It's no secret that Windows tablets have hardly set the world alight. To date they have been too expensive, even running the cut back and arguably useless Windows RT and too big, not one coming in below the 10.1-inch mark. But now Acer has addressed both those issues with its new W3. At £249 it's certainly affordable and with an 8-inch screen it's not too big or heavy. It even runs the full-fat Windows 8 which come October is due for an update to 8.1. So, could this be the Windows tablet you've been waiting for and at last a proper successor to the much-missed netbook? Read on.
Like most of Acer's tablets the new W3 is a rather plastic affair but that's nothing to be too surprised at given the price. At 11mm thick and weighing 500g it is considerably thicker and heavier than the iPad Mini though by the same token it is lighter than the iPad proper and about average for a 10-inch Android tablet.
Take a look around the edges and as well as the power and volume controls you'll find a microHDMI video output, a microUSB port, a microSD card slot to the boost the 32GB of storage (only half that is free for file storage), a 3.5mm headphone jack and two speaker grills that sit on the bottom edge. That's not a bad list and makes the W3 an decently versatile lump.
Under the 8-inch 1280 x 800 TFT LCD screen you'll see the usual Windows 8 home button which is handy way to flip back and forth between the touch-optimized Windows 8 "tile" interface and the traditional Windows desktop.
The screen itself is a reasonably good one. With a pixel density of 186ppi it sits slap between the iPad Mini (162dpi) and the Samsung Galaxy Note/Tab 2 (189dpi). It's a bright screen too but being plain old TFT rather than clever IPS viewing angles are not great - tilt it about either axis and the colours start to wash out.
Inside the W3 is buried an Intel Atom 1.5GHz dual-core Z2760 chip with 2GB of RAM. That's not the sort of CPU to set records but it will chew through most jobs in a reasonable amount of time and the UI is always fluid enough. Being a Windows 8-proper machine the W3 will run all common Windows programs like Gimp, VLC, LibreOffice and uTorrent to name but a few.
Of course that's the W3 main claim on your attention - it will function as a proper Windows PC. Granted you can do most of the same jobs on an iOS, Android or Windows RT machine but just having the full Windows enchilada available is nice as is being able to use the same programs you use on your desktop/laptop.
Like all Windows 8 devices you can sign into the machine using your Outlook e-mail which then ties your device to your e-mail and SkyDrive cloud accounts. Microsoft's cloud offering is still not as developed as Google's (especially when it comes to music) but it's better than Apple's stunted iCloud affair and offers users 7GB of space gratis.
The W3's battery is fixed in place but it's a reasonably beefy 3,400mAh affair which should give you between six and seven hours of use from a charge. That's nothing out of the ordinary but not at all bad for a machine with an 8-inch screen and a £250 price tag.
If you want to use the W3 as a traditional netbook rather than a tablet Acer has produced a keyboard-cum-stand. It's full sized which makes the W3 look rather small when attached to it and the keyboard itself feels a bit cheap and being a Bluetooth-affair it lacks a battery or a USB port but then it is quite cheap (a UK price has yet to be announced but expect it be about £40) and it doubles up as a protective case.
Verdict: The W3 without doubt makes more sense than any Windows 8 tablet released to date. By virtue of its price (very low) and size (quite small) it manages to combine the versatility of a proper Windows 8 device with the affordability and portability of a medium-sized tablet or netbook. The only major downside is that the selection of casual games in the Windows 8 app market is nothing like as broad as it is for iOS or Android but then if gaming is your main reason for buying a tablet you probably won't be looking at a Windows tablet to start with.