Acer may not be the frontrunner in the smartphone market, but the company has been doing some commendable work with their Liquid Series of smartphones in the past couple of years. This year at IFA Week in Berlin, the company first introduced their new line-up of Liquid Smartphones, which included a total of four phones; Z630, Z630S, Z530, and Z530S. Now the company has launched Z530 in India today, as its move to expand their smartphone business in the country. We have had a chance to play with their latest budget friendly phone for quite a while and here is our detailed review of the same.
The device comes in only Black color and sports a compact design, the front, and back, both sports an unusual design language not found on most budget smartphones. One thing can be said, for the pricing it comes you get a quite nicely designed smartphone. The device sports a large earpiece alongside the set of sensors and a camera module on the top front bezel while the bottom bezel houses Acer branding. There are no capacitive buttons. Instead, the company have given on-screen menu and home buttons.
It’s usually annoying when the power button is placed on the top edge, but since, the device have a compact size, I don’t mind the placement of power button on top edge. Moreover, the audio jack is also placed on the same edge. The bottom edge has microUSB and primary microphone. The right edge houses the volume rocker keys while the left edge is kept clean.
On the rear side of the device, there is a brushed plastic back panel with Acer branding at center. Though, the first thing you’ll not is the loudspeaker, which is placed on the bottom half of rear side. The rear camera module, which is placed on top half of the rear side, is aligned with a circular speaker grill. Alongside the rear camera sensor, you have an LED flasehlight and a secondary microphone. The speaker on the device is powered by DTS Sound technology and is claimed to offer loud and crystal sound than any other average speaker. And it was quite true; the output of this speaker was great. Underneath that pack panel is the battery compartment, two SIM slots, and a microSD slot neatly housed.
Overall, the Z530 offers a solid build design, and its mixture of conventional and unconventional aesthetics allows it to be quite a unique handset in the budget range of smartphones. That’s as better as one could ask from any handset in the budget segment.
Sporting a 5-inch 720p resolution display, the screen on this affordable phone looks astonishing for its size. All thanks to the pixel density, which is around 294 PPI (Pixel Per Inch), it’s not very high, but an admirable number allowing you to see clear images on the device. I wouldn’t say that it’s a media consumption screen, but watching casual YouTube Videos should be perfectly fine for it. Remember, it would only load up to 720p videos, so don’t look so surprising when you can’t find the option of 1080p because the app only shows what is supported by the display.
The sunlight legibility of the screen is pretty impressive too for its price, the content on the device is visible even in the brightest of the day when you’re outdoors accessing your phone. But make sure the brightness levels are full; otherwise you can’t see a thing on this little display.
It’s not AMOLED display, but I still like the color output on the LCD panel of this device, sometimes it might look dull, but that’s just the default wallpapers on the device are not good. The company claims that their Zero Air Gap technology ensures the bright rendering of colors, and we almost agree there. Overall, the color reproduction is pretty fine on the device.
The screen isn’t a fingerprint magnet as opposed to most of the devices in this range does, but occasionally your fingerprints would leave the mark on the display. You shouldn’t sweat about it, though. I would say the screen is quite reflective, thus making it hard to find good viewing angles sometimes. Its’ one of brightest HD displays you can get in this range of smartphones.
The Liquid UI is based on the Android Lollipop 5.1 version; the interface seems pretty simple with an app drawer as well. Apart from the icons, quick settings panel and a couple of other things, the UI is pretty much stock, as the system settings remain same. It is a good thing as it seems company has only customized a few elements of launcher while sticking with the important parts like Settings area, recent menu and a lot of other countable things.
There are tons of pre-installed apps present on the device, and mostly are from Acer while there are third-party apps as well. The Acer set of services like, abFiles, abMusic, abPhoto, Acer Aid Kit, Acer Care Center, Acer Suggests, all of these services are cloud based services, for which you have to create Acer ID. There are couple of dedicated kid’s apps as well, such as Kids Center and Kids Center Painter. The company has also included games like Danger Dash, Ninja Up and other 50+ free games that can be installed as they came bundled with the device in association with GameLoft.
All these bloatware installed on the device takes around 3GB of storage space while another 3GB is taken by system OS. So, you get around 10GB of internal storage free on the device. If that’s not enough, then you can always opt a microSD card slot, although, it’s sad that device doesn’t support OTG, which we tested out to know whether or not it’s true. And unfortunately, it’s true.
There is a dedicated personalization app, Liquid Wizard, a fancy name for theme’s app, it allows you to change not only basic themes, but you can also change the font size, ringtones, wallpapers and many more aspects within one app. Overall, the interface is quite fast, even if it’s filled with such amount of bloatware.
Hardware & Performance
The device is powered by a MediaTek MT6735 processor and is combined with Mali-T720 GPU, which can support up to 1080p resolution, so it was no sweat for graphics unit as the Z530 has a 720p display. Moreover, this MediaTek chipset is considered to be more powerful than Snapdragon 410 as per the reports in benchmarks test. So, obviously we were curious.
