Acer wants to be known as a hardware, software and services company. That was the theme behind its next@Acer event in New York yesterday, where it launched or announced over 40 new products. Most were laptops and hybrids aimed at the back to school season, while others coming later in the year will be focused on mobile.
While Acer CEO Jason Chen gushed over his company doubling its smartphone business growth over the last 12 months, little of that has probably been felt in Canada, where only one model, the Liquid S1, came to market here last year.
Like other PC manufacturers, Acer has seen the writing on the wall and is maneuvering its core business to evolve into a nimbler company with a honed strategy. Chen declared that his company would be “the last man standing in the PC industry,” while also acknowledging that upward smartphones momentum would be key to future growth.
With the industry going through consolidation, he predicted more companies will be exiting the business than entering it in the years to come. “Our strategy will be consistency and persistence, and you will be surprised at how persistent we will be,” he said.
If this is the opening salvo in such a strategy, it will take some time to see how it unfolds.
Hybrid PC/tablets and Chromebooks
Like its competitors, Acer has latched (no pun intended) onto convertible and hybrid PCs that can double as tablets. The Switch 10 comes in two 10.1-inch Windows 8.1 models that each feature a revamped magnetic latch and hinge that makes it significantly easier to attach and detach the keyboard. The SW3-013 has a 10-inch IPS (1200 x 800) display comes in up to 10 different colours with up to 12 hours of rated battery life at a starting price of $279 U.S. and available in July.
The SW5-015 is essentially the same unit, albeit sporting a white cover made of Gorilla Glass 3, 1080p display and 2GB of RAM running on an Intel Atom processor. Rated battery life is significantly lower on this one at seven hours. It’s slated for an August release for $399 U.S.
Being the first to launch a 15.6-inch Chromebook, Acer announced an updated Chromebook 15 CB5-571 that will include a 1080p display and Core i5 processor for a yet undetermined price. A “consumer” model of the device (CB3-531) starts at just $199.99 U.S. when it launches in July, but it only offers a 720p display and uses a lower-powered Intel Celeron N2830 chip.
On the smartphone front, the only device confirmed to come to market was the Liquid M220, a Windows Phone budget handset that will be sold in the U.S. for the first time starting in June for only $79.99 outright. It’s the first Windows Phone for Acer’s Liquid line, and it’s easy to describe as a cautious entry. It has a 4-inch WVGA (800 x 480) display, running on a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon 200, 1GB of RAM, 8GB internal storage (expandable via microSD card slot), 5MP rear camera and a replaceable 1,300mAh battery.
A launch date hasn’t been confirmed for Canada, but since the phone will be sold through Microsoft’s online and brick-and-mortar stores, it appears likely that it will come north of the border too.
A new flagship phone, the Liquid X2, will be the company’s “workhorse”, according to Chen, though details are minimal thus far. What is known is that it will have a 5.5-inch display (we’re guessing IPS) with at least 1080p resolution or higher, and a monstrous 4,000mAh battery inside. It will have a triple-SIM card slot, mirroring a feature first introduced in the E700, a device that reportedly achieved some popularity in certain Asian markets.
Acer was mum on any other specs, including which chipset it will run with. Availability is slated for Q3, though it’s not clear whether Canada will get it at the same time as the U.S. The only other piece to report is a “smart flip” case and cover with a slit in the middle on the front that will show contextual information when closed. It comes off a bit like Samsung’s edge display, without the curve, of course.
Acer’s Iconia tablet line has never really taken off, but the company is continuing on with two models. The Iconia One 8 has an 8-inch IPS (1200 x 800) display, running on a 1.83GHz Intel Atom quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB internal storage (expandable up to another 32GB via microSD), 5MP rear camera and Android 5.0 Lollipop. Other than coming in a myriad of colours, the one standout feature is “Precision Plus”.
Stocked with more sensors than other tablets, the tablet recognizes finer input methods. The demo we saw had us writing and drawing with a regular pencil, which could also be used as a stylus, if necessary. It’s expected to launch in the U.S. and Canada in July, though only the $149 U.S. price has been confirmed. No word yet on how much extra it will cost here.
The Iconia One 10 sports very similar specs, albeit with a 10.1-inch IPS (1920 x 1200) display made of Gorilla Glass 4. Acer is positioning the tablet within Google’s Education ecosystem, making a play for the classroom rather than go head-on against competitors for everyday consumers. The device is set to launch in May for $299 U.S., but again, Canadian pricing hasn’t been confirmed.
The most surprising tablet unveiled was the Predator Tablet, Acer’s attempt at an Android gaming-centric 8-inch tablet to ostensibly challenge Nvidia’s Shield. Little is known or was revealed about it, other than that it has four front-facing speakers in the corners, has haptic feedback to coincide with game action. You can see the unique design in the photos. Other than a “late 2015” release date, there was no word on what Acer will pack in under the hood.
On the wearable side of things, Acer’s Liquid Leap line will get three new entrants. The Liquid Leap Fit will come with a heart rate monitor, along with dual galvanic detector pads that will help measure your stress index. It continuously scans the heart up to 150 times per day, and combined with the stress sensor, it’s supposed to come up with an honest assessment of how stressed you may be.
The other two — the Liquid Leap Curve and Liquid Leap Active — also have the same sensors, along with the same 1-inch touchscreens and waterproof bodies. There will be interchangeable bands, including collaboration with unnamed brands in designing unique ones. The Curve has a curved screen that seems to be more of a fashion play, while the Active and Fit are more for fitness and sports enthusiasts.
No availability or pricing was revealed for any of the new bands, though they are expected later this year.