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Acer Liquid Z4 Duo Smartphone Review

Daniel Schmidt (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 05/28/2014

Z3 on the rack. Acer has refreshed its entry-level devices and placed a dual-SIM, four-inch smartphone between its Z3 Duo and Z5. Their specs are very similar. The most interesting innovation is surely the Custom Profiles, which make the smartphone easier for newcomers to use.

For the original German review, see here.

Compared with the smaller Liquid Z3 Duo, Acer has barely modified the Liquid Z4 Duo. The screen's size has grown by half an inch to four inches. The resolution has been more than doubled, and is now 800x480 pixels. Both the processor and graphics unit are identical. MediaTek's MT6572 now clocks faster, and achieves up to 1.3 GHz. The working memory capacity is only 512 MB. Anyone hoping that Acer at least uses Google's hardware-friendly 4.4 KitKat will be disappointed. Like in the precursor, Google's Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean is installed on the 4 GB flash storage.

The review sample is positioned between the older Z3 (3.5 inches) and the new Z5 (5.0 inches) so that all common screen sizes should be covered in the Taiwanese manufacturer's entry-level sector. But those are the biggest differences of the smartphones. Its contenders are Huawei's Ascend Y300, Y330 and Y530Sony's Xperia E DualZTE's Blade IIISamsung's Galaxy Fame, and Nokia's Lumia 520.

Case

Fingerprints are soon visible on the plastic.
Fingerprints are soon visible on the plastic.

The case of Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo is a bit slimmer than that of the Z3, and does not even achieve a thickness of 10 millimeters (~0.4 inches). It is agreeably light, weighing 104 grams (~3.7 oz), and is comfortable to hold. Though the plastic back is quite slip-proof, it shows every touch

In return, the smartphone proves to be quite robust. It is very stiff, and barely produces a creaking noise. Pressure on the back or the sides does not lead to wave-formations on the screen. Even the gaps are beyond reproach, and have been processed evenly. Only the choice of materials suggests the price range, but the phone nevertheless belongs to the higher-quality models in this regard.

The Liquid Z4's back can be completely removed. The recess beside the USB port facilitates this. The removable battery and both micro-SIM slots, as well as the slot for storage expansion are found underneath it.

Connectivity

The connectivity of Acer's Liquid Z4 is virtually identical with that of both the Z3 and Z5. The micro-USB 2.0 port is used for recharging the smartphone or for data sharing with a computer. Neither MHL nor OTG is supported. The micro-SD memory card slot supports media with a capacity of up to 32 GB (SDHC).

Software

Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo uses Google's Android 4.2.2 operating system. It is too bad that the Taiwanese manufacturer does not rely on the current 4.4 KitKat version. It would add a significant performance boost, especially considering the weak hardware. The modifications made to the interface are mainly visual, and are very restrained. The included software corresponds to both sister models. Unfortunately, the Live Screen app has apparently not made it into Acer's entry-level sector. In return, the Float apps are installed, which enable easy access to small tools (calculator, stopwatch, etc.).

The Custom Profiles are a real added value. It contains the Quick Mode icon that allows the user to pre-define various profiles, which makes using the smartphone easier for the newcomer target group. In addition to the classic Android interface, there are four other modes: Basic, Senior, Keypad and Classic. The first two are PIN-protected ex-factory, and the app is set up when opened the first time so that changes in the system are not readily possible. The tile-like interface remotely looks like that of Windows Phone. It only includes the basic features and a specified number of speed dial memories. This tremendously facilitates use for newcomers, children, and seniors.

The Custom Profiles are hidden in Quick Mode.
The Custom Profiles are hidden in Quick Mode.
Basic Mode
Basic Mode
Senior Mode
Senior Mode
Keypad Mode
Keypad Mode
Classic Mode
Classic Mode
The settings can be PIN-protected, and feature a newcomer-friendly arrangement.
The settings can be PIN-protected, and feature a newcomer-friendly arrangement.
App: GPS Test (outdoors)
App: GPS Test (outdoors)

Communication & GPS 

Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo sports a Wi-Fi module that supports the IEEE 802.11 b/g/n standards, and thus operates in the 2.4 GHz frequency band. The range is rather middling; the device only displayed a weak connection quality at a distance of just 15 meters (~49 feet) from the router (Fritz!Box 6360).

