Acer Iconia W3 8-Inch Windows tablet: Unboxing & first impressions

Today at Build, Microsoft handed out a few thousand Iconia W3s to the attendees. For those of you don’t know, the Iconia W3 is Acer’s first attempt at an 8-inch Windows 8 tablet running with an Intel Atom processor.

Is it good, bad, somewhere in between? We’re not a 100% sure yet but we do like playing around with it a whole lot. Head past the break for our hands on video and some impressions!

To refresh on the all the specs of this little bad boy: the tablet weighs 1.10 pounds, is .45 inches thin, sports a 1200 x 800 8.1 inch LCD display, 32 or 64 GB of memory, and is powered by an Intel Atom Clover Trail CPU.

Truth be told, the display is a bit “meh”. By that sophisticated description we’re referring to the lack of an IPS display, making this straight up LCD, which seems like something from 2010 rather than 2013. Of course, it was done to keep the price down and like all displays, once you use it for a few minutes your mind kind of forgets. But on first loading, Sam Sabri and I each thought something was wrong with our screens.

Guess we’re spoiled.

Device performance is what you can expect from an Intel Atom: it rocks for Windows 8 Start screen apps, but lags a bit when you run full desktop apps (this is full Windows 8, after all). But what option would you rather have? A somewhat sluggish desktop experience or no choice in the matter? Because of that we prefer Atom processors over ARM, though we hope to revisit that issue later this year.

Biggest surprise? The speakers. Located at the bottom of the device, when held vertically, they’re surprisingly loud and sound a lot better than you’d expect. Cameras, on the other hand, are a bit muddy. The W3 features both 2.1MP front and rear cameras, which is probably done once again to cut costs.

Having said that, we see a real opportunity for some OEM (cough, Nokia, cough) to make an 8-inch Windows 8 tablet with stellar front and rear cameras, because this size device lends itself to Skype and even general photo taking.

