Acer neoTouch S200 F1

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INTRODUCTION

    The affordably-priced Acer neoTouch S200 is one of the few devices out in the market to sport the new Qualcomm Snapdragon platform. What’s this mean? Well, you can get technical if you want, but for the rest of us, this means faster device performance thanks in part to a tasty 1GHz CPU plus power-saving technology that sips less power than older chipsets you find in smartphones of today. That said, we were skeptical that Acer could deliver a device compelling enough for us to recommend thanks to a track record of sub-par devices with poor build quality and buggy software. Now with Snapdragon on board, has Acer gotten serious? Read on for the full review!

WHAT’S HOT

    Let’s go through the specs. The Acer neoTouch sports a Qualcomm QSD8250 processor running at 1GHz. It has 512MB ROM (~220MB accessible), 256MB RAM (~110MB accessible), and has a microSD/HC expansion slot for added memory. The resistive touchscreen is large at 3.8" and is WVGA 480×800 resolution, making for a pixel density of 246ppi (the Touch Diamond’s screen is 285ppi, the Touch Diamond2’s screen is 292ppi, and the iPhone’s screen is 164ppi). It’s a quadband GSM (850/900/1800/1900) phone with triband UMTS (900/1900/2100) with HSDPA and HSUPA. If you’re in the US on AT&T and your area supports the 1900 UMTS band, you’ll be able to get 3G on the neoTouch. The device also has assisted GPS, WiFi b & g, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, USB 2.0, a proximity sensor, an accelerometer, plus FM radio. For audio, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack, and for syncing and charging, the neoTouch uses miniUSB. The rear camera is 5.0MP with auto focus and flash. Powering the device is a 1350mAh battery. For even more specs, check out PDAdb.net.

(all images link to larger versions)

The neoTouch S200 is similar in size to the Touch HD. It has a large and vibrant 3.8" touchscreen with 800×480 WVGA resolution.

The on-screen keyboards are solid, but not as easy to use as the ones found on HTC devices.

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
4.44" x 2.47" x 0.52"

132 | 4.65
4.44" x 2.27" x 0.63"

156 | 5.61
4.74" x 2.63" x 0.43"

157 | 5.53
4.33" x 2.09" x 0.59"

117 | 4.12
4.66" x 2.48" x 0.47"

130 | 4.58
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.64" x 2.36" x 0.48"

129 | 4.55
3.96" x 2.34" x 0.67"

133 | 4.76
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.58" x 2.42" x 0.47"

120 | 4.20
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.65"

178 | 6.28
3.92" x 2.41" x 0.60"

137 | 4.83
4.24" x 2.09" x 0.53"

117 | 4.12
4.17" x 2.00" x 0.85"

151 | 5.34
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.57" x 1.70" x 0.64"

140 | 4.94
4.88" x 2.44" x 0.53"

130 | 4.56
4.21" x 2.20" x 0.55"

120 | 4.20
4.53" x 2.47" x 0.47"

146 | 5.15
4.63" x 2.19" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.35" x 2.07" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.56" x 2.41" x 0.51"

125 | 4.41
4.44" x 2.36" x 0.55"

133 | 4.69
4.01" x 1.98" x 0.55"

124 | 4.37
8.28" x 4.67" x 1.08"

640 | 22.5
4.48" x 2.52" x 0.59"

154 | 5.43
4.17" x 2.38" x 0.68"

147 | 5.18
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.71"

165 | 5.82
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.41" x 2.28" x 0.73"

140 | 4.94
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.45"

110 | 3.88
4.56" x 2.36" x 0.70"
200 | 7.05
4.30" x 2.40" x 0.60"
120 | 4.23
4.20" x 2.30" x 0.60"
136 | 4.79
3.70" x 2.30" x 0.60"
126 | 4.44
4.48" x 2.39" x 0.51"
116 | 4.09
4.60" x 2.60" x 0.50"

134 | 4.70

4.10" x 2.10" x 0.60"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.32" x 0.75"
190 | 6.70

WHAT’S IN THE BOX



Here is the unboxing video for the neoTouch. Included is a charger, sync cable, a set of in-ear headphones, user guide, and screen protector. Where’s the case?

THE DEVICE

As mentioned, the neoTouch has a slate-like form factor with a very clean design.

Sitting on a table top, the device looks sleek with its beveled edges. And at just 12mm thick, it’s quite thin. The screen, while sensitive enough to be used with just a finger, is quite "mushy" compared to the Touch HD, Samsung Omnia II, or other similar devices.

Zooming into the top we have an LED notification light, speaker grill, proximity sensor, and light sensor to regulate screen brightness. The polling frequency for the light sensor was way too high, causing frequent fluctuations in backlight levels. Because of this, I left the auto brightness turned off. The proximity sensor turns off the screen during calls, but it didn’t work perfectly each time.

There are four flat buttons along the bottom of the device with unusual iconography. From left to right we have Call Start, Home, Back, and Call End. The buttons are activated by pressure and give off a small vibration.