Mobile Internet is possible via UMTS/HSPA+ (download max. 41.2 MBit/s; upload max. 5.6 MBit/s). The limited frequency coverage could cause reception problems in rural areas depending on the provider. Bluetooth 4.0 is also available. Data transfer to other devices was easily possible, and audio streaming also functioned well. However, users who stream HD video will notice that the sound is not always in-sync.

The GPS receiver was not as convincing and needed several minutes to find a satellite, even outdoors in clear conditions. The localization accuracy was also not very good compared with the Garmin Edge 500.

Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 500
The Liquid Z4's phone app
The Liquid Z4's phone app

Telephony and Speech Quality

The look of the phone app in Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo has only been modified slightly, and is very clearly arranged. The review sample's speech quality is rather moderate though. We could understand our contact well when the phone was held to the ear, and we were also easily understood, though a bit quiet. We were considerably louder over the speakers, but a strong noise and occasional speech dropouts were noticed. The contact's voice is a bit muffled when using the included headset. The microphone should be placed as close to the mouth as possible via its clip because the distortions are so extreme that nothing can be understood anymore.

Camera

Acer's Liquid Z4 only sports a rear-facing camera. A webcam is not installed. The lens has a resolution of up to 5 MP (2880x1728 pixels) in the rather unusual aspect ratio of 5:3, which has been adapted to the screen's format. The image quality is mixed. Many details are maintained in high-detail pictures and the image looks comparatively sharp. The overexposure and light bluish cast are very unsightly in return. On the other hand, the pictures quickly look noisy in weak light. However, the occasional snapshot is possible owing to the LED flash. The image quality cannot be called high, which is unsurprising in view of the price range.

Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Sony Alpha 57 (reference)
Sony Alpha 57 (reference)
Sony Alpha 57 (reference)
Sony Alpha 57 (reference)
Sony Alpha 57 (reference)
Sony Alpha 57 (reference)

Accessories and Warranty

No surprises are found among the included accessories for the Z4. In addition to the modular power supply, there is a data cable, headset, and a few quick start guides for the smartphone.

The manufacturer includes a two-year warranty on the device, and twelve months on the battery and accessories.

Input Devices and Controls

The capacitive touchscreen in Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo detects up to five fingers at the same time. The responsiveness is quite good, but the accuracy could be a bit better. That is particularly noticed when typing on the virtual keyboard. A comparatively high error rate is recorded, which cannot solely be connected to the smaller screen, and the consequently small keyboard.

The sensor buttons below the screen respond well, but are only difficult to recognize especially in weak light. The power button's drop could also be a bit more accurate.

The additional button on the device's back is new. It allows waking up the device directly from standby. A quick tap also opens a pre-defined app that can be selected from the settings. Pressing the button longer directly opens the camera app.

Keyboard in portrait mode
Keyboard in portrait mode
Keyboard in landscape mode
Keyboard in landscape mode
Screen comparison with Nokia's X (right)
Screen comparison with Nokia's X (right)

Display

A TFT LCD screen with a resolution of 800x480 pixels is used as the display in Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo. The resolution corresponds to an aspect ratio of 5:3 and a pixel density of 233 ppi. The displayed content is mostly sharp, and pixelation is only seen when looking closer.

The screen's maximum brightness of 377 cd/m² is quite good, but the homogeneity of the brightness distribution is rather poor at 81%. Huawei's Y530 (max. 388 cd/m²; 91%) does a better job.

348
cd/m²
375
cd/m²
320
cd/m²
357
cd/m²
373
cd/m²
316
cd/m²
358
cd/m²
377
cd/m²
305
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 377 cd/m²
Average: 347.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 81 %
Center on Battery: 373 cd/m²
Black: 0.6 cd/m²
Contrast: 622:1

The contrast of 622:1 is decent, and the black level of 0.6 cd/m² is quite good considering the device's category. The screen's color accuracy is not particularly good though. Clear shifts are visible in both the grayscale (dE 13) and mixed colors (dE 12). Besides that, the screen has a bluish cast and the displayed content correspondingly looks a bit cool.

Grayscale (target color space: sRGB)
Grayscale (target color space: sRGB)
Color accuracy (target color space: sRGB)
Color accuracy (target color space: sRGB)
Color saturation (target color space: sRGB)
Color saturation (target color space: sRGB)
Mixed colors (target color space: sRGB)
Mixed colors (target color space: sRGB)

Direct sunlight should be avoided outdoors because hardly anything can be recognized on the Liquid Z4's screen. However, using the phone in shadier places or indoors does not give reason for complaint.

