Acer beTouch E130 review
Read our full review of the Acer E130, the first Android smartphone with a BlackBerry-style Qwerty keyboard.
Acer’s beTouch line of smartphones all sport the Android operating system, and there are several different models in the line-up. Acer recently announced two more, the E120 and the E130. It is the more exciting E130 that we are reviewing here.
Sooner or later someone was bound to do what Acer has done with the beTouch E130 – combine Android with a BlackBerry-like mini qwerty keyboard. But does the combination work?
The beTouch E130 certainly has the main Android smartphone accoutrements present and correct. Wi-Fi, GPS and HSDPA are all here, though the download speed of the HSDPA is limited to 3.6Mbps.
But this is a relatively inexpensive Android handset and there have been some compromises. Android 1.6 is the chosen version of the operating system, for example, which is a bit of a let-down in such a novel device.
The white and black colour scheme of the Acer beTouch E130 is quite attractive, with the whole of the backplate being white. The build is not as solid as we’d like and plastic rather than metal has been used throughout, but we have seen worse.
The camera shoots stills at 3.2 megapixels and lacks a flash. These credentials put it into the entry level bracket and you shouldn’t expect a great deal from it. But the build and camera, and even arguably the version of Android chosen aren’t the biggest compromise. These two are the relatively slow processor, which means the handset struggles at times, and the screen.
As always in a smartphone with a qwerty keyboard the screen is small. Measuring just 2.6 inches across diagonal corners and offering 320 x 240 pixels it is at the limit of what we think of as a usable smartphone screen.
The good news is that it is touch sensitive, but it is resistive rather than capacitive and it is not the best at responding to screen presses. Furthermore, because it is wider than it is tall, there is quite a lot of scrolling to do to work your way through menus. Android was designed primarily for tall narrow screens and that fact really shows here.
One area where you’ll really notice the screen size is Web browsing. You can’t see a lot of a page at once, and while there is some text reflow so that you don’t always have to do a lot of horizontal scrolling to read, this only works up to a point. To see the full width of many home screens you do have to scroll.
True to the Android ethos there are five home screens which you can fill with widgets, and the iteration of Android used here is unskinned, though Acer does include its Media Player widget which gives you access to photos, music and movies via a carousel.
There is a 3.5mm headset slot on the top edge, too, and an FM radio. Acer has thrown its streaming media app Spinlets into the package too.
Beneath the screen is a tall bank of buttons offering the usual shortcuts. Call and End/on/off are on the outer edges and separated from the rest by silver curved bars. Home, Menu, Back and Search are inside these bars, and inside these again is a mini trackwheel of the kind we first saw on the original BlackBerry Pearl. This one is black and doesn’t light up.
Beneath these buttons are the real selling point of the Acer beTouch E130, a miniature qwerty keyboard. Its keys are large and they click down nicely when pressed. It isn’t as well made as the very best, but we were able to use it at a fair speed, and found it comfortable enough.
In the end, everything fits together quit well, even if the compromises that have been made to accomodate this form factor are clear to see. The small screen doesn’t really work for us, but we can see precisely how a texting-friendly younger market might love it.
Price: £199 SIM-free
Value for Money: 7/10
Overall score: 7/10
Written by Sandra Vogel. Originally published in Smartphone Essentials.