Acer Iconia Smart S300 Review

Acer Iconia Smart S300 Review

The Acer Iconia Smart S300 is a good device overall. The screen is brilliant, and is a joy to watch HD movies on or browse the web. It also has a decent 8 MP camera. A few kinks, such as difficult one-hand usability, mediocre speaker volume, and lack of dual-core at the price, all mar what still remains a solid experience, especially for the video or gaming junkie.

So just to get that out of the way, we spoke to Acer product manager who defined the product thus, “A smartphone with tablet like capabilities.” So we will address the S300 as a smartphone.

Design and Build
The form factor lies somewhere between a smartphone and a tablet. Of course, the screen size is much lower than the 7-inch size that is standard minimum screen size for most tablets. But otherwise the build is like a smartphone with the thickest size being 14mm on the side. The screen portion is neatly divided into two portions – the bezel and the hardware button. The button placed at the bottom of the screen has four backlit menus such as Home, Search, Back and Contextual menu. There is a nice feedback on the buttons and even though it is a single button across the breath, you do not face any issues with activating individual functions.

The overall shape is rectangular with the edges rounded off to give an easy grasp. The top of the screen has a 2 MP front facing camera. Power button and 3.5mm jack are present on the top edge whereas the lower edge is clean. On the right hand side you will find the volume rocker on the top and the camera shutter button on the lower side. On the left hand edge you have the slots for microUSB port and a mini-HDMI port.

Coming on the rear side, you have an 8MP camera on the top besides which is located an LED flash. A speaker section is located above the camera. It is a metallic unibody design on the rear side, with the lower section opening up to reveal the battery section. There is no provision for hot swapping, as you have to remove the battery as the slots for the SIM card and microSD card are covered by the battery compartment. A small red projection locks the battery in place.

The 4.8-inch screen size, means that you will not be able to reach the buttons below if your are holding the phone in the centre. You will need to grip the phone in the lower half to be able to access the buttons, which does not give enough stability to hold the device firmly. It is best to use two hands if you plan to use the buttons below. The rear surface is a bit too smooth to give enough grip, so you will most likely have to get a more grippy cover. The feedback on the menu buttons, volume rocker and camera shutter button is quite good.

The Acer Iconia Smart houses the Qualcomm MSM8255-1 Snapdragon system-on-chip, which has the 1 GHz single-core Scorpion processor. It runs on the Android Gingerbread (v2.3) operating system. Acer has ofcourse added its own customizations to the Gingerbread OS called the Acer UI 4.2. It has five home screens. The first screen has the carousel on the left hand side for quickly accessing media files such as pictures, music and video whereas the fifth screen has a similar carousel on the right hand side featuring popular websites. In between you have four screens which you can populate with you most commonly used widgets, apps or shortcuts. There are four fixed apps in the bottom panel which are constant across all screens, and pull up this frame to access the applications menu.

The lockscreen itself has three screens where you can access music, events and view missed calls or messages alongwith time. You can even start your camera without unlocking the phone by simply pressing the shutter button when the phone is in sleep more. You will get a screen with pullouts for still or video camera. Drag which ever camera you want to activate and you are good to go, provided you have not activated passwords to operate the phone after it gets out of the sleep mode.

The six-axis gyro sensor in the device allows you to change tracks by shaking the phone on the left or right hand side.

It comes with the standard Google apps such as Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Calendar and some Acer apps such as Social Jogger, Acer Sync, nemoPlayer among others. You also have three HD games such as Asphalt 5, Spider-Man and N.O.V.A which need to be downloaded before you begin play.

Display: The first thing that you will look for is the display. Thanks to the Gorilla glass and backlit LED display, images and videos appear brilliantly vivid. The viewing angles are also great. The glass surface is reflective which can be annoying at times, but daylight visibility is quite good. The 21:9 cinema aspect ratio makes it ideal for watching movies, although we could only manage to get our hands on HD videos with 16:9 aspect ratio. Contrast is not that great as we could see a definite backlight bleeding in completely dark scenes. A dark scene makes it stand out from the bezel, a sureshot sign of not-so-great black levels.

Acer bundles a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable with which you can connect the smartphone to your HDTV. This comes in handy if you want to make presentations directly off the phone. But one thing we found annoying about this transfer of display is while watching movies. Now when you turn on the movie, the S300’s screen is playing back the same video that you see on your HDTV. We would have liked it, if there was an option to somehow an option to make the S300’s screen go in sleep more while the movie was showing on the HDTV.

User Interface: As with most Android devices which sport a 1 GHz processor, the response of the screen is quite fast. The media and web carousels on the edge home screens are a quick way to access content. Social Jogger app has an impressive design, but it does not add much value over say a dedicated Twitter or Facebook app. The Gallery app was strangely lagging a lot while loading photographs. For heavy photos, as you are surfing through your album, you first get a blurred view which clears after a couple of seconds to give the sharper image. But with the Iconia Smart’s Gallery app, it seems to take ages to do that, which is not desirable.

Another annoying aspect is the fact that there are very few apps which use the complete 4.8-inch screen real estate. Most of the popular apps we had downloaded were probably built for the 4.3-inch screen, so the space below it appearing as a black blob is just wasted. Acer needs to get its act right and commission dedicated apps for the Iconia Smart, for the simple reason that its form factor is not very common.

The default browser is quick, but does not support multiple tabs. It does however resize according to the zoom factor which is a boon as it makes reading long web articles easier.

Call quality: We did not face any issues with the call quality. There were no dropped calls or distortion in Zone 1 and Zone 2. Loudspeaker mode is not that great, as surrounding sounds (specially when you are out on the streets) tend to drown out the Iconia Smart’s speakers output. The earphones provided alongwith the device are quite good and we faced no noticeable issues while attending calls using it.

