Windows 8 has an identity problem. The Modern UI, with its big,
bright tiles and touch-friendly apps still isn't useful for anything
more than the occasional game. Microsoft's most recent updates seem to
have been designed to make life easier for non-touch laptop and desktop
users, making the traditional Windows desktop more prominent and
consigning the Start Screen to the background.
We like Windows 8.1
on desktops and laptops, and like many users, we have adjusted to the
lack of a Start menu. Once we're in the desktop, there's almost no need
to ever deal with the Modern UI, but we don't mind dipping into it
occasionally. On most laptops and hybrid ultrabooks, we often forget
that the screens are touch-capable, and frankly, that isn't a problem at
Perhaps that's why Windows-powered tablets have all but
disappeared from the market. Sure, we've got plenty of ultrabooks and
hybrids with keyboards that either detach or fold away - but pure
tablets are few and far between.
Microsoft has responded by moving
away from premium devices and into the budget space. Acer's Iconia W4
is an 8-inch compact tablet, and is one of the first such products to be
offered and advertised without a keyboard dock. It sheds nearly
everything that makes hybrid ultrabooks so expensive, and in doing so,
creates a whole new market category.
Look and feel
Iconia W4 has an 8-inch screen, and though its body is comparatively
larger than other tablets of this class, it does a good job of
disguising this. It's noticeably bigger and thicker than an iPad mini,
for example, but this is still impressive considering it's a
full-fledged Windows PC.
There's a a fairly standard black glass
bezel around the screen, but also an additional grey plastic lip on the
bottom, where the physical Windows button, speakers and ports fit. The
W4 is smooth, but easy to hold. There are no vents or air passages
around the sides.
The left edge is completely blank, but you'll
find a microphone pinhole, volume rocker, Micro-HDMI port and microSD
card slot on the right edge. There's a power button and status LED on
the top, plus an unmarked indentation that might be for snap-on
accessories. Twin stereo speakers, a 3.5mm headset jack and Micro-USB
port are on the bottom.
The rear panel has a faux brushed metal
texture, but it's totally plastic. There's a silver Acer logo in the
centre, but we were surprised to see no fewer than five ugly stickers on
the lower back. Apart from the multi-coloured Intel and Windows
stickers usually found on laptops, there's another for the device's
serial number, one for regulatory information and logos, and another
warranty hologram. These were all faded and peeling on our review unit,
which is not surprising considering the tablet has to rest on tables and
in bags. We've seen subtle engravings and smaller logos on other
products, so it's odd that Acer would go with these ugly stickers here.
a lot to like about the Iconia W4. Having the power of a full PC in a
small 8-inch tablet form factor, including full-blown Windows desktop
software like the Microsoft Office tools, is an unusual experience. We
also found ourselves spending a fair bit of time getting reacquainted
with the Modern UI, which we had so far distanced ourselves from. With a
screen this size and no stand or keyboard, we ended up using the W4 in
our hands much more than on a table, which also led to a more hands-on
approach to apps and desktop software.
Iconia W4 is not a powerhouse PC. It gets by with an Intel Atom Z3740
CPU, which is codenamed Bay Trail and uses the relatively modern
Silvermont architecture. This particular chip is a quad-core model, and
runs at 1.33GHz. It also has integrated HD Graphics, though that name is
a little optimistic considering the weak 667MHz graphics clock. It's
more than enough for playing video files, but don't expect any major
It's worth noting that while the CPU is 64-bit,
Acer has gone with a 32-bit copy of Windows. This might be due to
limitations imposed by Microsoft's low-priced Small Screen Touch
licensing arrangement, but it's disappointing nonetheless.
2GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage. Neither of
these is user-accessible or upgradeable, so we'd always advise going for
the highest capacity you can afford. There's a microSD card slot which
can take 64GB XC cards and potentially higher capacities as well, when
The 8-inch screen runs at 1280x800, which is
about average for tablets this size. It's nowhere near the resolution of
the iPad mini with Retina Display or the 2013 Nexus 7, so if you're
used to either of those devices (or today's full-HD smartphones), it
will definitely feel grainy. Text and on-screen elements in the Windows 8
desktop are still quite small, and some people will find this
uncomfortable. We raised Windows' DPI scale from 100 percent to 125
percent, which definitely made a difference to us.
You can't use
the microUSB port to transfer data from a PC, like you would with an
Android or iOS device. However, like all Windows PCs, the Iconia W4 is
fully capable of being a USB host for pen drives, hard drives and all
kinds of USB peripherals. Micro-USB pen drives are becoming commonly
available now, but you'll have to use an On-The-Go adapter for all
standard USB peripherals, and fortunately, one is included in the box.
would have loved to have had a full-sized USB host port, like some
larger tablets have, but you'll have to remember to carry the adapter
around or invest in a Micro-USB pen drive if you want to copy files to
or from the W4.
For wireless communications, there's Wi-Fi b/g/n
and Bluetooth 4.0. The battery capacity is 4960mAh, and is rated for 8
hours of continuous video playback. The front and rear cameras are 5-
and 2-megapixel units respectively, which is fine since you probably
won't want to use them for more than the occasional casual shot.
