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Acer neoTouch P400 review: Acer neoTouch P400

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The Good Well built; smart design features; 3G and Wi-Fi; decent browser.

The Bad Resistive touchscreen; extremely slow; expensive.

The Bottom Line The Acer neoTouch P400 is let down by a frustrating resistive touchscreen and sluggish performance, which is a shame because its build quality is high. An operating system just months from being made obsolete by Windows Phone 7 is the nail in the coffin

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5.5 Overall

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The Acer neoTouch P400 is a phone with the odds stacked firmly against it. For one thing, it's due out at the same time as the iPhone 4, which is guaranteed to blow every other device out the water, at least in terms of media coverage. Secondly, it's running Windows Mobile, at a time when Windows Phone 7 is just months away from launching, with no chance of an upgrade. Thirdly, the P400 isn't cheap either -- at around £310 SIM-free, this phone has an awful lot of work to do if it's going to impress us.

Weighty decision
Picking the P400 up, things get off to a promising start. This handset feels well built and classy, and at 125g there's a pleasing weight to holding it. The back of the P400 is rubberised to give it a little extra grip, and this rounded, demure side of the phone is separated from the glossy lit-up front by a smart chrome trim that extends all the way around the edge of the phone.

The P400 attempts to single itself out from the crowd with an illuminated circle around the touch-sensitive home button. This changes colour depending on what the phone's trying to tell you -- we noticed it started glowing a menacing red when the P400 was low on battery. It's a useful design feature, and something of a talking point.

Talking of battery, the P400's battery life is what we've come to expect from high-end mobiles. If you're lucky you'll manage a day and a half from a full charge, and less than a day if you're performing battery-draining tasks such as downloading data or viewing video.

Passive resistance
If you're showing the P400 off at your weekly book club, however, you might want to keep the screen locked. The LCD display is large enough at 81mm (3.2 inches), with a decent resolution of 320x480 pixels, but crucially the touchscreen is of the resistive kind, rather than capacitive. This means you'll have to actually apply a little pressure to the screen to register your touch, rather than gliding your finger smoothly across the surface as you would on smart phones such as HTC's Legend or Desire, or indeed Apple's iPhone.

Now, we've nothing against resistive screens per se, but for over £300 we'd have expected capacitive. Unlike many older business-centric phones with this kind of screen, the P400 doesn't come with a stylus for precise tapping -- it's clearly meant to be used with your finger, hence the 'neoTouch' moniker. More annoying than the price, however, are the ways this resistive screen clashes with the P400's software.

Operating diss'them
The P400 is running Windows Mobile 6.5, a fairly recent version of the operating system. Trouble is, it now supports multitouch, which isn't possible with a resistive touchscreen. We didn't notice any applications on the P400 which strictly required multitouch to operate, but it's a little frustrating to be using software that could offer more features than the phone's hardware can support.

Another gripe is that resistive touchscreens aren't particularly sensitive or precise. Normally this isn't a problem, as (sensible) manufacturers adjust the size of the on-screen icons to compensate for the inprecise input, but the P400 sports a full on-screen keyboard, which you'll have to poke and prod at ineffectually. Even if you achieve the kind of nimble-fingered precision normally associated with demon ninjas, texting or emailing at speed is still going to be pretty much impossible.

Slugging it out
That's because of the P400's incredibly sluggish response time. We found it sometimes took several seconds for the screen to respond when we pressed the lock key to get into the phone itself, and when you're typing out messages you'll need to give the P400 a moment to recover after each key press. We're a little puzzled by this stammering, because this phone is rocking a 600MHz processor -- by no means the fastest around, but we wouldn't expect such a slow experience with a chip clocked at that speed.

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