Between these two extremes is where the reality lies. The W700 appears to be a mess at first glance, yet it’s also challenging not to appreciate it. I compared the tablet to a leftover “Space: 1999” prop because of its distinctive side-sliding stand and retro-futuristic look. But I do mean that in a good way; an excessive number of computers, tablets, and accessories use the same overused design elements.
A touch-screen slate with an Intel Core i5 CPU is far superior to those that try to get by with a low-power Intel Atom processor and Windows RT that has not yet reached its full potential. Generally speaking, this is a creation/consumption hybrid device that can perform almost any task a conventional laptop or desktop can.
There are a few caveats, however. You’ll want an external mouse or touch pad — the W700 includes a wireless keyboard but no external pointing device, and man does not live by touch screen alone. Also, the 1080p resolution is overkill for an 11.6-inch display. In the Windows 8 UI view, everything scales fine, but going back to the desktop view is hard on the eyes.
The Acer Iconia W700 is one of only a handful of Core i5-or-better slates we’ve seen with Windows 8, and when docked, it feels like a mini all-in-one desktop, although the small screen size means it’s a stretch to call this your main productivity machine. An add-on mouse or touch pad is practically required for serious use, especially as Windows 8 is, hype aside, still not a fully satisfying tablet-only experience.
Price as reviewed$999Processor1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317UMemory4GB, 1,600MHz DDR3Hard drive128GBChipsetIntel HM77GraphicsIntel HD4000Operating SystemWindows 8Dimensions (WD)11.6 x 7.5 inchesHeight0.47 inchesScreen size (diagonal)11.6 inchesSystem weight / Weight with AC adapter2.1/2.7 pounds (screen/adapter only)CategoryUltraportable / Hybrid
|Price as reviewed
|1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U
|4GB, 1,600MHz DDR3
|11.6 x 7.5 inches
|Screen size (diagonal)
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter
|2.1/2.7 pounds (screen/adapter only)
|Ultraportable / Hybrid
Design, features, and display
When people first see the Acer Iconia W700, they have an immediate reaction. I’ll be honest: I liked it. It stood out from the generic Windows 8 hybrids I had previously seen, and it had a daring appearance. Some of my coworkers, though, have not been as impressed, and they are not entirely mistaken.
The main component of the W700 is a large, reasonably heavy tablet. By itself, it’s harmless enough, if a bit bulky for those accustomed to using an iPad. The best way to explain the docking station is as a bracket. It has an L-shape and mostly encircles the system’s bottom and right sides. The tablet is connected through USB 3.0 and has AC power connections on the left edge as it is pushed into the bracket dock from the right side.
The dock itself contains three USB 3.0 connections and a power pass-through, but it should be noted that the dock uses and covers the tablet’s single USB port. You will need to unplug anything plugged into the tablet and plug it into the dock instead.
The tablet slots into the dock firmly, but taking it out requires two hands and is a little ungainly. As the dock’s angle cannot be adjusted, it is not quite at the proper angle for close-up use. Given that the screen is only 11.6 inches, I anticipate that you will be up close more often than not.
The docking station can also be assembled by removing the kickstand component, turning the entire configuration counterclockwise by 90 degrees, and then reinserting the kickstand into a different slot. You can now configure the system in portrait orientation. There is only one screen orientation, and despite its tablet and touch capabilities, Windows 8 is truly optimized for landscape mode rather than portrait.
From the white key faces against silver keycaps to the rounded top edge, the supplied keyboard closely resembles Apple’s wireless keyboard in appearance and feel. Since it uses Bluetooth to connect, the tablet can be used with it whether or not the docking station is plugged in. The keys are slightly louder and deeper than those on Apple’s comparable wireless keyboard. But, using the keyboard is generally a good experience.
Any pointer interaction hardware is one thing you don’t get with the W700. The tablet, dock, or keyboard don’t come with a mouse or touch pad, either. That would be acceptable for pure tablet use, but if you intend to use this as a small desktop PC, you should probably have a wireless mouse. I chose a somewhat different configuration and plugged in a Logitech external touch pad, which performed particularly well with Windows 8 gestures.
The show is both a pleasure and a little perplexing. This device feels extremely high-end due to the 11.6-inch display’s amazing native resolution of 1,920×1,080 pixels. While in standard desktop mode, it has a resolution that is simply too high. Because of the small text and image sizes, finger-based navigation is more challenging than usual. There is no problem because the Windows 8 UI screen (the tile-based interface formerly known as Metro) automatically adapts to fit the resolution.
The expected lack of sound was significantly worse than on most computers. Although the dock doesn’t have any built-in external speakers, it does have channels that are aligned with the tablet’s two speaker grilles on its bottom edge.
|Acer Iconia W700
|Average for category [ultraportable]
|HDMI or DisplayPort
|Stereo speakers, headphone jack
|Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
|1 USB 3.0 (on board), 3 USB 3.0 (on dock)
|2 USB 3.0, SD card reader
|802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
|Ethernet (via dongle), 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Connections, performance, and battery life
The ports on the W700 are moved around a little bit. The tablet has one functional USB 3.0 port, but when the docking stand is connected, it consumes the connection, so you’ll need to disconnect any devices and re-plug them into the dock. The dock’s three USB 3.0 connections are a benefit. Even with the system docked, the tablet has a Mini-HDMI port, however some users may find the lack of an SD card slot to be a deal breaker.
Although the W700 has a slate-based form, its internal parts are very similar to those of a typical Windows 8 ultrabook. A 128GB SSD, 4GB of RAM, and a very popular 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U Processor are included. At $999, that’s not a terrific setup, but the interesting design might make up for it.
The Iconia W700 performed about as well in our benchmark testing as other Core i5-3317U Windows 8 laptops and convertibles, or a bit worse. It is suitable for daily use, including social network use, office work, and HD movie streaming. The slightly weird nature of Windows 8 on a tablet is much more likely to cause problems than any kind of CPU restrictions.
Because the device is so compact and portable, Intel’s basic HD 4000 GPU serves as the only internal graphics option. With HD 4000 systems, gaming is always touch-and-go; some recent games perform well, while others do not. I launched Skyrim while using a Microsoft game controller that was linked via USB to evaluate the W700’s portability as a gaming device. The game was playable, if a little jerky, when the resolution was reduced to 1,600×900 pixels and the detail levels were set to low.
Only a few non-shovelware games were found when searching the Windows 8 software store, and none of them appeared to be especially demanding. I played a few titles that reminded me of the iPad, like Jetpack Joyride and the top-down shooter Dredd vs. Zombies, and discovered that the W700 is capable of handling tablet-style games with ease.
The W700’s battery life is one of its biggest surprises. The device operated for a very impressive 7 hours, 19 minutes on our battery depletion test for movie playback. Given the high resolution screen and the relatively little interior space required to house the display, components, and batteries, that achievement is all the more remarkable.
Acer offers a one-year limited parts and labor warranty. Despite the fact that browsing Acer’s online service and support areas has historically been hit-or-miss, the product page for this configuration benefits from a simple design that directs users to assistance links. The support phone number, which is 866-695-2237, is not as prominently displayed.
Around the CNET office, there have been no shortage of opinions over the Acer Iconia W700. Several people are skeptical of the effectiveness of a standalone Windows 8 slate because they didn’t like the retro-style docking stand. I adopted a more favorable stance, admiring the novel layout of the tablet-stand-keyboard combination and praising the W700’s long battery life and respectable performance. The hardware passes the test; the question of whether Windows 8 performs similarly as a tablet-based operating system is something different.