So far, Acer's smart phones have been disappointing, comprising a bunch of boring Windows Mobile handsets and a handful of Android devices that have missed the mark. But Acer is looking to make a much bigger impression with the Stream. It includes a number of innovative features, including a HDMI port for hooking it up to a high-definition TV, a huge AMOLED touchscreen and a heavily customised version of the Android user interface.
The Stream is available exclusively from eXpansys, where you can grab it SIM-free and unlocked for £400. You can also get it for free on a £30-per-month, 2-year contract.
The Stream is certainly Acer's best-looking handset yet. It's relatively slim, at 11mm thick, and the combination of the dark aluminium and glossy black finish on the front means it looks every inch the top-end phone. The three media-playback buttons beneath the screen break up the handset's otherwise clean lines.
We love this phone's large, 94mm (3.7-inch) AMOLED touchscreen. It's not only fantastically bright, but it also produces beautifully vivid colours and astonishingly deep black levels. Its WVGA resolution means Web pages and pictures look incredibly sharp and, as it supports multi-touch, you can use the pinch-to-zoom gesture to whizz in and out of Web pages and maps.
The phone runs Android 2.1, but Acer has heavily customised the user interface. Instead of the usual multi-page Android home screen, the Stream has a single-page home screen divided into two parts. The bottom third consists of eight app shortcuts that are permanently displayed. Swiping up on this shortcut bar opens the main Android menu. The Android notification bar has been moved from the top of the screen to just above the shortcut bar.
The top two-thirds of the home screen are used to display three panels that you swipe back and forth between. The central panel simply shows the time and date, while the left-hand one displays a carousel-style menu containing thumbnails of recently used applications. The right-hand panel offers a similar thumbnail view, but this one displays media files. You can click a tab at the top of this panel to switch between music, videos and photos.
Acer's tweaked interface is a brave attempt at trying something new. The thumbnail view of your recently used apps is certainly very useful for diving back in where you left off in an app. But the interface also has its problems. It's not easy to get at your widgets, so you tend not to make much use of them, and the tiny notification bar is much more fiddly and annoying to use than the standard Android pull-down menu.
We got used to the whole system after a while but, overall, we prefer the standard Android interface. Fortunately, you can revert back to this via the main Android settings menu, although switching between the two involves a reboot.