Direct sunlight should be avoided.
Direct sunlight should be avoided.
Content can be seen well in the shade.
Content can be seen well in the shade.
Viewing angle stability: Acer Liquid Z4 Duo
Viewing angle stability: Acer Liquid Z4 Duo

The smartphone's viewing angle stability could be better. The underlying TFT LCD technology is not always ideal. Obvious color inverting is seen in flatter viewing angles, and brightness loss is evident as early as at an angle of approximately 20°. However, this will hardly prove annoying in everyday use.

Performance

Not only 3DMark Unlimited was too much for the Z4.
Not only 3DMark Unlimited was too much for the Z4.

Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo sports the MT6572 dual-core processor from MediaTek. The 1.3 GHz clock is a bit higher than the standard model and roughly 300 MHz faster than the identical CPU in the Z3 Duo. The clock frequency has been increased by 30%. Unfortunately, the increase in speed does not correlate to faster software performance in the Z4 Duo. Minor stutters were recurrent, and apps sometimes needed a moment to open. Besides that, apps repeatedly crashed. Many of the benchmark programs did not open or did not completely finish. This will primarily be due to the working memory's low capacity (512 MB).

The benchmarks quickly prove that a clock rate increase does not boost the performance proportionally. In AnTuTu v4, the Z4 is only approximately 18% faster than its smaller brother. In return, the performance gain is a decent 24% in Geekbench 3. The browser speed is quite good; the device primarily benefits from the latest Chrome browser (version 34).

The 4 GB memory is quite tight. Only 2.2 GB is available for free usage. The speed is comparatively good, particularly when it comes to sequentially writing larger data blocks. It is only defeated by the Z3 in the 4K range.

AnTuTu Benchmark v4 - Total Score (sort by value)
Acer Liquid Z4
11084 Points ∼26%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
9434 Points ∼22% -15%
Huawei Ascend Y530
12124 Points ∼28% +9%
Geekbench 3
32 Bit Single-Core Score (sort by value)
Acer Liquid Z4
314 Points ∼9%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
254 Points ∼7% -19%
Huawei Ascend Y530
324 Points ∼9% +3%
32 Bit Multi-Core Score (sort by value)
Acer Liquid Z4
575 Points ∼4%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
473 Points ∼4% -18%
Huawei Ascend Y530
605 Points ∼5% +5%
3DMark (2013)
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Score (sort by value)
Acer Liquid Z4
1896 Points ∼0%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
1655 Points ∼0% -13%
Huawei Ascend Y530
4125 Points ∼0% +118%
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Graphics (sort by value)
Acer Liquid Z4
1669 Points ∼0%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
1471 Points ∼0% -12%
Huawei Ascend Y530
4139 Points ∼1% +148%
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Physics (sort by value)
Acer Liquid Z4
3626 Points ∼7%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
2946 Points ∼5% -19%
Huawei Ascend Y530
4075 Points ∼8% +12%
AndroBench 3
Sequential Read 256KB (sort by value)
Acer Liquid Z4
65.79 MB/s ∼39%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
50 MB/s ∼30% -24%
Huawei Ascend Y300
12.07 MB/s ∼7% -82%
Samsung Galaxy Fame GT-S6810P
25.96 MB/s ∼16% -61%
Huawei Ascend Y530
37.2 MB/s ∼22% -43%
Sequential Write 256KB (sort by value)
Acer Liquid Z4
7.08 MB/s ∼12%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
6.57 MB/s ∼11% -7%
Huawei Ascend Y300
4.26 MB/s ∼7% -40%
Samsung Galaxy Fame GT-S6810P
3.59 MB/s ∼6% -49%
Huawei Ascend Y530
9.24 MB/s ∼16% +31%
Random Read 4KB (sort by value)
Acer Liquid Z4
9.55 MB/s ∼46%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
11.87 MB/s ∼57% +24%
Huawei Ascend Y300
4.68 MB/s ∼22% -51%
Samsung Galaxy Fame GT-S6810P
5.2 MB/s ∼25% -46%
Huawei Ascend Y530
8.02 MB/s ∼38% -16%
Random Write 4KB (sort by value)
Acer Liquid Z4
0.41 MB/s ∼14%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
0.53 MB/s ∼18% +29%
Huawei Ascend Y300
0.19 MB/s ∼7% -54%
Samsung Galaxy Fame GT-S6810P
0.17 MB/s ∼6% -59%
Huawei Ascend Y530
0.51 MB/s ∼17% +24%
Google V8 Ver. 7 - Google V8 Ver. 7 Score (sort by value)
Acer Liquid Z4
1509 Points ∼8%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
1378 Points ∼8% -9%
Huawei Ascend Y300
802 Points ∼4% -47%
Samsung Galaxy Fame GT-S6810P
1146 Points ∼6% -24%
Nokia Lumia 520
446 Points ∼2% -70%
Sunspider - --- (sort by value)
Acer Liquid Z4
1840.6 ms * ∼46%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
1741.7 ms * ∼43% +5%
Huawei Ascend Y530
1538.8 ms * ∼38% +16%

