Acer beTouch E210 review

Unusually designed Android smartphone that's spoilt by its screen
Photo of Acer beTouch E210
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Acer has a strong range of smartphones, and devotes most of its attention to Android. The beTouch E210 takes a novel approach to its Android operating system, though, offering a full Qwerty keyboard and smallish screen. The idea, no doubt, is to appeal to younger BlackBerry fans – but can Android really manage this?

Build and keyboard
There’s nothing wrong with the beTouch’s general build, or its keyboard. The overall size of 116x63x12mm and weight of 110g are fine for the pocket. The handset feels solid enough, and Acer has even managed to put an optical trackpad underneath the screen, just as RIM does with its newer BlackBerry devices.

The keyboard is fantastic. The Qwerty keys are big, with domed surfaces that make it easy to tap out SMS, email and other text at speed. There are useful shortcuts keys for the camera, messaging and contacts along the bottom row. Acer hasn’t forgotten buttons for the Android Back, Menu, Search and Home functions, and these sit neatly arranged around the optical trackpad. Call and End buttons sit outside of these.

Updated model
The beTouch E210 updates an earlier model from Acer, the beTouch E130, which took a similar approach. But even the specs of the newly released E210 are decidedly average – though they do fulfil basic smartphone requirements. There’s HSDPA, Wi-Fi and GPS. The operating system version is Android 2.2.

Added to these are an FM radio and a 3.2 megapixel, flashless camera. Memory is in rather short supply, with just 256MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM. You’ll need to boost internal storage quickly – and Acer supplies a 2GB microSD card to start the process.

The processor is also a little wanting, at 600MHz – but it isn’t this that really lets the Acer beTouch E210 down. It’s the screen.

Screen woes
With a resistive touchscreen measuring just 2.6 inches diagonally and delivering 320×240 pixels of viewing area, the Acer beTouch E210 just isn’t that well equipped to deal with Android. Android was made for screens that are taller than they are wide, and this one is wider than it is tall.

The consequence is that there is a lot of scrolling to be done in order to get around. Even during the initial setup process where you enter your gmail address and make other choices, this is a pain. On an ongoing basis it will be a deal breaker for many, especially if you’re into downloading apps. Many are just unusable on this screen format. You can get automatic screen rotation, but that setting is turned off by default, so that we didn’t see it as an option at all at first. And even if you do use screen rotation to drop into a taller than wide mode, the resolution is really too low for comfort.

Company: Acer

Positives
  • Well made; good optical trackpad; very good Qwerty keyboard.
Negative
  • Trying to squeeze Android into the small, wider-than-tall screen just doesn't work.

Verdict

The Acer beTouch E210 is a nice idea - put a mini-Qwerty keyboard together with Android and give BlackBerry a run for its money. And in most respects, it works well. But the screen is simply too small and wrongly oriented for the operating system it is trying to deliver.