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Acer Iconia W3
What's Hot: Incredibly portable and affordable full Windows 8 tablet.
What's Not: Grainy display, like all current generation Atom Windows tablets, it's not terribly fast.
Reviewed August 1, 2013 by Lisa Gade, Editor
in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)
This may well be a turning point for Windows 8: affordable 8 inch full Windows tablets. Not RT but regular Windows 8, so you can use your Windows 7 programs in addition to Metro apps. The Acer Iconia W3 is the first 8 inch tablet to hit the market, and the price starts at $379, undercutting the $399 Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 but coming in higher than the iPad mini. That $379 gets you an 8.1" tablet with a 1280 x 800 touch screen, 1.5GHz dual core Intel Atom Z2760 CPU, 2 gigs of LPDDR2 RAM and 32 gigs of flash storage. That's really not enough storage for Windows if you intend to install many programs, so I'd suggest the $429 model with 64 gigs of storage. Retailers often discount Acer products, so you may find the Iconia W3 for less than list price.
Like an Android tablet, the Iconia W3 has micro everything: microSD card slot, a micro HDMI port and micro USB host port (micro to standard USB dongle adapter only included with some models). There's a 3.5mm combo audio jack, charging port that works with the included wall wart charger, dual 2MP cameras and an ample 3500 mAh battery. The upside is that as with any Windows machine, you can use USB keyboards, mice, 3G dongles and printers (you'll probably want to get a USB hub if you use several USB peripherals at once). Since the tablet has Bluetooth, you can use Bluetooth keyboards and mice as well.
A few years ago, the Iconia W3 would've been an instant cult classic and strong seller. In 2010 we had the $900 to $1,500 8" Sony Vaio P for those who needed the full power of Windows on the go. The Acer W3 seems like a bargain in comparison. But in the meantime mobile OS tablets (iOS and Android) have captured wallets and minds in droves, and a Windows counterpart could be a hard sell. Yes, Windows is certainly more powerful, but it also requires more care and feeding via Windows updates and anti-virus software.
The Acer W3 has the same footprint as competing Apple and Android 8" tablets, but it's a bit thicker at 0.40" and heavier at 1.1 lbs. (the Note 8.0 weighs .75 lbs.). Since it's Atom, there's no need for a cooling fan and it offers runtimes that are competitive with Android tablets. Nice. The downside is the Atom isn't a brilliant CPU. It can handle MS Office just fine, and in fact MS Office Home and Student Edition 2013 is bundled at no charge. You could do light photo editing using Photoshop and web, email and social networking are fine. But with 2 gigs of RAM, you'll want to keep programs down to 3 at a time, lest the tablet lag. Software installation and Windows Update installations are hugely slower than on Intel Core laptops and Ultrabooks.