No aces up the sleeve, but no joker | Bangkok Post: tech

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No aces up the sleeve, but no joker

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Ranging in price from 4,000 baht to over 22,000 baht, Android phones are quite varied in terms of specification, features and options. Users can easily be confused in choosing one over another, not to mention being swayed by the perceived dominance of Samsung over the Android segment of the market. Where, then, does the Acer S500 sit? 

For geeks, let's begin with the internal specs. It comes with 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB Ram, 8GB storage (user expandable with a microSD card), 8MP camera with LED flash, 1080p video recording. In short, the specs are quite outdated for 2013.

On the exterior, there're a microUSB for charging and syncing, a headphone jack, power button and volume up/down button. Under the cover, there is a microSD slot and microSIM sockets with a removable battery (note, the back cover is very hard to remove). Surprisingly, Acer have managed to squeeze all the features into the S500 without making it look bulky or feel heavy _ notably, it won a iF Product Design award.

The three features most worth mentioning are the NFC, the Dolby mobile speaker and the 720p-quality 4.3-inch screen.

The NFC, or Near Field Communication, is a technology that allows the S500 to "talk" with others. For example, you can send/receive contacts, photos or files by tapping it with a nearby NFC-enabled phone without any set-up, or you can use it as a wallet by tapping it with any NFC cashier-like ticket machine. Sounds great, right?

In Thailand, however, only a few shops have this feature and the metro trains don't support the NFC yet.

The combination of a Dolby mobile speaker and great 4.3-inch screen make the movie watching experience a good one with a louder sound and clear picture. To be recommended, but the device uses the bottom 0.2-inch for menus so you will have only 4.1-inches for ordinary use, the full-screen 4.3-inch is only for certain apps like movies.

As mentioned earlier, the S500 isn't a powerhouse for 2013, but I still found it fast enough for common apps (phone, Facebook, internet browser). The user interface was smooth too. Although it feels high-end, bear in mind if you run graphically-rich games, the performance won't match, say, a Galaxy S III and you will notice its slowness.

The operating system isn't the latest Android 4.2; instead the choice is an ICS 4.0. Consequently, it lacks new features from 4.2, like its 360-degree camera effect, a better keyboard, a wireless display or a faster-smoother OS. I'm not sure why Acer made this move, because usually newer is better.

For Thai users, sadly there is no Thai keyboard built-in which is strange since it is on sale in Thailand. You can try the "Keyboard ManMan" in the Play store if you want to type in Thai.

The camera app has some filter effects built-in so you can edit photos before you upload them to your social network or you can just take a normal photo and enjoy it without wondering why it might be a good idea to mess up your photos with some ludicrous sepia filter.

If you have a shaky hand, be very careful when shooting since the Acer S500 seems oversensitive to camera wobble. There also seems to be some lag between the camera suggesting it's got the shot and when it actually gets the shot.

The 1460 mAh battery seems average. Like any modern smartphone, it should just about last through the day, but longer than that and you should keep the charger handy. Even though it is user-replaceable, I rarely see anyone who carries an extra battery in their pocket.

The Acer S500 and Motorola RAZR Maxx were both introduced this year and share the same price point at 13,900. Both devices are almost identical in terms of specification, they use dual-core processors running ICS 4.0, an 8MP camera and the same screen size.

Motorola seems to have the upper hand by having a 900 MHz 3G band which will give users more options in choosing service providers (both have 850/1900/2100 MHz).

Maxx also has twice as much internal storage and it is packed with an enormous 3300 mAh battery. (See my review at http://goo.gl/VC88I).

The S500 is Acer's attempt to compete with the major smartphone players. Sadly, it is a phone that arrived a little too late. Even with its gorgeous screen, it's expensive look and pleasant feel in the hand, it still can't compete with others like Samsung or Motorola which give users more options. Verdict: The phone is good, but not great.

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