We’ll do a follow up in a few days from Sam and me on the Iconia W3. It’s not a perfect device and it’s really the tip of the iceberg for what’s coming in this range—but it is quite compelling to use and is keeping us entertained. For $379 (32GB version) it will certainly raise some eyebrows.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • U mean 32gb version? How much useable space is on hdd?
  • My question exactly
  • 64GB --> 50GB of actual space, about 30GB of free.
  • Very nice. I might pick this one up.
  • I would consider getting this if it had at least one full USB 3.0 slot. Win8 device without a full usb is kind of useless, if I wanted a device with no option to attach usb sticks, and other stuff I would get a rotten apple.
  • "Rotten apple?"  What are you, 10 years old?
  • Ehh, a little high priced, but this should come down as 8" tablet competition emerges.
  • There is one on eBay 64gb with dock for 445 shipped
  • That's not bad.
  • It looks like a build conference one
  • Wow 12800 x 800 pixel display? Highest dpi I have ever seen ;)
  • Impressive, isn't it? Technologies are not standing at one point! Interesting, what is aspect ratio...
  • 16:1, hah.
  • 16:10?
  • I have no interest in this specific device, but I'd be very interested in a high end 8" device. I'm concerned that Windows tablets will follow the same convention as phones: big gets high end hardware, small gets low end.
  • Wait for Samsung's, Asus, HTC's and Lenovo's offerings. They should all have an 7 - 9" lined up soon. Of course the bigger the screen the more space they can find to put faster better hardware and batteries. Same on Smartphones. 
  • For an 8" tablet I would rather have RT only, even RT with no desktop option at all.
  • If you compared atom vs arm performance you wouldn't say this. Its really not close. In fact, after running some side by side with my dads Surface RT and a Thinkpad T2, we both wondered why RT even exists.
  • Agree, RT/ARM just isn't there...yet. Atom tablets are a-okay with me.
  • Rt is the future of small tablets
  • I agree. 8" RT tabs at $299 (dare I say $199?) are the future of low-end.
  • When that happens, sure...for now though, the RT-value is lost on me (and the market).
  • As an early adopter of the Surface RT I can totally agree with you. I'm still trying to decide if it's the Surface or me not needing a tablet in my life. I think a lot of people are confused when it comes to RT. Is it a shitty laptop? or a baller tablet? I always think the first until I remove the touch cover and realize it's the latter.
    Just like setting a room when selling a house. RT needs some guidance for potential buyers
  • I have a Surface RT and an Acer W510 (x86).  I do agree at this point the Atom (W510) has advantages including speed and flexibillity to run x86 apps BUT IMO the Surface RT is a much nicer physical device. It almost/might make up for the speed difference to me. Plus, with the bundled office the Surface RT is pretty nice.  I am actually amazed how much I like Outlook RT, I didn't think much of MS including that, but playing with it today, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I like it (so far ).  If I had to chose between the Surface RT or the Acer W510 I think I would chose the Acer, but I'm not positive.  
  • I personally believe RT (and also Chrome OS) are the "pagers" of the OS world - cheap with a reduced feature set for people who couldn't afford the real thing, but pretty soon tech will catch up and RT will be history...
    ...I hope.
  • I have a laptop and a hybrid with full Windows 8 with i7 processors, my Surface RT is great as a consumption device and Office has been handy at times. On an 8" tablet I don't need full Windows and definitely don't need office, the desktop or an over sized physical keyboard to carry around. it's not a matter of performance its a matter of preference.
  • but you don't have to use the desktop side of windows 8..i don't see any reason why anyone would prefer rt
  • If you don't need desktop then what is the purpose of getting a windows 8 tablet. Rt would suit perfectly.
  • Except you could get an atom tablet for the same price, the same battery life, and much better performance.
    I honestly can't see any reason to get an RT device. 
  • You can't run Chrome on RT, though. Which, I need to have access to for work.
  • Battery life, for now.
  • I have had a Surface RT since launch, and find Office kind unusable on it.    Maybe I'm a fast typer, or something, but Word offers a delayed reaction to everything.   The battery also drains alot faster than similar devices (eg: IPad) when it isn't in use.    If I don't keep it on the charger, it's probably dead when I need it.
    It's great for Remote Desktop (the one way to run Visual Studio & Visio)  and browsing, but, overall -- I think RT has a lot of kinks.  
  • I constantly use Word and Excel on my Surface RT and it's a breeze. I'm using the touch type cover for typing and that thing since the last couple updates is very accurate. have you got the latest updates? As for battery when the thing isn't in use mine lasts easily up to 3 days, even with some occasional e-mail checking and net browsing, so again you either missing updates or maybe you have a dud.
  • I definitely agree.. I have no problem with Office, typing or battery life.
