Acer's first attempt at an 8-inch Windows 8 tablet, the Iconia W3, worked well enough for an early example of the style, but it was soon eclipsed by newer models from Dell, Lenovo, and others with better design, features, and performance.
The new Iconia W4 corrects a lot of what we didn't like about the original (but not everything), and the all-day battery life is enough to make it one of the better 8-inch Windows 8 tablets. With an Intel Atom CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a 64GB SSD, it's fairly priced at $299 (Acer's list price is $349, but it's widely available for $50 less), especially as it includes ports for HDMI, USB, and SD cards (all of the micro-mini variety). The original W3 model cost more than $400, and prices for 8-inch Windows 8 tablets continue to trend down.
Despite good performance and features, however, if you line the W4 up against the competition, you probably wouldn't reach for it first. It's thicker and heavier than some other current Windows 8 tablets, and just doesn't look as sharp. Some buttons are awkwardly placed, and you'll either love or hate the click-y physical Windows button, whereas other tablets have a capacitive touch button instead.
The real deciding factor here is the eight-hour-plus battery life, which is the best score among the current crop of similar systems we've tested. Add in the 64GB SSD, which is double what many other tablets offer, and it tells a compelling story, if you don't mind losing out in the looks department.
|Acer Iconia W4-820-2466||Asus VivoTab Note 8||Lenovo IdeaTab Miix 2|
|Display size/resolution||8.1-inch, 1,280x800 touchscreen||8.1-inch, 1,280x800 touchscreen||10-inch, 1,920x1,200 touchscreen|
|PC CPU||1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740||1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740||1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740|
|PC Memory||2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 1066MHz||2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 1066MHz||2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 1066MHz|
|Graphics||32MB Intel HD Graphics||32MB Intel HD Graphics||32MB Intel HD Graphics|
|Storage||64GB SSD hard drive||32GB SSD hard drive||128GB SSD hard drive|
|Networking||802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 (32-bit)||Windows 8.1 (32-bit)||Windows 8.1 (32-bit)|
Design and features
Stack the current crop of 8-inch Windows tablets next to each other, and the Iconia W4 stands out, but not necessarily in a good way. Not only is it thicker than theor the , it's the only one with a raised screen panel on the front of the device. Instead of smooth edge-to-edge glass across the entire front face, you get a plastic outer border, with the glass screen cover slightly inset and extruded. The combined effect makes the screen look even smaller than it is compared to the overall footprint of the system.
The W4 is also on the heavy side, weighing 0.92-pound without its power cable. Eight-inch Windows 8 tablets from Dell, Lenovo, Asus, and others weigh less, and in fact, the only 8-inch Windows tablet we could find that weighed more was last year's 1.1-pound Iconia W3.
Button and port placement is an area where Windows tablets are still finding their way. For example, the Acer Iconia W4 has its Micro-USB port, which doubles as its charging port, on the bottom edge of the chassis (when held in portrait mode). Most of the other 8-inch tablets have that either on the side or top panel. The power button is on the top edge, while the SD card and HDMI ports are on the right edge, along with a volume control rocker switch.
In contrast, the Lenovo 8 has its power button and USB/power connection on the right edge and the HDMI on the left edge, with nothing on the top and only a headphone jack on the bottom. Dell and Asus tablets have their own unique layouts. I'm not sure one version has a huge advantage over another at this point, and the main advantage or disadvantage you may find is the charging port being close to where your power cable is plugged into the wall.
The 8-inch display has the same 1,280x800 resolution as the previous Iconia tablet, which is also the same as the Dell Venue 8 and Asus Note 8. Lenovo's ThinkPad 8 costs a bit more but has an excellent 1,920x1,200 display. The Acer version is bright and clear, and at 8 inches you can certainly argue that more resolution is not necessary, but everything from popular 5-inch phones to the retina iPad Mini all have higher screen resolutions. The off-axis viewing angles on the W4 are a great improvement over last year's W3 model, which we knocked for its poor screen quality.
|Audio||Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack|
|Data||1 Micro-USB 2.0, micro-SD card reader|
|Networking||802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Connections, performance, and battery
While the design, weight, and screen resolution of the Iconia W4 do it no favors, it does beat most of the other 8-inch Windows 8 tablets for offering a full selection of ports. Full for a slate-style tablet, at least. Having USB, HDMI, and an SD card slot makes this as functional as a budget laptop, but keep in mind you'll need a pocketful of adapters or cables.
Another plus is its 64GB SSD. That's bigger than the 32GB of storage in our Asus VivoTab Note 8 or Dell Venue Pro 8 (although Dell is currently offering a 64GB model for the same $299). The 10-inchhas a laptop-size 128GB SSD but also costs $599.
The Iconia W4 is powered by a 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740, the same chip that's found in the Asus Note 8 and Lenovo Miix 2, and very similar to what's in the Dell Venue and Lenovo ThinkPad models. This low-power chip is designed to balance application performance with long battery life, while also running cool enough to work in small, sometimes fanless, systems. In a small, 8-inch screen environment, your performance expectations are likely more in-line with an Atom's performance, and you'll probably spend a lot of time in the tile-based Windows 8 menu, which is very well optimized for the Atom.
In our CNET Labs benchmark tests, the Iconia W4 performed right in the middle of the pack, compared other recent Windows 8 tablets. In real-world terms, the performance differences were minor, and you're unlikely to notice much practical difference. Gaming is possible, as long as you stick to the simple games offered by the Windows 8 app store, which are designed for low-power tablets and laptops. However, on such a small, low-res screen, Halo Spartan Assault and ports of Gameloft games originally on iOS and Android all work well.
If there's one category where the Acer Iconia W4 outclasses the competition, it's battery life. This system handily got our top score among current Windows 8 tablets, running for 8 hours and 36 minutes in our video-playback battery drain test. That's enough for all-day office use, a cross-country flight, or several days of casual use between recharges. Some iOS and Android devices do even better, but running much less complex hardware and software.
The Acer Iconia W4 is, first, a big improvement over the mediocre original W3 from 2013. Compared to other current Windows 8 tablets, it's thick, heavy, and a bit ugly, but if you can work with that, for a reasonably $299 it has a big 64GB SSD, all the requisite ports and connections, and most importantly, the best battery life in its category.
Acer Iconia W4
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 64GB SSD hard drive
Asus VivoTab Note 8
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 32GB SSD hard drive
Lenovo IdeaTab Miix 2
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 128GB SSD hard drive
Dell Venue 8 Pro
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Atom 3740D; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 800MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 32GB Sasmung SSD
Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Pro
Windows 8.1 Pro (32-bit); 1.46GHz Intel Atom Z3770; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 800MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 64GB Sasmung SSD