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My take on the Acer Liquid M220 Windows phone

July 6, 2015

It was a pleasant surprise to me that Acer made a Windows phone device. I have good experience with the brand, from notebooks to desktops, so I got interested in their Windows phone offering.

This is not my first Acer smartphone, as I owned the Acer Liquid Ferrari Edition running Android in the past. It was a painful (to the wallet) experience, as I broke the screen during an event when I fell on my butt with the phone in my back pocket. Because I loved the phone, I spent around 8 thousand Pesos to have the LCD replaced, only to be broken again in a few days.

The M220 was announced early this year at Barcelona and the local Acer Philippines website still don't have an entry for this model. Here's the specification sheet from Acer UK.

As you can see, it is an entry-level phone and the price tag of P2,490 from Villman is somewhat irresistible for me to pass.

Snapdragon 200, 512MB memory, 4GB storage is really the minimum specifications for a Windows phone today. The M220 just complies. But wait...

Some nice features

I was surprised to discover that it offers some nice features despite the really low price, at least for a Windows phone.

  • ambient light sensor
  • on-screen navigation keys that can be toggled to hide/show
  • wide-angle, 5-megapixel rear camera with auto-focus and flash
  • 2-megapixel front-facing camera

I wasn't expecting much during the unboxing, but I found the unit itself to be well designed and to my liking.

The removable back cover has a design that according to Acer was inspired by Thai Silk, that gave a texture that feels nice on my palm. The back cover snaps firmly onto the body that makes it more secure than most entry level Lumia designs. My 636 back cover now creaks and get easily dislodged from it's place.

The back is not really flat as the camera protrudes just a bit.

There is a gray wrap-around band that attracts confidence in gripping the phone due to its grain.

The package came with in-ear monitor with in-line control that is suitable for private call conversations or listening to music and playing games.

Perhaps to keep costs down, there is no secondary speaker rather, it also use the in-call speaker for audio playback.

Connectivity

With Wi-Fi b/g/n specifications, I am able to connect to all my networks at the office and at home. Streaming videos or music  from my Sysnology DS413j via Western Digital N900 Central Wi-Fi router offers smooth playback. At the office, connecting to our Cyberoam appliance presents no issues as well. Tethering from my Honor 6 for LTE connectivity is a breeze.

Its cellular radio supports EGDE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA, and HSUPA for data connectivity.

The SIM trays are of different sizes, one takes a full size SIM (primary) while the other one, a micro SIM (secondary). I used adaptors to secure my SIM cards in place as shown in the photo.

The M220 also supports Bluetooth 4.0 and I was able to pair it with my Surface Pro and transfer photos without any issue.

There is no NFC or Miracast support.

GPS

GPS performance is good and both Waze, and MSN Health and Fitness apps locks in within seconds.

Software

It came with Windows Phone 8.1 update 1 with a few customizations, such as the on-screen guide for the navigation bar, QuickGuide, and DeviceInformation.

I find it weird that there is no Cellular option in the Quick Action list, therefore you can't quickly turn on/off cellular data.

Acer stated that the M220 is upgradeable to Windows 10 when it is released sometime this year (according to Microsoft).

Performance

The results from running Basemark OS II benchmark app reveals it has a typical performance compared to the Cherry Mobile Alpha Style that use the same Snapdragon 200 processor.

Playing games such as Subway Surfers or Halo: SA Lite provided a pleasing experience without lag. In other regions, the M220 comes with twice the memory and storage at 1 GB and 8 GB, respectively. Of course, it's more expensive.

The camera

The rear camera has a wide-angle (89o) 5-megapixel auto-focus lens, with built-in flash. It will take good photos on well-lit scenes but will struggle with dimly-lit scenes and that's when the flash will be of help. Focus point can be set using touch. The lens has a focal lenght of 20mm (35mm equivalent).

The front 2-megapixel camera is sufficient for Skype use and can be used for selfies, if you really want to.

Sonic quality

Surprisingly, the M220 sounded good. Using the Huawei AM180 in-ear monitors and DS Audio app streaming music from my Synology NAS, it offers top-end sparkle and detail with enough loudness. It doesn't sound better than my HTC 8S, but the over-all sonic quality is good and even better than the louder Lumia 530.

Similarly, the loudness from the dual-role front firing speakers is sufficient for game play, as in the case of Halo: SA Lite.

Video playback

For video playback, I use the Smart Player app to stream content from my Western Digital N900 Central and Synology NAS. The viewing angle is limited, but with a screen this size you wouldn't be watching from a distance, would you?

Battery life

Fitted with a small 4.81Wh, 1300mAh battery, I wasn't really expecting much longevity but I was surprised.

I started using the phone from full charge at 7:45 in the morning, turned on cellular data around 9:40 and kept it going 'til around 5:45 pm with Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Tapatalk, and Swarm use. From then on, cellular data was turned off and it was connected to my home Wi-Fi and to stream music and video 'til 8:00 pm with 46% remaining. That's when I turned it off to watch Formula 1.

The following morning, the M220 is on again at around 8 am, connected to office Wi-Fi doing Skype and Tapatalk duties and it was 11:50 am when I got the critical battery notice.

That's a total of about 16 hours of use, which is not bad for a small capacity battery.

I strongly suggest the use of the supplied charger as the maximum charging voltage is 4.2V thus, 5V or higher "rapid chargers" might have a negative effect on the battery.

Storage

4 GB of internal storage means that you're left with around 1.2 GB as the rest is taken by the operating system. Fortunately, there is a microSD card slot that can take up to 32 GB storage capacity. While I suspect it can take a larger 64 GB card, I don't have a spare to test it.

Windows Phone 8.1 allow you to store apps, photos, music, and videos into a microSD card. I'd keep the free internal memory as it is, to allow for future system updates.

Experience

In the end, it is the over-all experience from the Acer Liquid M220 that really matters, and I should say it's sufficiently pleasant.