Acer Iconia W3 review:

Tablet puts Win 8 in the palm of your hand

Connections, performance, and battery
The W3 is neither the least connected tablet we've seen, nor the most. It actually has a decent selection of ports, including HDMI and USB, but they're of the micro variety, so you'll need special cables or adapters to use them. Plus, as with most Atom-powered systems, the USB port is 2.0, not the faster 3.0 found on Core i-series devices.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Buying a tablet (or laptop/hybrid) with an Intel Atom processor is an exercise in trade-offs. You're paying less for the system, and you're getting decent battery life, thanks to the low-power CPU. But you're also getting performance that will remind you of the old Netbook days, when $300-$400 mini laptops drew in many curious buyers, only to leave them staring at frozen screens while their laptops chugged through basic tasks. The latest Intel Atom chips are better, but still represent a calculation that you'll be sticking with basic tasks, such as Web surfing, video playback, and social media.

In our benchmark tests, the Iconia W3 performed on par with other recent Atom-powered Windows 8 tablets and hybrids, such as Dell's Latitude 10 and Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet 2. If you compare a tablet with an Intel Core i5 CPU, such as Microsoft's Surface Pro, you'll see a huge difference in application performance, but to its credit, Microsoft has designed Windows 8, at least the tile-based interface part of it, to work smoothly even with an Atom CPU.

The Acer Iconia W3 ran for 8 hours and 19 minutes in our video playback battery drain test, which shows off just how power-efficient an Atom tablet can be. The Core i5 Surface Pro ran for a little over half that, but keep in mind that all these examples use Intel's last-generation chips. With the latest fourth-generation Core i5 and i7 CPUs, which are only available in a small handful of laptops so far, we're seeing amazing battery life scores, and that may blunt the appeal of the Atom in the near future.

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Despite its quirky tablet-to-keyboard size disparity, I liked the Iconia W3 more than I expected to. As a standalone tablet, it's compact and portable enough for casual on-the-go reading and video viewing, and with the large keyboard, typing is better than on many small hybrids.

But the lack of any kind of touch pad or track point may be a deal breaker for some (it was for me), and the grim screen quality sucks a lot of the potential fun out of this tiny, reasonably priced system. This is one of those cases where a handful of flaws drag down what would otherwise be a great budget pick.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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System configurations

Acer Iconia W3
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 1,003MB (shared) Intel GMA, 64GB SSD

Asus VivoTab Smart
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 725MB (Total) Intel GMA; 64GB SSD

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 737MB (Total) Intel GMA; 64GB MMC SSD

Dell Latitude 10
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 747MB (Total) Intel GMA; 64GB MMC SSD

Acer Iconia W510P-1406
Windows 8 Pro (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 747MB (Total) Intel GMA; 64GB SEM64G SSD

Microsoft Surface Pro
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Sharedl) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Micron SSD

What you'll pay

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