We’ve met a number of wearables over the last year, but one innocuous little device that’s been talked about since the summer has finally landed in the form of Acer’s new Liquid Leap.
Design: Stylish and simple
As design goes, the Leap is noticeably different to Acer’s typical hardware styling. Its contemporary feel comes as a result of straight edges, juxtaposed against subtle rounding and a high contrast colour palette in the case of every option excluding the Mineral Black variant.
The Moonstone White model we road-tested shows off the subtle patterning on the textured wrist strap more clearly and the impressively small tolerances Acer’s had to employ to give the Leap its IPX7-certified waterproofing, which means you can shower with it, wash your hands and even fully submerge it from time to time without worry – a major plus when looking for a true wearable.
The rubberised strap uses a similar notched design to other fitness trackers like the Samsung Gear Fit and Fitbit Flex with enough increments to fit anything from svelte and slender to big, beefy wrists.
Unlike wearables such as Sony’s Smartwatch 2, Acer clearly follows the Samsung Gear school of design when it comes to charging. To juice up the Leap requires an additional ‘cage’ that snaps around the display and links the contacts on the back of the body to a standard microUSB port. It makes for clunky experience and if you want the option to top up the battery when you’re out and about, you have to take this cage with you, which is a hassle.
Screen: Heavy on the bezel
Operating the Leap actually takes place via small 0.9-inch monochrome OLED display that adopts a sharp rectangular aesthetic and offers a modest resolution of 128×32. In practice this makes for an unobtrusive experience when receiving notifications, less obtrusive than Android Wear and other full-colour wearables at least.
The biggest shortcoming with the screen is its size, packing bezels nearly as thick as the screen is tall. Overall the Leap is a small, lightweight wearable but in this regard, it feels like Acer could have made it even more compact.
Usability: Learning curve
Despite its ability to relay practically any sort of notification from our phones, such a narrow screen is only capable of displaying a single line of text; meaning longer notifications such as messages take multiple swipes to read in their entirety. It’s best treated as a prompt to check your smartphone when you have a moment and doesn’t work quite as well as a replacement to the notifications panel of your device in this regard.
Interacting with the Leap is simple enough, provided you’ve learnt all the necessary gestures. A firm, slow double-tap on the display wakes it up, but responsiveness can be a little hit and miss so it might take a few tries, once it’s awake however the capacitive touchscreen is actually very responsive.
OS: The bare essentials
After pairing it with the Leap Manager app for iOS or Android you’re able to swipe through five screens of data: time and date, steps, distance travelled, calories burnt and minutes of activity, with a sixth swipe granting you access to the apps screen (a long press will also jump you to the apps menu).
Here you’ll find six icons over two screens. The first icon takes you back to all the fitness information, the second lets you enable sleep tracking and the third lets you revisit past notifications relayed from your device. There are also tools for flipping the screen orientation, checking the battery and most useful of all, playing your music, provided you initially hit play on your phone.
The music player controls are a nice extra, but for the most part the Leap does just enough to pass as a usable fitness tracker. As there aren’t any workouts or suggestions for working on health and lifestyle, the metrics that are relayed to the smartphone app don’t do a huge amount on their own. As a result the Leap feels like more of a tool for maintaining fitness rather than improving it.
The lack of any sort of alarm, even the ability to relay an alarm from the smartphone seems like a significant oversight too.
Comfort and battery: Wear it for a working week
We’ve already mentioned that the 17mm strap design should serve as a one-size-fits-all solution and the incredibly lightweight body (just 20 grams) means that you’ll barely notice it’s there. The strap is also hypoallergenic in case you were wondering.
On the battery front, the low power screen tech and the use of Bluetooth 4.0 ensure that the Leap should stay powered up for quite some time. Acer claims a single charge will serve you well for a full week, but in our experience, pushing notifications from our phone on the regular took a bit of a toll on the battery, killing the Leap in five days, rather than the promised seven.
Nonetheless we like the simplified approach that the Leap takes to displaying information, especially if that means a longer gap between charges.
Verdict: Simple pleasures
The Acep Liquid Leap picks and chooses key elements from the two worlds of wearables: the world of the fitness tracker has given it its fitness data, comfortable, unobtrusive design and long battery life, whereas the world of the smartwatches has granted the Leap enhanced support for notifications and its media playback controls.
There are a number of shortcomings that would push us to other wearables, such as its shallow fitness experience and limited functionality as a smartwatch, but it still covers a number of bases, it’s one of the few screened wearables that supports iOS or Android and for £79.99 it also comes at a decent price.