Few systems have had as polarizing an effect in the CNET offices as the Acer Iconia W700. Some felt this full Windows 8 touch-screen tablet and keyboard combo looked ridiculous, or was unwieldy for everyday use. Others liked that it has an Intel Core i5 processor and a full 1,920x1,080-pixel display for a not-inexpensive, but still reasonable, $999.
The truth is somewhere between these two poles. At first glance, the W700 looks a mess, but at the same time, it's hard not to like. For me, the aesthetics of the tablet and its unique side-sliding stand offer a hint of retro-futurism, and I likened it to a leftover "Space: 1999" prop. But, I mean that as a compliment -- too many laptops, tablets, and accessories follow the same overused design cues.
Using a touch-screen slate with an Intel Core i5 CPU makes a world of difference over models that attempt to get away with a low-power Intel Atom processor, and over the not fully baked Windows RT as well. For the most part, this is a combo creation/consumption machine, capable of doing nearly anything a traditional laptop or desktop can.
There are a few caveats, however. You'll want an external mouse or touch pad -- the W700 includes a wireless keyboard but no external pointing device, and man does not live by touch screen alone. Also, the 1080p resolution is overkill for an 11.6-inch display. In the Windows 8 UI view, everything scales fine, but going back to the desktop view is hard on the eyes.
The Acer Iconia W700 is one of only a handful of Core i5-or-better slates we've seen with Windows 8, and when docked, it feels like a mini all-in-one desktop, although the small screen size means it's a stretch to call this your main productivity machine. An add-on mouse or touch pad is practically required for serious use, especially as Windows 8 is, hype aside, still not a fully satisfying tablet-only experience.
|Price as reviewed||$999|
|Processor||1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U|
|Memory||4GB, 1,600MHz DDR3|
|Dimensions (WD)||11.6 x 7.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||11.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.1/2.7 pounds (screen/adapter only)|
Design, features, and display
People have an immediate reaction when seeing the Acer Iconia W700 for the first time. I will admit that I liked it -- it was different than the cookie-cutter Windows 8 hybrids I had seen so far, and the look was bold. But some of my colleagues have been less impressed, and they're not entirely wrong.
The W700's main unit is a thick, fairly heavy slab-style tablet. By itself, it's innocuous enough, if chunky for anyone that's used to an iPad. The docking stand might best be described as a bracket. It's L-shaped and covers most of the bottom and right-side edges of the system. The tablet slides into the bracket dock from the right side, connecting via USB 3.0 and AC power plugs on the left edge of the tablet.
The dock itself has three USB 3.0 ports and a power pass-through, but note that the tablet's single USB port is both used and covered by the dock. If you have anything plugged into the tablet, you'll have to remove it and plug it into the dock instead.
The tablet slides into the dock securely, but removing it is a two-handed -- and slightly awkward -- procedure. The dock's angle is not adjustable, which is a negative, as it's not at quite the right angle for close-up use -- and as this is a small 11.6-inch screen, I suspect you'll be up close more often than not.
There is, however, a second option for setting up the docking stand, which is to remove the kickstand portion, rotate the entire setup 90 degrees counterclockwise, and reinsert the kickstand into a second slot. This allows you to set the system up in portrait mode. Again, there's only one screen angle, and frankly, Windows 8, for all its tablet/touch skills, is really set up for landscape mode over portrait.
The included keyboard looks and feels a lot like Apple's wireless keyboard, from the white key faces against silver to the rounded top edge. It connects via Bluetooth, so it'll work with the tablet whether it's plugged into the docking stand or not. The keys are slightly deeper than Apple's similar wireless keyboard, but also a bit clackier. Nonetheless, it's overall a perfectly good keyboard experience.
One thing you don't get with the W700 is any kind of pointer interaction hardware. There's no bundled mouse, and no touch pad built into the tablet, dock, or keyboard. For full-on tablet use, that may be fine, but to set this up as a mini desktop computer, you'll probably want a wireless mouse. I went with a slightly different setup, plugging in an external touch pad from Logitech, which worked especially well with Windows 8 gestures.
The display is both a highlight and a bit of a head-scratcher. The 11.6-inch display has a native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, which is impressive and makes this feel like a very high-end machine. At the same time, it's simply too high a resolution when in the traditional desktop mode. Text and images are tiny and finger-based navigation is more difficult than usual. The Windows 8 UI screen (the tile-based setup formerly known as Metro) scales according to its resolution automatically, so there's no issue there.
Sound was predictably thin, even more so than on most laptops. There are no external speakers built into the dock, but it does have channels cut into it that line up with the two speaker grilles, which are on the bottom edge of the tablet.
|Acer Iconia W700||Average for category [ultraportable]|
|Video||Mini-HDMI||HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||1 USB 3.0 (on board), 3 USB 3.0 (on dock)||2 USB 3.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet (via dongle), 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Connections, performance, and battery life
There's a bit of juggling that goes on with the W700's ports. A single USB 3.0 port on the tablet itself is useful, but that port gets eaten up by the docking stand when connected, which means you'll have to unplug any accessories and reconnect them to the dock. On the plus side, the dock has three USB 3.0 ports. A Mini-HDMI port on the tablet is accessible even when the system is docked, but there's no SD card slot, which may be a deal breaker for some.