Acer Liquid Jade Z review: Acer’s affordable-yet-well-specced Moto G rival packs a 13-megapixel camera, HD screen and full 4G support for around £150.
NOTE: This review is based on an early release of the Acer Liquid Jade Z. The phone is due to receive an OTA update on May 2nd which may correct some of the issues we have discussed. We’ll be sure to test out the phone again in full after the update arrives and will amend the review as appropriate.
Acer has nailed the design of the cut-price Liquid Jade Z, which packs a slender frame with curves in all of the right places. The phone is a comfortable fit in the hand and can be duly operated with just the one mitt, while it’s also slim and light enough to fit comfortably into pretty much any pocket.
Looks-wise, the Jade Z really ain’t bad either. From the funky round metallic speaker to the criss-cross pattern on the rear, Acer has done enough to make the Jade Z distinct – even if it doesn’t massively stand out from the crowd like rival phones such as the Moto G and Lumia 640, with their bold, colourful bodies.
You can’t prise off the back so the SIM card and memory card are secreted in a pull-out drawer on the right edge of the phone. No proddy pin drawers here.
Screen and media
Acer has met the Moto G spec-for-spec, with a 5-inch 720p screen packed into the Jade Z. What’s more, it’s a strong panel. The HD resolution means your high-def movies will look satisfyingly sharp, while colours stand out nicely instead of looking all washed out, like they do on a fair few mid-range displays.
The tiny rear-mounted speaker isn’t too loud, but audio quality is decent enough. I happily watched videos without using earphones, providing the room I was lounging in wasn’t too noisy.
Also be aware that you get a measly 8GB of storage space to carry around your media, something we’re well used to at this price bracket, but thankfully there’s a memory card slot to expand cheaply. You can also jump aboard Acer’s cloud storage offering for free, if you don’t mind your files being stored in the ether.
I was happy to hear that the Liquid Jade Z comes with full Cat 4 4G support, so as long as you’ve got a 4G contract and live in a hotspot, you’ll be able to browse the web in a nippy fashion and stream video with little to no buffering.
Acer has tweaked Android 4.4 KitKat with its own interface, which is pleasant enough to use with only a few extra features thrown in – this isn’t like an LG or Huawei phone, where you get a million bonus tools crammed inside.
The interface itself offers the usual perks such as lock screen widgets and app shortcuts, while most of Acer’s bonus features come in the form of apps. So for instance you have Acer’s suite of productivity apps which resembles Google’s offerings, plus a spanking good sat nav app called Acer NAV. Thankfully the crapware is kept to a minimum, with a couple of offending cutesy games the only real blight on our review model.
Performance and battery life
Acer’s Liquid Jade Z is powered by a 64-bit quad-core Mediatek processor, which handles everyday performance reasonably well. Barring the occasional pause or stammer when trying to load or close an app – no doubt a result of the single gig of RAM – the phone responds well to your swipes and prods. You can also play games without dropping frames.
Battery life is sadly disappointing. With restrained use I just about made it through each day, but if you start to play games or mess around with apps, you’ll probably be plugging it in before bedtime. And charging seems to take an age, even when plugged into the mains.
If you full-on assault the Jade Z with video streaming, you can expect around five hours of playback per charge – a pretty average result.
Open up the camera app and you’ll notice that the interface is a little cluttered, cramming in all kinds of settings and options, not all of which are tucked away in the menus. Acer gives you a wide range of modes to play with, including HDR (which is reasonably effective), beautify (thankfully scaled back from previous efforts), and even a gourmet mode to snap your food if you’re one of those people.
If you have a favourite mode you can at least save it to a hot-key on the main camera screen, to save you from swiping through all of the menus each time. And when it actually comes time to take a photo, a quick tap of the shutter button does the job pretty much instantly.
So, is the 13-megapixel camera any good? Well, for everyday snaps it certainly does the job. There’s enough detail to make your photos still look sharp when viewed back on a telly, although the lens doesn’t perform too well in low light, so you’ll need to try and light up proceedings with the flash.
The lens also struggles with macro shots, so if you get too close to your subject, the result might be a bit too blurry.
Selfie fans have a five-megapixel front-facing camera to snap their gorgeous mug, but be warned – my efforts usually came out blurry, just from the tiny tremor as I tapped the shutter button. You’ll need a well-lit environment and a super-steady hand to get a sharp shot, and even then, expect some noise.
Priced the same as the Motorola Moto G, Acer’s Liquid Jade Z is a solid mid-range mobile that matches the mighty Moto for visual prowess but packs 4G support, making it a worthy consideration for anyone who wants to stream video on the go. Sadly the battery life means you’ll struggle to make it through a full day, while the occasional camera or performance funny also detracts from the overall experience.
For a fully-rounded mid-range mobile, the likes of the Lumia 640 and Moto G just about edge out the Jade Z.