A full-fledged computer that you can carry around in your coat pocket? Well, that has been largely sci-fi (and/or James Bond) territory. Yes, phones and tablets have indeed got very powerful of late and let you do almost everything that you can on your desktop computer or notebook. But, they are not really the primary computer of choice for most people, as they run different operating systems and applications, and function very differently. Indeed, for all the talk of the smartphone and tablet revolution, for the majority of us, a “computer” still remains a laptop or a desktop, generally running Windows on which one does one’s “serious work.”
So imagine a device that behaves exactly like a Windows computer — heck, which is a Windows computer - and yet is light and compact enough to slip into an overcoat pocket? Well, that is the Acer Iconia W3 for you. On first sight, it looks like a run-of-the-mill tablet that seems a tad on the thicker side. Switch it on, however, and you will see Windows 8 running on the 8.1 inch display. Yes, the complete Windows 8 and not RT, so you have everything from the tiled interface to the full-fledged desktop mode (for apps that run on older versions of Windows) on this handy little device. Acer has further sweetened the deal by throwing in a copy of MS Office 2013. All this at a special introductory price of R 27,999, which is well below that of the iPad with Retina Display. You can also add a Bluetooth keyboard to the device for an additional R 2,500-3,000 — the device can actually fit into the rear of the keyboard letting you carry both together as one unit.
And while we know that there will be those who will complain about the 1280 x 800 resolution display, the absence of proper USB ports (you can attach a USB device to the tablet using an adaptor, though) and the fact that the processor making all this happen is a dual-core Intel Atom affair rather than one of the Core i3/i5/i7 group, what really mattered for us was that the Iconia W3 really worked. For all the complaints that some of the hardcore tech community have about the Atom processor, we think that it is a very good chip for those wanting to burden their computers with nothing more than Web browsing, casual gaming and lots of MS Office work — the W3 handled all these very smoothly. Acer's Bluetooth keyboard worked fine with the tablet, although you can attach other Bluetooth keyboards to it as well.
The best part is that unless you are doing something very heavy duty, you do not actually have to switch between the tablet and another computer — we got used to using the tablet with a keyboard when we needed to do some heavy duty typing and on its own (you can carry and hold it in one hand easily, and at 540 grammes, it is lighter than an iPad) when we needed nothing more than some browsing or social network check-ups, or maybe a spell of Angry Birds.
The sound is not the greatest and we have seen brighter displays and we ideally would have preferred charging from the micro USB port rather than a proprietary one, but the price, performance and sheer portability of the device more than compensate for these. And while there is no 3G on board, there is Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and HDMI connectivity as well dual cameras for video chat fans and casual snappers (image quality is not the greatest). The device comes in 32 GB and 64 GB versions, with a microSD card slot for those seeking to expand storage. Round that off with a battery life in the vicinity of eight hours (that is one aspect of the Intel Atom people forget far too easily — the excellent power management), and what you have is perhaps one of the best value for money mobile computing devices around.
In fact, we would go as far as to call the Iconia W3 the first really portable Windows 8 device we have used — it certainly is the only one we have been able to use easily with one hand and carry around on our person. No, it does not have the apps of Android or iOS, but then on the flip side, it works exactly
as our ‘regular’ Windows computer does. And that surely counts for something. Make that “counts for a lot.”
Processor: Intel Atom dual core @ 1.8GHz
(1280 x 800 pixels)
Storage: 32 GB onboard storage (expandable via microSD card)
CAMERA: Dual cameras
OS: Windows 8 with
MS Office 2013
Price: R 30, 499