Camera: The Iconia Smart houses an 8 MP camera which is quite good. The amount of customization options that you get will rival any entry level point and shoot camera. It is quite easy to switch between the rear and front facing camera or between still and video camera. You can change White balance modes, select Effects such as sepia, black and white, etc. Panorama mode allows you to click a set of multiple photos which are then stitched to give you a single panoramic image and with the wide screen it is a joy to shoot panoramas. You just movie the camera in the direction of the arrows, the camera does the rest.

Image quality is good as long as you do not zoom in. Also indoor shots were not that great without flash. You do tend to see minor artifacts if you do not use flash. Another thing that annoys you is that the Gallery app takes quite a while to quickly display the images. Shooting in low light does not yield good results, as you will notice a lot of noise in the images. The ISO levels go upto 200 only.

Video camera is capable of shooting 720p videos and gave good quality videos in brightly lit conditions. Minor jittering is noticeable as you pan the camera.

Gaming: It comes bundled with three games: N.O.V.A, Asphalt 5 and Spiderman. But you need to download the 100MB plus files and install the games. The six-axis gyroscope ensures a smooth gaming experience using the accelerometer. Asphalt 5 looks lovely on the wide screen and we did not notice any heating issues with the phone despite gaming for long hours. Of course, it does sip a lot of battery as expected.

Battery Life: The Iconia Smart has a surprisingly low battery juice of just 1500mAh for a 4.8-inch screen device. It does last for a day with calling, surfing the net, listening to music and watching video content. But we would have liked to see a higher capacity battery, as it will drain soon if you have a lot of video content which you would want to consume on this screen.

The Acer Iconia Smart S300 is a good device overall. The screen is brilliant, wide screen is a joy to watch HD movies on, web pages require less scrolling and the text easily realigns itself on zooming, the 8MP camera is quite decent. But it does come with its kinks such as the discomfort in accessing the buttons when you are holding the phone in one hand, apps not using the complete screen real estate, not such great volume on the speakers among others. Acer needs to work on is developing dedicated apps which will utilise the full 4.8-inch screen real estate, as depending on the Android Market place to deliver does not make sense as 4.8-inch screen is a unique size.

Another aspect one needs to consider from a future proofing perspective is that the S300 has a single core processor and its pricing is in the range of dual core smartphones. But then that depends on your use case scenario, as not many apps use the dual core completely. And if you are a heavy media consumption junkie, Acer Iconia Smart S300 is a decent bet.

Overall Rating
3.5 out of 5

Rs. 28,990 

“Don’t miss the Zero1 Awards in the December 2011 Collector’s Edition of Digit. Book your copy now!





Iconia Smart

Street Prices (Rs)
Price (MRP, Rs)
Physical Specs
Form Factor
2G Network Bands

GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900

3G Network Bands

HSDPA 900 / 1900 / 2100

Screen Resolution

480 x 1024

Screen Size (inches)
Maximum Screen colours

Touchscreen / Dual Screen (Y/N)

Battery Rating

1500 mAh

Dimensions (L x W x H)

141.7 x 64.5 x 13.6

Expandable Memory Type
RAM (in MB)

Qualcomm MSM8255-1 Snapdragon, 1 GHz Scorpion CPU, Adreno 205 GPU

CPU Clock speed

1 GHz

No. of CPU cores
Hot Swappable (Y/N)
Other Features

Operating System (Tested with)

Android 2.3.3

Charging via USB (Y/N)

Hardware Keypad (Regular/QWERTY)


Accelerometer (For auto rotate)

Address Book Capacity
No of calls in register

Talk Time / Standby Time (3G) *

Up to 11 h (2G) / Up to 8 h (3G)

Standby Time

Up to 450 h (2G) / Up to 500 h (3G)

Offline Opearability (Y/N)

Inbuilt GPS / A-GPS support (Y / N)

Y / Y

Browsing (GPRS/EDGE/3G)

Y / Y / Y

3G max speed (in Mbps)
 HSDPA 14.4 / HSUPA 5.76

Connectivity (WiFi/Bluetooth/IR/USB)

Y / Y / N / Y

Bluetooth Version/A2DP support

v2.1 / Y

Camera Specs

Camera Resolution (Mega Pixels)

Video Capture Resolution
Auto focus / flash

Y / Y

Type of flash

Secondary camera for video chat


Mirror for self portrait (Y / N)

Camera Settings (So 10)
Zoom (Optical/Digital)
Music Formats supported


Video formats supported


FM Radio / RDS (Y/N)
Bundled Accessories

Wall charger, mini HDMI to HDMI cable, carry case, handsfree headset

Size of memory card provided
Build and Ergonomics (So 10)
Surface materials used

Overall build and in-hand feel

Quality of moving parts
Design and ergonomics

Keypad design (on-screen or hardware)

Menu and interface

Settings and ease of navigating menus

Camera menu options

Signal Reception and Voice Clarity (So 10)

Zone 1
Zone 2
Zone 3
Handsfree Clarity
Loudspeaker Clarity
Earpiece Clarity
Handsfree Volume
Loudspeaker Volume
Earpiece Volume

Bluetooth Transfer Speed (in KBps)

Imaging and multimedia tests
Captured Photo Colour
Captured Photo Crispness
Captuted Photo Detail
Captured Video Quality

Effectiveness of integrated flash

Music Quality (loudspeaker)
Music Quality (handsfree)
Volume levels (loudspeaker)
Volume levels (handsfree)
Display (So 10)
Font rendition

Legibility in bright sunlight

Video playback
* Manufacturer Rated
Synthetic Tests
Quadrant (best of 3)

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