  • I personally love my Surface RT however I get frustrated with the fact that its always dead when I need to use it. I don't know if I have a dud, or if Surface RT just has bad idle battery drain. The battery life appears to be OK under normal use, however the thing will die on me idle with a full charge in ~3 days.
  • Well it's a START (see what I did there?). We'll see what other companies jump on board. I am definitely getting one for portability. My Surface Pro is a cement block, but a great device nonetheless. Hope this device doesn't disappoint.
  • It's nice and compact, but once you add the keyboard it just looks terrible. Lol ijs
  • "12800 x 800" hahaha
  • Lol!
  • I'd rather have no choice in the matter thank you very much.
  • This is my preferred form factor and screen size, I would use it as a tablet for almost anything, and connect it to an external monitor through HDMI when needed. That would be the perfect replacement for my PC, sadly the cpu is not powerful enough to substitute my desktop.
  • The keyboard..
  • At first in the hands-on video.. I was like "Wait.. How are you holding the camera?!" and then I saw Sam lol. Anyways, the Acer W3 looks really nice but I sold my RT because I rarely used it. Maybe I just don't need a tablet lol.
  • If Nokia made one with a 41MP pureview camera and that wide angle HTC FFC, I'd buy one in a heartbeat.
  • I like the size and doesn't seem a bad tablet at all.
    But I really hate the design and the keyboard just doesn't cut it for me. I still much prefer the sober elegance and intelligent design of the Surface.
  • Can you see if it runs Lightroom well?
  • Kinda looks like the HTC EVO tablet....kinda.
  • I prefer the IPad Mini over the IPad, so it's good to see Windows moving into that segment.     Now Microsoft needs to foster a competitive, commodity market for these tablets -- the price is too damn high @ $400.    Get something solid at $200, soon, and it's going to make inroads.    
  • Agree. Even iconia w5 10" is being sold around $ 499. This should be $200 cheaper.
  • Not to be rude, but how much did you pay for your ipad mini? I find it funny that everyone continues to compare the cost of a windows pad to windows laptops but don't compare the cost of the ipad to a macbook which is at least $900 - $11b00 more. Maybe this is because MS goal was to make computers more affordable to the masses, but just thought that was interesting. I know it's a smaller device, but you get the same functionality unless its and RT device.
  • Nothing. I won it at a conference. I agree with your point though....$330 is a little high for the mini. Still, one of Windows advantages has always been competitive, cheap, hardware. They need to beat Apple on price....don't hand that off to Android.
  • Would like an 8" Nokia device with good cameras, clear black display, Nokia music (free), Here maps with GPS. Maybe with Nokia N97 like flip keyboard.
  • yeah, we all would. but apparently Nokia is more concerned with creating gigantic 41MP variations of the 920 than with creating a Tablet. . . it's a pity:/
  • Give me an 8" Surface pro or Nokia tablet same price and I'll be all over that sexy beast. Haven't got myself a tablet yet because I've been waiting on the right one and we're definitely getting there
  • RT is sluggish when it comes to running apps. That's why no one wants RT. But I fear this RT madness has only begun.
  • Its sluggish because its using Tegra 3. I'm sure with those faster ARM chips this year it won't be as sluggish.
  • Curious, is the dual core S4 processor one the XPS 10 faster than Tegra 3 on the Surface RT?
  • I'm sorry but this tablet is horrible! The screen quality is garbage, but the biggest issue for me is lack of an active digitizer. Microsoft and OEMs better figure out how to get the price down some other way. Hey Acer, instead of a stupid keyboard dock, I would pay a little more for a better screen and inking.
  • "Meh" is such an undstatement... but i understad, you have to watch your language 
  • Desktop softwares on an 8" tablet. No use to me. RT is more suited. Bundle it with snapdragon 600+ would be good.
  • Looks like a giant Lumia 822.
  • Atom, thick, ugly, bad screen, Acer (sorry, but they have a long way to come still)... why would this sell against the iPad Mini? And you'll have Acer talking about how their Windows devices ain't doing so hot again. Who would have guessed? These manufacturers need to get their crap together.
  • With no track pad some website will be a struggle.
  • An IPS is an LCD, I think you meant "straight up TN panel"
  • This makes my Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 look like crap :(
  • I thought you guys said the media didn't count?
    Or did you swipe one from one of the other atendees? :P
  • This is awesome!!! Not so much the device itself, but the fact its the first of many this will get the other OEM's kicking out their devices, def exciting times ahead. I do think this device is a good starter device, maybe a great business/corpo device where highest spec's aren't absolutely necessary.
  • I still haven't brought a tablet yet cause I was waiting to see what comes down the pike, and I too would had preferred RT on this thing. But I think I'm going to go with the surface RT I'm not a professional user, and I heard all the comments and watched all the videos and have heard with all of the updates MS released its made it an better experience.
  • I am a professional programmer/s
    Develop or and Jr. Systems admin.
    I know what I want out of my surface rt. I knew what I didn't. Bottom line, my expectations were on point.