The chrome edge that runs around the outside is a fingerprint magnet and feels cheap. Here on the left side is the power/standby button.

On the bottom is the miniUSB port for syncing and charging.

On the other side we have a dual-action camera button, soft reset hole, and volume rocker.

On the top we have a 3.5mm audio port…good placement!

As mentioned, the neoTouch’s touchscreen is sensitive enough to be used without a stylus. But if you do use the stylus, you’ll immediately notice how cheap it feels. Also, the stylus can become jammed in the silo if you don’t slide it in correctly.

The back battery cover is a glossy black that feels cheap. It also picks up scratches and fingerprints way too easily. Behind the battery cover is the slot for the microSD and SIM cards.

Focusing in on the top we have the 5.0MP autofocus camera with flash. We’ll cover photo/video quality later in the review. To the right of that is the speaker grill.

And when the lights turn off, the four buttons along the bottom glow white.

Video playback on the neoTouch is smooth (even when playing HD files), but because there is no good built in video player that supports a variety of formats, you’ll want to get CorePlayer.



Here is the hardware tour in case you missed it.

COMPARISONS

From left to right we have: HTC Pure, iPhone 3G S, Acer neoTouch, HTC Touch HD.

And here they are again, stacked. The neoTouch is about the same thickness as the iPhone and Touch HD.

Click onto the next page where we’ll dive into the user interface!

Acer’s interface overlay is very simple, which is a refreshing break from the novelty spinny cubes and sliding screens found on other devices. What we have here is a simple program launcher. The six icons on the bottom can be customized with the gear icon. The grid button to the left displays the Start menu, while the lock icon on the left will lock the screen. It’s nice having an extra shortcut to the Start menu down near the bottom of the device, as it helps with one-handed usability.

From here you can either delete an icon or change it to launch a different program….super simple, and it works great! That said, there is no other useful information on this screen like next appointment or weather.

You can change the wallpaper of this launcher program. Note the icon in the upper right corner…

That icon will launch Acer’s task manager, which, like HTCs task manager, allows you to have the X button close programs completely.

Here we are in the new Windows Mobile 6.5 Start menu. I’ve added Opera Mobile myself; the neoTouch only came with IE as the browser option.

INCLUDED SOFTWARE

This is the social networking launcher that gives you access to Blogger, flickr, Facebook, and YouTube.

The Facebook app is available as a free download to anyone.

Here’s the YouTube application. It’s not as nice as that from HTC.

You can drill into a certain category then flick your finger through the thumbnails on the top. Video playback was smooth.

Also included on the neoTouch is a calendar replacement called Agenda.

Tapping on a day brings up the Agenda view.

You can access this nice finger-friendly interface to add new appointments.

As with all WinMo 6.5 devices, the neoTouch S200 has Marketplace app store.

Also included is the two default widgets: stocks and weather.

Here we are viewing a page on Internet Explorer Mobile, which is a huge improvement over Pocket Internet Explorer.

IE Mobile takes advantage of the accelerometer in the neoTouch S200. However, if you install Opera Mobile, the accelerometer function won’t work.

This older piece of software, which STILL has formatting errors (misplaced comma), lets you have the device automatically reboot to clear out the RAM. I left this off.

The neoTouch comes with Office Mobile.

While not as good as the on screen keyboard on Samsung or HTC device, the keyboard on the neoTouch is the best we’ve seen from Acer.

It uses auto suggest (which can’t be easily turned off), plus it has this landscape view. In order to add numbers, you can’t tap and hold a key. You have to press the "123" button off to the left, which is annoying.

If you have a headset connected to the neoTouch, you can listen to FM radio. Reception was pretty good.

The photo gallery is a cheap knock-off of that found on HTC devices. The animations aren’t smooth, zooming isn’t easy, and it can be slow to load thumbnails.

PHONE

This is what happens when someone calls. In the upper left you get photo caller ID.

This is the screen you see when on a call. Turning on the speakerphone is bad idea…the speaker distorts easily and it’s difficult to hear the other party. Something very cool here is that the neoTouch can do in-call recording. Finding the resulting recording isn’t easy, so I’ll make it easy: it’s stored in My Documents in AMR format.

Pressing Call Start will bring up the number pad, which is large and easy to use. From here you can use smart-dial to bring up the number of someone you want to call.

For quicker access to people you call often, you can populate this Favorites menu.

Finally, this is the Phone Book application which lets you see all of your contacts, but without thumbnails.

Click on to the next page as we cover Settings and talk about photo quality on the Acer neoTouch.

Here is the default Settings screen in Windows Mobile 6.5. If you don’t like the program launcher screen from Acer and want to revert back to the sliding panel Titanium interface, you could tap on Today and make that selection.

There is some flexibility in what the hardware buttons do. You can change the function of the Camera button, plus that of the Home and OK button.

Here we are in System settings.

With no programs running, there is about 100MB of free program RAM. Pretty good!

There is a more user-friendly Settings interface called Preferences.

