Acer Liquid E3
The Acer Liquid E3 helps you take better selfies. Sarah Tew/CNET

BARCELONA, Spain -- Acer plans to follow up last year's underwhelming Liquid E2 with a smartphone that has a touch more pizzazz. Tagged the Liquid E3, this updated Android handset made its debut at MWC 2014 and features a host of modern upgrades. These include quad-core processing, a big 4.7-inch screen, and a sharp 13-megapixel camera. Priced at a mid-range 199 euros, the Liquid E3 isn't unreasonably expensive either. That said, with heavy hitters such as the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2, and even the HTC One's successor all poised to become realities, the E3 might be a tough sell no matter how affordable it may be.

Taking front and center stage on the Acer Liquid E3 is the phone's sizable 4.7-inch LCD screen. Acer claims that the E3 display relies on IPS technology which should bodes well for brightness, viewing angles, and overall image quality. When I examined the handset up close, I wasn't blown away by the screen's image quality. That said it gets satisfyingly bright and the colors do have some punch. Indeed the display's image quality drops when tilted off-angle, but not terribly so.

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Acer also describes the Liquid E3's chassis as curved and explains that this makes the phone comfortable to grip. I can certainly vouch that the Liquid E3 feels comfortingly solid and that it's textured back doesn't act as a grease or fingerprint magnet, the phone's plastic material is far from premium.

Features and interface
Like its other handset announced at MWC 2014, the Liquid Z4, the Liquid E3 isn't running Google's latest and greatest mobile software. Instead both handsets come with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean installed out of the box. Acer has committed to providing an update to Android 4.4 KitKat "later this year," a statement it did not make for the compact Z4.

Acer throws in its custom UI enhancements here as well, allowing the Liquid E3 to perform some slick interface tricks. Most interesting is what the company calls AcerFloat, which lets you multitask by keeping numerous application windows open simultaneously, floating around the home screen. Whether the feature actually proves useful and not merely a confusing gimmick remains to be seen.

On the back side of the Liquid E3 is the phone's main 13-megapixel camera with LED flash, which is par for the course as mid- to high-end smartphones typically go. What's really unique about the E3, however, is its front-facing imaging system.

Pointing forward is a 2MP shooter for stills and video, plus a flash to nab pictures in low light. Acer says that this will help users grab selfies of themselves and others in more locations than ever before. I admit it's a novel idea but I'd rather just have a better performing camera that could function without bathing everything in unnatural lighting. Even so, when I snapped a few test shots at Acer's MWC press event (located in a dark restaurant), the front flash was surprisingly even-handed, illuminating my face but not blowing out details.

Core components
Running the Liquid E3's software show is a quad-core 1.2GHz processor backed up by 1GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. This component load-out is on the low side, though I freely admit I have highfalutin taste. I am concerned that Acer neglects to mention the exact brand of CPU which drives the E3. Operating the E3 in person, I found it to be more responsive than I anticipated. While not instantly nimble, it flipped though menus, apps, and setting screens with admirable pep.

Acer says it will ship the Liquid E3 in Europe by April for a suggested price of 199 euros ($273).