    I think the rt is the perfect tablet. Oh yeah, it can do desktop file management and other tasks. Not, I can't install tradition desktop software on it... But why would I want to? Even on the atom processors, the software I would want to us would make the tablet crawl. The surface pro runs too hot and is the laptop replacement that I do not meet.
    I have a lot of computers at my disposal and each has its purpose. The surface rt goes out with me everyday, where as the others stay put if not needed. Besides if o do need something the use of software on one the other much stronger one, I will use remote desktop.
    Performance wise, the rt is wonderful and the sluggish that others speak of is nit that bad. If fact it is a rarity for me. Maybe I have benchmarks to compare good and bad computers to from my own personal experience that helps me be rational. I'm not saying it does not exsost, just that it is not a deal breaker.
    I think rt should be the future. People installing "shitware" on there computers now is what gives them a bad experience. My surface does everything I need to. I did my research... I was realistic. You have a sound mind and ration thought process. Get what you need, not what others say. Microsoft said they were commited to the rt for years to come. Even if it just updates, I am fine with that. With all if this said, it would be nice to have an rt device in 8in form like the surface. It would be even easier to carry it with me.
  • I need a Verizon LTE Win8 tablet. Pretty please!
  • Can we just get the Surface RT 8" already!  C'mon it's been a year since the first Surface.  Or discount the current one.  I really want one.  
  • Really interesting when the Device is held vertically,and  how the apps are arranged. I think this style would suit the windows phone as well. Having tiles for all the apps and swiping horizontally instead of vertically. 
  • Tackled a nerd...haha...nice.  Can you use a stylus on it, for note taking?
  • I love the w700 and older w500 that we use at our office for business apps. ACER gets alot of flak for being cheap and low quality, but my experience is just the opposite. My acer laptop and both tablets perform flawlessly for hundreds less than the competition. I will probably pick this up for personal use when it goes on sale/clearance online/B&M (staples runs a $100 off windows tablets sale every month or so).
  • Dude I just commented below but i have to ask, do you by any chance have bluestacks installed on your w700? did you test android apps on it? how does it run? games and stuff?
    Also being a 11.6 inch screen do you get tired after working on it for a while? I been considering it as my work/uni tablet for a while, but i'm kind of in doubt between the ATIV Tablet and the W700
  • Go with the Acer. You can get it on eBay from Acer man return for 659 and it is awesome. I had bluestacks on mine and it works but bluestacks is very much unpolished.
  • Daniel Rubino,
    Can you install bluestacks and play some android apps and games and show us the performance? I really want a windows tablet but I might get the Iconia w700 instead for its core i3, larger screen, larger hd, etc.
    I wanna get some light work done in it too, university stuff, programming, work, well pretty much all of it!
  • Yeah I've seen the Dell XPS 10 (on Qualcomm) and it seemed to me that it was snappier and more responsive than the Surface RT. So I'm sure something like a quad-core Snapdragon 800 would do well for RT.
    As for the value proposition of RT? Right now it's quite limited, but as the Windows App Store catalogue keeps expanding and once Office enters Metro, an 7-8-inch model can be a VERY GOOD deal. With Flipboard and Facebook already on the horizon, I'd say my consumption tablet needs (on the go) would easily be met by a Windows RT unit.
    On the other hand, Intel has been making some serious strides with its low-powered CPUs. If we see someone release a 7-8 inch on Intel's Haswell ULX chips, then man, wow... It'd be tough for anyone to compete, much less Windows RT.
  • Dan-
    Can you verify if the microSD card does in fact support up to 32GB or can it exceed and go to 64GB? Acer's site indicates the former instead of the latter. Not sure why it can only support up to 32GB, where as other comparable tablets can go to the higher sibling of 64GB.
  • 32GB Max. Confirmed.
  • Bummer! Thanks John for the confirmation. I guess I'll be waiting for another 8" tablet instead
  • as to why only 32gb, its probably because they decided to save few cents and go with the cheaper sdhc standard which maxes out at 32gb and not the newer sdxc cards that can theoreticaly go to 2tb, but microsd are 64gb atm, should be seeing 128gb microsd cards soon.
  • That's a shame...I wouldn't think implemented SDXC would be that more expensive than SDHC but who knows. I currently have a 64GB microSD that I had in my Surface RT that I was hoping to leverage in the Acer...sigh =(
  • It is a little meh. And too expensive for meh. I hope with the 8.1 update we will start to see some good budget Windows tablets that can go head to head with the Kindle Fire and the iPad mini.
  • i think it is perfect for indie games 
    cool can not wait,, i hope soon to se this in denmark
  • When will this be available to buy in stores?
  • Hello,  Which edition of Windows 8 run on this device?
    Can I install Visual Studio 2010 and SQL Server on this device ?