liquid E3 also revealed this week, the Z4 has a rear-facing shortcut key which can be customised to open any app with a short press. The camera will always open with a longer tap, but it’s handy for music playback or sharing a spontaneous moment to Twitter or Instagram. Unlike the LG G2, however, the Z4 keeps its power and volume keys on the top and sides of the phone.

Android 4.2 is beginning to feel a little outdated in the light of 4.4 KitKat, but it felt reasonably responsive during our brief hands-on. Apps took a little while to load and there was some stutter when quickly swiping between home screens, but only a small amount. The handsets we were shown were also using pre-release software, so these issues could be ironed out in time for release.

Like most Android smartphone manufacturers, Acer has customised Google’s operating system with its own user interface. the “Liquid UI” only really changes a few details, including system icons, colours and menu layouts, but otherwise feels very similar to a stock Android handset. Unlike the Liquid E3, the Z4 sticks to the standard Android quick settings menu too.

Acer Liquid Z4

just in case it wasn’t obvious, the backwards cap gives away kid mode

If you dig deeper, however, you’ll find a completely overhauled UI under the new Quick Modes menu. There are several options here, designed to simplify the handset for a particular audience. If you’ll be giving one to a child, you can lock down the apps and only give them access to specific features. For older relatives, you can put huge icons and large text on the main homescreen to make it obvious how to make a call or send a text. The colours are bright, icons blocky and the whole thing is more than a little reminiscent of Windows Phone, but if you’re already familiar with Android it won’t do you much good.

Acer Liquid Z4

The Liquid Z4 with optional flip cover case

It won’t ship with one in the box, but Acer has also produced a smart cover which replaces the Liquid Z4’s rear cover with a flip-out shell to protect the screen. It’s almost identical to the one Motorola uses for the Moto G, which itself borrowed inspiration from the likes of Samsung and Apple.

It might have a smaller screen than the Moto G, but the Liquid Z4 otherwise feels very similar. The biggest difference is price; Acer expects the L4 to cost €99 when it goes on sale in April across Europe. That could equate to £80 here in the UK (before VAT), which would make it up to £40 cheaper than Motorola’s budget handset. Whether that will be enough to spark sales remains to be seen.

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