Legend

 
Acer Liquid Z4 MediaTek MT6572, ARM Mali-400 MP, 4 GB Flash
 
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo MediaTek MT6572, ARM Mali-400 MP, 4 GB Flash
 
Huawei Ascend Y300 Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Play MSM8225, Qualcomm Adreno 203, 4 GB Flash
 
Samsung Galaxy Fame GT-S6810P Broadcom BCM28155, Broadcom VideoCore-IV, 4 GB Flash
 
Nokia Lumia 520 Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8227, Qualcomm Adreno 305, 8 GB SSD
 
Huawei Ascend Y530 Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 8210, Qualcomm Adreno 302, 4 GB Flash

* ... smaller is better

Games

The integrated ARM Mali-400 MP graphics unit soon finds its limits in 3D games. Tracks like Powerboat Racing have to be rendered using extremely reduced detail settings. Classics, such as Candy Crush or Angry Birds are no problem though.

The position sensor in the Liquid Z4 functions impeccably, and allows good control.

Powerboat Racing runs smoothly...
Powerboat Racing runs smoothly...
...but the details (performance) have to be reduced.
...but the details (performance) have to be reduced.

Emissions

System Noise

Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo is absolutely silent. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the included power supply. It starts to hum when connected to the outlet for a long time. This is quite a distracting noise in quiet surroundings, and can even be heard when watching TV.

Temperature

The surface temperatures of Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo achieve a maximum idle temperature of 33 °C (91.4 °F). The rates climb up to 39.1 °C (102.4 °F) during full load, and are not a concern. The power supply also reaches a maximum of 34.6 °C (94.3 °F), and is thus beyond reproach.

 31.0 °C29.8 °C29.6 °C 
 31.5 °C30.1 °C31.4 °C 
 31.4 °C29.8 °C30.5 °C 
Maximum: 31.5 °C
Average: 30.6 °C
29.4 °C30.0 °C32.5 °C
29.2 °C30.5 °C33.0 °C
30.0 °C30.6 °C32.2 °C
Maximum: 33.0 °C
Average: 30.8 °C
Power Supply (max.)  31.2 °C | Room Temperature 22.1 °C | Voltcraft IR-350

Speakers

Both stereo speakers in Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo supply a comparatively good sound. The trebles are rendered clearly, and the mid-range is also perceptible. However, the bass lacks power. It can also happen that the trebles distort a bit when pushed to maximum volume. We would have liked to see a higher maximum volume. The ringtone might not be heard when in a bag.

The included headset is considerably more bass-heavy. In return, the trebles are a bit muffled, and the sound could be more balanced. That can be improved a bit in the DTS audio settings.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

We regrettably cannot provide the usual rates about the review sample's power consumption here. The measurements performed on Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo did not deliver any useful results.

Battery Runtime

Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo sports a strong 1630 mAh lithium-polymer battery. It is thus a bit bigger than in the Z3 Duo (1500 mAh). The runtimes, however, prove to be a bit shorter than its little brother's. We set the screen brightness to 150 cd/m² and turned off all other consumers, except for the Wi-Fi module, for the Wi-Fi runtime test. A browser script opened a new website every 40 seconds. The review sample lasted for over eight hours in this scenario; the smaller Z3 manages an hour longer. The higher clocked processor in the Z4 likely takes its toll here.

Battery Runtime
WiFi Surfing
8h 18min

Verdict

In review: Acer Liquid Z4 Duo.
In review: Acer Liquid Z4 Duo.

