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Acer Iconia W700 review: Laptop power in a tablet package

Acer skips the low-power Atom or ARM chips in this unusual-looking hybrid.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
8 min read

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.


Acer Iconia W700

The Good

The <b>Acer Iconia W700</b> can work as a tablet or a small desktop, and it has a high-res screen and excellent battery life.

The Bad

The non-adjustable stand limits viewing angles, and you'll need an external mouse or touch pad for efficient Windows navigation.

The Bottom Line

One of the only Core i5 slate-style Windows 8 systems we've seen, the Acer Iconia W700 asks few compromises for full-time use, but the design isn't for everyone.

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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
Hard drive 128GB
Chipset Intel HM77
Graphics Intel HD4000
Operating System Windows 8
Dimensions (WD) 11.6 x 7.5 inches
Height 0.47 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 11.6 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 2.1/2.7 pounds (screen/adapter only)
Category Ultraportable / Hybrid

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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
Optical drive None None

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.

Despite its slate-based design, the internal components of the W700 are virtually indistinguishable from your average Windows 8 ultrabook. There's a very common 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U CPU, a 128GB SSD, and 4GB of RAM. That's not a great setup for $999, but the unique design may make up for that.

In our benchmark tests, the Iconia W700 performed similarly to other Core i5-3317U Windows 8 laptops and convertibles, or a little behind. It's well-suited for everyday use, from HD video streaming to social media, to working on office tasks. You're much more likely to run into hurdles dealing with the slightly wonky nature of Windows 8 on a tablet than you are with any sort of processor limitations.

The internal graphics are limited to Intel's basic HD 4000 GPU, which is to expected in something so small and portable. Gaming is always touch-and-go on HD 4000 systems -- some newer games work well, others do not. To test the W700's abilities as a portable game machine, I connected a Microsoft game pad via USB and launched Skyrim. Knocking down the resolution to 1,600x900 pixels and turning detail levels down to low, the game was playable, if a bit choppy.

Checking the Windows 8 app store, only a handful of non-shovelware games were available, none of which looked to be particularly taxing. I flipped through a few that felt very iPad-like, including Jetpack Joyride and Dredd vs. Zombies (a top-down shooter), and found that the W700 can easily handle tablet-style games.

One of the biggest surprises about the W700 is its battery life. On our video playback battery drain test, the system ran for a very impressive 7 hours and 19 minutes. That's especially impressive, considering the high-res screen, and the relatively small amount of internal space that needs to hold the display, components, and battery.

Acer includes a one-year parts-and-labor limited warranty. While navigating Acer's online service and support sections has been a hit-or-miss experience over the years, the product page for this configuration benefits from a clean layout that points directly to support links. The support phone number, not as clearly labeled, is 866-695-2237.

There have been no shortage of opinions about the Acer Iconia W700 around the CNET office. Some disliked its retro-looking docking stand, and are dubious about the efficacy of a standalone Windows 8 slate. I took a warmer view, appreciating the unconventional design of the tablet-stand-keyboard setup, and crediting the W700 with excellent battery life and decent performance. The hardware passes the test; whether Windows 8 does likewise as a tablet-based operating system is another question altogether.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Iconia W700
Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Iconia W700
Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Iconia W700
Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Acer Iconia W700
Load test (average watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Iconia W700

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations

Acer Iconia W700
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Toshiba SSD

Dell XPS 12
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 256GB LITEONIT SSD

Sony Vaio Duo 11
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Toshiba SSD

Toshiba Satellite U925t
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Samsung SSD

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 7,200rpm


Acer Iconia W700

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Battery 9Support 7