Hands-on review: The Acer Liquid Z3s, an Android phone even the miserly can like

We wrap our mitts around the cheapest Android phone you can get now
Acer Liquid Z3s

Small doesn’t always mean bad. We have the small but fun hot hatchback cars, small but spicy Naga chilli, and the many pictures of small animals that make up the internet.

Of course for those with small wallets, it might hurt that they can only afford dumb phones in the world of the smartphone we live in today. However, Acer wants to change that perception.

What we have here today is their latest phone, the Liquid Z3s.

Design and Build: Can’t ask for too much really

Acer Liquid Z3s
Acer Liquid Z3s
Acer Liquid Z3s
Acer Liquid Z3s

At only 115 grams, the Z3s is very light, and that is with the battery in already. You will literally not feel the phone in your pockets, as light as it is. The design of the phone itself is much like recent Acer products – plastic, with a hint of chrome here and there on the body. Not saying that is wrong; for its asking price it is expected.

It is also thin – 10.5mm. This means it will not mess around with whatever is in your pocket, or in your bag if you are a woman (or a man with a bag – we don’t judge anyone). Thankfully the build is quite solid – when we did the twist test, there was no creaks or squeaks heard.

To round out the package, the Z3s comes with a microUSB slot, and a 3.5mm audio jack. It is scant on ports, but you don’t you need that many ports to be used with such a small phone. 

Screen: Just enough, which is good enough

With a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels, this screen will not win any beauty contest. In fact, it is more like the  iPhone 2G screen than the 4S screen. It is bright enough to be used outside in the sun, so it is not a total loss.

3.5-inches may not be big by today’s standard, but if iPhone users can live with this screen size, why not Android?

Surprising for a TFT screen, the Z3s has good viewing angles all around, with minimal colour washing out when the screen is seen at extreme angles. We like this.

New with the Z3s is the inclusion of an active cover with every purchase. Just like the one you can buy for the iPad, this cover will lock the phone when it is closed, and activate the screen when it is opened. 

Camera: The bad case of no autofocus

Acer Liquid Z3s
Acer Liquid Z3s
Acer Liquid Z3s

The previous iteration of the Z3 only sports a 3-megapixel camera. Acer has taken the step to upgrade the camera sensor to a 5-megapixel sensor, which is a good step by the company. However they did not include autofocus capabilities, so the image quality isn’t the best. It is more than enough for simple social media posting in a pinch, but definitely not something you want to print to a wall-sized photo.

Check out the sample images from the camera attached here.

Multimode: A setting for everyone in the family

Acer Liquid Z3s
Acer Liquid Z3s
Acer Liquid Z3s
Acer Liquid Z3s

To help customers use the Z3s, especially the Android first-timers, Acer created skins called Quick Modes. Depending on who will be using it, the phone can have an overlay that is tailored specifically for the user.

For example, if the user is a child, the Child overlay can be set and a simple looking interface will appear. Devoid of anything that screams Android, it features six quick-call buttons and access to settings  is only available for a parent with a PIN number. Same goes for the Elderly mode, where more options are enabled, but with limited access to the settings.

There are also two more modes: Keypad and Classic. The former has an almost classic feel, thanks to the ever present keypad on screen while the latter is more of a simplified usage mode for the phone. Weirdly enough, all of the modes uses tile design, reminiscent of the Windows Phone platform. Hmm…

Power and Browsing

Thanks to the dual-core processor, Android Jelly Bean runs relatively smooth with minimal lag when going through the menus even though it only has 512Mb of RAM.

With an internal storage of 4GB, you will have enough space to store stuff in the phone, but when you want more, just slot in a bigger microSD into the included slot for additional storage up to 32GB.

When asked, Acer said that Kitkat is being developed for the Z3s, but they didn’t give a specific timeframe.

Good news for those who travel a lot (or have multiple phone lines) – the Z3s is a dual-SIM phone, so you can slot in two SIM cards and use them simultaneously. Sadly there is no LTE, but it is kind of expected for something at this price range.

In the box, you will get a 1500mAh battery, which is quite huge for something its size.

Initial Verdict

Now that we have come to the end of the hands-on, I can share the price of this entry-level smartphone. At RM 299, this will be the best value that you can get for an Android phone on the market currently.

Sure it is not the latest nor the greatest smart phone on the market, but for that price, I don’t think anyone can fault getting one as their second phone, or a phone for their kid/mother/father/mother-in-law.