The Acer Iconia W3 proves that Windows 8 can work on a smaller form factor tablet. Windows 8's Modern UI is far better suited for a smaller display than any Windows OS of the past, and Intel's Atom processors are finally able to deliver solid performance in a small package. The problem is, the Iconia W3 just isn't a very good tablet. While Acer has opted to deliver value with a very reasonable S$499 price point, even budget-minded shoppers deserve more - especially from the display - out of a device that's primarily aimed at content consumption.
Although battery-life was quite good, staring at the screen strains the eyes to the point where after just 30 minutes, we had to take a break to recover. The W3's optional Bluetooth keyboard is one of the worst available, as its lack of a trackpad or trackpoint limits its usefulness for productivity, while its large size completely negates any portability benefits gained from opting for a smaller tablet. It does its best to integrate with the W3, but the benefits are minimal as compared to opting for other keyboard alternatives from the open market.
Compared to other products on the market, the only advantage the W3 holds is its Intel Atom processor and full Windows 8 OS, which lets you install regular desktop programs such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop to the device. However, due to the poor quality display, small screen size, and underwhelming Bluetooth keyboard, you're unlikely to use the W3 for any serious productivity or event content consumption.
The W3's value proposition is also hurt by the fact that Microsoft has just lowered the price of the 32GB Surface RT tablet to $488, which includes full versions of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT. If you're after a Windows 8 device at this price point, honestly, at this time, you're likely better served with the Surface RT. While it won't let you install regular Windows desktop programs and is a tad heavier and larger, it does have a far superior display, much better build quality, just as good battery performance, and can be equipped with a more capable Bluetooth keyboard with trackpad. Further to that, you could also opt for the Surface tablets' keyboards - Touch Cover and Touch Type - both of which are class-leading in their own right. You can check out our detailed review of the Microsoft Surface RT for further information.
In all honesty, the Acer Iconia W3 could have been a really pivotal product to help improve Windows 8 tablet sales, but it blew it chances. Fortunately, if you've got your heart absolutely set on an 8-inch Windows 8 tablet, according to Engadget, via Dutch website Tweakers.net, Acer could soon be releasing a successor to the W3, with a thinner, lighter build and a much improved (and needed) IPS display. Acer spokesperson Sterre Swank revealed that this successor may be released as soon as September of this year. If this proves true, it would immediately fix the most glaring problems of the W3 and could make it a worthy challenger in the sub-10-inch device market. We'll find out personally if version 2.0 of the W3 can make amends once it's made available to us.