From the Wallpaper screen, you can change the background for the Today screen.

Here you can specify the function of the call end key when you hold it down.

You also have some choices for the behavior of the phone.

Acer gives you a more simple interface to change the sound settings.

And here is the communications manager.



This video shows some software features that we’ve written about so far in this review.

CAMERA

The interface on the neoTouch’s camera isn’t as good as found on Samsung or HTC Windows Mobile devices. You can take stills at 5.0MP and video at VGA resolution. There is also a continuous setting, plus one for anti-shake.

After you take a picture, you can email it, delete it, or send it via MMS.

Even though the neoTouch has a flash on the camera, indoor shots come out noisy.

This photo, taken in bright sunlight, was over-exposed.

Thanks to the autofocus, macro shots come out generally clear.

Click here to see a sample video in MP4 format. The video was taken at full VGA resolution at the highest quality. As you’ll see, the audio is muddy, and the colors are dull…sorry for the wind noise.

Click on to the next page where we’ll cover performance benchmarks, Pros and Cons, battery life, and wrap things up!

BENCHMARKS

The Snapdragon shines in our benchmark tests. Thanks to the 1GHz clock speed, the neoTouch smashes even the Samsung Omnia II in two out of three tests. Where the neoTouch doesn’t do as well (but still quite good) is in the Graphics benchmark.

BATTERY
    Despite having a rocket-fast 1GHz CPU, the Acer neoTouch manages to have fantastic battery life, better than the Touch HD or Touch Pro2. With moderate use, meaning medium screen brightness, a handful of calls, several internet browsing sessions and some GPS navigation, you’ll get through a day and a half. With heavy use, expect a full day of battery life, and with light usage, you’ll go for two, maybe three days. Very nice.

BUGS AND WISHES

    First and foremost, the neoTouch has poor build quality. The materials used are cheap, and the device even makes creaking sounds if you apply any sort of twisting pressure to the casing. The back battery cover is so scratch-prone that after just 15 minutes in a pocket with no keys, it became covered in surface scratches and swirls. Acer still hasn’t gotten it right with build quality, and you’ll notice it the second you pick up the S200.

   The screen, while super sharp and crisp indoors (in fact, it may have better contrast than the Touch HD), turns unreadable outdoors. Because I had to disable screen brightness control (since the polling frequency was WAY too high), when outdoors I had to manually max out the brightness, which, even then, didn’t allow me to see the screen clearly.

   Along with poor build quality comes poor software quality. While testing the neoTouch, I came across many weird bugs. For example, when accessing the Preferences screen, I would be taken to an empty page. Or, I would hear the camera sensor click repeatedly, almost as if it were taking photos without the photo application running. None of the bugs I experienced were deal-breakers, but just further indication that Acer needs to do more bug testing before deploying a device.

   It’s been a long time since we’ve penalized a device on call quality, but I have to do so with the neoTouch. Not only does the speakerphone distort way too easily, but the normal in-call speaker is always too quiet, and boosting the volume causes it to distort. For the other caller, I was clear, but for me, talking on the neoTouch wasn’t a great experience.

   The GPS takes far too long to get a signal. For a cold start, it’d take about 100 seconds to get a fix and with a warm start, the device required 20 seconds to get a signal. This is at least twice as long as other high end smartphones we’ve tested.

   And then there are the other issues, none of which are huge problems, but collectively make for an unremarkable experience: there’s no case included, the photo quality is poor and the video quality dull, the screen feels like the mushy resistive touchscreens of several years ago, and you can’t natively play your favorite video file formats.

PURCHASING

    You can grab an unlocked Acer neoTouch S200 from Clove for £295, which comes out to about $480. For an unlocked smartphone with such a large screen and fast processor, this is a very good value. It has the 1900 UMTS band, so it will get 3G in certain areas in the US on AT&T.


PROS

  • Fantastic everyday performance
  • Terrific battery life
  • High-contrast, high-resolution screen
  • Thin, sleek design
  • Simple program launcher interface included
  • Good screen sensitivity
  • Natively does in-call recording

CONS

  • Poor build quality
  • Outdoor screen visibility isn’t great
  • Buggy software
  • Below average call quality and speakerphone volume
  • Sub-par camera
  • No case included
  • Poor GPS performance
  • Screen feels "mushy"
  • Cheap stylus
  • On-screen keyboard is mediocre
  • No good video playback software included
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    The neoTouch S200 is comparable to an inexpensive sports car that has a turbocharged engine but lacks in quality in every other aspect. You know the type. While it’s great that Acer was able to build a Snapdragon chipset into their top of the line device, and while it’s great that they succeeded in making a truly fast device, it’s still an Acer phone. Build quality is low, the software is buggy, and the device lacks certain features and functions that a high end device should have like a good camera and good speakerphone. My advice to you: if you want cheap speed, the neoTouch will make you happy. But if you want a more well-rounded device that exhibits the qualities of a top-tier smartphone, check out the Samsung Omnia II or the upcoming HTC HD2.

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.