The benchmark tests are for numbers satisfaction that whether a device is potentially more powerful than other or not. We tested out the Z530 for benchmark apps like Antutu and Vellamo. The Antutu revealed a score of around 25000, which is quite good for a budget handset. The Vellamo scores are; 1141 for Multicore, 1028 for Metal, 2224 for Browser test. All these scores don’t mean anything if the system can’t offer good performance. We did a browsing test on the device and were satisfied with the experience, even for a small real estate, the device offered good browsing experience.
We were not surprised that the device offered swift enough performance regarding multitasking as well as gaming. First talking about the gaming, this little budget phone offered an amazing gameplay experience. We didn’t notice any lag or whatsoever while playing games like Riptide GP2 and Dead Trigger 2 while the company has installed many games; we tried the above games to test GPU abilities as they are quite intense when it comes to graphics.
Before, talking about the multitasking let me clear one thing, the device heats up a lot during gameplay. After a couple of minutes of gaming, the rear camera part heats up a lot that you won’t be able to carry on the gaming. The multitasking is as smooth as it gets for a budget device, although, we expect a lot regarding apps switching, but there was a noticeable lag while switching between apps.
With a combination of 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage, the Z530 is one of the rarest in a budget segment that offers such amount of RAM and internal storage for the pricing it is available to purchase. The free RAM available most of the time on the device was averaging around 1GB while around 700MB was used by system and 240MB was being used by apps running in the background.
The device comes with an 8-megapixel camera sensor on the rear while on the front there is an 8-megapixel sensor as well, so yeah it is a selfie dedicated smartphone if you’re wondering. And it is one of the cheapest selfie smartphone camera available on the market right now. Although, when coming to the talk of whether the captures are great or not, I was not as impressed, as I thought I would be.
The color reproduction feels too artistic while the focusing seems to be the issue here. The rear module cannot do the autofocus correctly unless you tap on it; well then what’s the use of the AF actually, if you’re anyway going to do it manually. But having said that, the outputs in the artificial and natural light look quite good once you get past the focusing issue. The white balance seems to be good as well.
Coming to the indoor capabilities of the camera module, it does offer good enough capture if the lighting is minimal enough. I was seating in a café and took some shot with Z530, they turned out average, the macro shot of the coffee beans was not great while it capture the glowing yellow bulb pretty well. At full zoom, the device was pretty much able to capture the details that you expect from an 8MP module.
The video capabilities of the device are very bad, when we played back the recorded stuff on the phone, it was all grainy. It is capable of shooting up to 1080p video recording. Even though, the video stabilization option as enabled, the shakes seem to affect the video quality. So, I don’t recommend this device if you’re looking for a device with good recording quality.
The front-facing camera on the device isn’t what I was expecting either; there is an 8-megapixel camera on the front, which isn’t even good when compared with the likes of 5MP shooter. It was supposed to be the USP of the device. With the large resolution, you expect a better quality images. But that wasn’t a case here. The colors again seem to be artistic and not natural. Both the cameras; rear and front behaves similarly when it comes to photos and videos.
The Liquid Z530 comes with a small 2420mAh capacity battery, which would have been enough if the screen has lower resolution than 720p. The screen is one of the brightest. Thus, it requires much power to showcase the content. With 8.9mm thickness, the company might have added a much larger capacity battery, but I guess that would be too much to ask from a budget smartphone.
Though, the standby on the device is pretty much good, as the battery drop during the idle time was around 5%, which is good enough. All thanks to the Standby Intelligent Power Saving mode. It won’t offer much screen on time than three hours or so, but that should be fine for an average usage. Then, the battery life would easily last over the day. I would suggest you enable the battery saver when the percentage is around 30%.
The device comes with connectivity features like 4G LTE connection, Dual SIM slots, microSD card slot and bunch of other usual connectivity features. The most interesting part of all this is the 4G LTE connection, which allows users to have fast data network over their smartphone. I mean its blazing fast, although, India is yet to see a 4G network country widespread, but that said the smartphones these days are more focused in offering such features. We tested out the download and upload speed on the device and it seem pretty good overall, considering there might be signal strength variation according to the places.
The most important part in the dual SIM setup is the Dual Standby mode, which is the phenomenal thing. It allows you to take calls from second SIM even if you’re on the call from the first SIM. That’s as convenient as it gets for dual-SIM setup. The other set of connectivity features such as Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, A–GPS and Wi-Fi are the basic things that was offered on the device.
The Acer is not a recognized brand in smartphones among the consumers, but it certainly has some of the unique offerings of the smartphone industry. Such as the Liquid E700 and the Liquid Jade, after these two handsets, Liquid Z530 is company’s officially third smartphone in Indian market. We liked certain things on the handsets, such as its unique design language, a familiar but custom UI and most of all the brilliant display. There are many contenders in the budget range that are worthy against this handset including Xiaomi Redmi 2 Prime, Lenovo A6000 Plus, and Yu Yunique. These are some of the handsets that you can go with if you’re not into the Acer Liquid Z530.