8.1 has a number of useful improvements over Windows 8, but we still
ran into a few adjustment issues thanks to the W4's pure tablet form
factor. You really have to remember that the Charms bar exists, since
you can't do things like begin a search by just typing a few characters.
Windows Store apps aren't always as well designed as their iOS and
Android counterparts, but things that frustrated us on larger screens,
such as excessive scrolling and wasted space, are more palatable here.
the Windows desktop is quite difficult to use with touch input alone.
DPI scaling helped, by making tiny elements easier to target, but we
quickly found ourselves scrambling for that USB OTG adapter and a hub
for our keyboard and mouse. The desktop on-screen keyboard is different
from the Modern UI keyboard, blocks too much of the screen, and doesn't
appear automatically when you tap a text input field.
planning to use the Iconia W4 in a work environment, or as an
alternative to a cheap laptop or netbook, you'll definitely want to buy a
portable keyboard. Bluetooth models will save you the hassle of dealing
with the OTG adapter, but keep in mind that an external keyboard is
another thing to carry and charge. Acer sells its own such accessory,
which also has a slot which you can use to prop up your tablet.
also ran into a few compatibility issues thanks to the 32-bit edition
of Windows. 64-bit software used to be quite exotic but it's mainstream
enough now that some programs just won't run, or you'll need to find
32-bit editions of them.
The unique Windows license also covers a full copy of
Microsoft Office (not a time-limited subscription), which is a fantastic
value addition. The Home & Student 2013 edition includes Word,
PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote, and otherwise retails for Rs. 5,499. For
comparison, a one-year subscription to Office 365 would cost Rs. 4,199
for a single year.
Acer also throws in a few of its own utilities for audio, video, photo and file management, called Acer Media, Acer Docs and Acer Portal. You can read about these in our previous review of the Acer Aspire S7 ultrabook.
We're happy enough with the
level of performance the Atom CPU provides. You won't notice any
sluggishness compared to a current model iPad or reasonably powerful
Android tablet, but you also can't expect the speed of a mainstream
Our benchmarks threw up middling results, with especially
low graphics and multimedia scores. SunSpider ran in 410.3ms, which is
about twice as long as a current low-voltage Ultrabook would take.
SiSoft SANDRA's CPU Arithmetic results were also consistent with this,
at 20GIPS integer and 10.93GFLOPS floating-point scores. SANDRA's
storage subsystem tests were also pretty weak, coming in closer to
results for slow spinning disks than modern SSDs.
3DMark threw up
130 points overall, which makes the Iconia W4 completely unsuitable for
modern gaming. We also noticed a bit of stuttering while playing our
720p and 1080p test files. Luckily, there's plenty of software available
for Windows 8 so format incompatibility just isn't a problem.
taken with the 5-megapixel rear camera are surprisingly decent,
although performance depends very much on ambient light conditions.
Objects in the foreground are clear, but ones at a distance tend to lack
detail and look noisy. There isn't any control over focus or any manual
The battery lasted for 3 hours, 46 minutes in our Battery Eater Pro benchmark in Standard mode. In regular usage we got well over a full day of casual Web surfing, music and video playback, and general PC tasks.
(Click to see full size)
The Acer Iconia W4 is cheap enough to
make Windows RT devices feel totally pointless. There's just no reason
now to buy a Windows RT tablet and restrict yourself to the Modern UI
and Windows Store apps. You might find yourself spending less and less
time in the Windows desktop, but it's really good to know it's there,
and that all familiar Windows software is just a few taps away.
won't have the kind of tablet-optimised software library that we now
take for granted on iOS and Android, so if you're willing to grapple
with tiny on-screen controls in Windows desktop software, this is a
decent option. Keep in mind that any specialised Windows software you
need will have to run on the relatively puny Atom CPU.
For us, the
killer application is Microsoft Office. It's definitely easier to use
(with a keyboard and mouse) than the recently launched Office iOS apps,
although those are adequate if you're mainly interested in reading
documents, not editing them. After years of frustration with tablets,
there's also nothing like the feeling of freedom we had with a full file
system, Windows Explorer, and full USB support.
Microsoft has just announced that it will not charge license fees for
Windows on devices with screens smaller than 9 inches anymore. This is
unlikely to mean a price drop for the Iconia W4, but it could point to
cheaper successors and more competition if other manufacturers decide to
take advantage of this.
The Acer Iconia W4 isn't brilliant as a
tablet or netbook replacement, but it's an adequate bridge between the
two worlds. You'd just have to be certain you wouldn't be better off
with a more traditional, more purpose-oriented device.
Price: Rs. 24,999 (32GB); Rs. 26,999 (64GB)
- Runs full Windows 8.1
- Free Microsoft Office Home & Student edition
- Decent battery life and performance
- Can be a bit difficult to use at times
- Slightly chunky and heavy
Ratings (Out of 5)
- Design: 3.5
- Display: 3.5
- Camera: 3
- Performance: 3.5
- Software: 4
- Battery Life: 4
- Value for Money: 4
- Overall: 3.5
Acer Iconia W4 in pictures