Landing just a few months after the original Acer Liquid S1 launched, we have to admit the Liquid S2’s appearance at this year’s IFA 2013 conference took us a little bit by surprise. But with headlining features such as laying claim to being the world’s first phone to offer 4K video recording, the spec boost seems to justify the quick turn around. We went hands on in Berlin for this first-look review.
Firmly sat in the “phablet” realm of smartphone sizes, the Liquid S2 measures 166 x 86 x 9 mm, with a 6-inch 1920 x 1080 full HD display. Built primarily from plastic (with a metallic rim around the edge of the device), its curved chassis doesn’t quite have the premium feel of the HTC or iPhone flagships, but felt at least as sturdy as the equally-plasticky Samsung Galaxy range. It’s a whopping phone though, and just like all other phablets it’ll be an acquired taste, especially if you’re shy about holding a six-inch anything up to your face.
That large size affords the Liquid S2 a gorgeous screen though. Pin sharp with a 367 ppi, its colours were rich and its brightness more than a match for the harsh show floor lighting. However, there were moments when swiping through the touchscreen felt unresponsive, with swipes registering as taps and vice versa, or not at all. Admittedly, a tech conference stand isn’t the best place to gauge the reliability of a product (for all we know the handset may have been dropped several times before we got our hands on it), but with no visible signs of damage, it was a concern.
The flakey nature of the touch response also made it difficult to judge the performance of the processor, a 2.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 backed by 2GB of RAM. It seemed capable, and when we fired up apps or played around customising the home screen it did so speedily.
The Snapdragon 800 also allows for the Liquid S2’s 4K video recording to happen. As well as packing in a 13MP still camera, the Liquid S2 also supports the new super-high definition video standard. But before we get carried away, be aware that 4K recording on the Liquid S2 at this stage is hardly all that inspiring – to the naked eye it seems to only be managing a frame rate of around 12fps in 4K recording mode, making for very choppy playback indeed. Using the 4K feature also made the handset get incredibly hot (in fact, the Liquid S2 was running very hot throughout our test). 4K recording is a luxury of course, and still-sharp Full HD 1080p video capture was handled without issue. It’s not as though you’re even going to be able to play back 4K video at a native resolution on the handset, and few will have a 4K screen in their homes, so perhaps this isn’t too big a deal. But those looking to buy the phone for this express purpose may wan’t to think long and hard about it.
Under the hood, the phone also supports 4G LTE, as well as including NFC connectivity and packing in 16GB of storage space (expandable by microSD cards). In terms of software, the handset is running Android 4.2.2 and, for the most part, is very close to a vanilla build of the OS. Acer’s Float UI for app switching is there, but it’s not too intrusive, making for quite a pleasant software experience.
All the pieces are in place for the Liquid S2 to be a very capable handset, but there are still some crinkles that need to be ironed out. Due to launch at the end of October, a firmware update could optimise some of the problems we experienced during testing, and that screen was undeniably incredible. Don’t write it off just yet.