Acer's Liquid Z4 Duo entry-level smartphone does not convince with exceptional performance, but with the useful, included software. Particularly, Custom Profiles make it a lot easier to use for newcomers, and they are very clearly arranged. We would give bonus points in the Impression score, but it would be nullified by the fact that many, more demanding apps repeatedly crash. The tight working memory is likely the main reason for that. We would have wished for either more RAM or at least Android 4.4 KitKat that has been optimized for devices with weak hardware.

Certainly, a few compromises have to be made with the Z4 Duo, but the Taiwanese manufacturer delivers a very balanced price-performance ratio considering the low price. The smartphone easily copes with everyday demands, and it scores with a good build, the Rapid Button on the back, and the decent speakers that could however be a bit louder. All in all, a very well-designed product.

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In Review: Acer Liquid Z4 Duo. Review sample courtesy of Notebooksbilliger.de.
In Review: Acer Liquid Z4 Duo. Review sample courtesy of Notebooksbilliger.de.

Specifications

Acer Liquid Z4

:: Processor
:: Memory
512 MB
:: Graphics adapter
ARM Mali-400 MP, Core: 500 MHz
:: Display
4.0 inch 5:3, 800x480 pixel, capacitive multi-touchscreen, TFT LCD, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
4 GB Flash, 4 GB , 2.2 GB free
:: Connections
1 USB 2.0, Audio Connections: combo headphone and microphone jack (3.5 mm), Card Reader: microSD max 32 GB (SDHC), Sensors: position and proximity sensor, GPS, max. SAR: 0.760 W/kg
:: Networking
802.11 b/g/n (b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth, GSM (850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz), UMTS/HSPA+ (900 and 2100 MHz)
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 9.7 x 136 x 68
:: Weight
0.122 kg Power Supply: 0.066 kg
:: Battery
6.03 Wh Lithium-Polymer, 3.7 volts, 1630 mAh
:: Price
119 Euro
:: Operating System
Android 4.2
:: Additional features
Webcam: primary camera: 5 MP, LED flash, Speakers: two front-facing speakers, Keyboard: virtual, power supply, data cable, SnapNote, AcerCloud, Float, Quick Mode (profile changer), 24 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
The Z4 has a 4-inch screen size.
The Z4 has a 4-inch screen size.
The screen has a resolution of 800 x 400 pixels.
The screen has a resolution of 800 x 400 pixels.
SIM slot one of the dual-SIM phone supports 3G.
SIM slot one of the dual-SIM phone supports 3G.
The rear-facing camera has a resolution of 5 MP.
The rear-facing camera has a resolution of 5 MP.
The Rapid Button is to facilitate use.
The Rapid Button is to facilitate use.
2.2 GB is available for free usage.
2.2 GB is available for free usage.
Android 4.2.2 is installed.
Android 4.2.2 is installed.
Home screen
Home screen
Pre-loaded apps
Pre-loaded apps
AnTuTu v4
AnTuTu v4
Geekbench 3
Geekbench 3
Browsermark was only one of the benchmarks that could not be performed.
Browsermark was only one of the benchmarks that could not be performed.

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Links

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Pro

+Rear-sided function button
+Decent speakers
+Good build
+Affordable
+Dual-SIM
+Expandable storage
 

Cons

-Humming power supply
-Older Android version
-Moderate performance
-Little working memory

Shortcut

What we like

The Custom Profiles could really make use easier for newcomers. Besides that, the Z4 features a good build, and is agreeably small.

What we'd like to see

More working memory, and a more up-to-date Android version would have been good for the smartphone.

What surprises us

Acer Live Screen is not available for the Z4.

The competition

Contenders are: Samsung Galaxy Fame, Huawei Ascend Y300, Y330 and Y530, Nokia Lumia 520, ZTE Blade III, and Acer's own Liquid Z3 Duo and Liquid Z5.

Rating

Acer Liquid Z4
05/22/2014 v4
Daniel Schmidt

Chassis
79%
Keyboard
62 / 75 → 83%
Pointing Device
78%
Connectivity
49 / 60 → 82%
Weight
95%
Battery
91%
Display
76%
Games Performance
50 / 75 → 67%
Application Performance
17 / 65 → 26%
Temperature
88%
Noise
100%
Audio
63 / 91 → 69%
Camera
56%
Average
70%
79%
Smartphone *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Acer Liquid Z4 Duo Smartphone Review
Author: Daniel Schmidt, 2014-05-28 (Update: 2014-06- 2)