Acer C314 Tablet PC Review

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Acer C314 Tablet PC

The Acer C314 Tablet PC is in many ways a breath of fresh air. It's not that this model is the Tablet version of Acer's popular "Ferrari" notebook. What makes this machine special are the nuances and little extras you'll find that were thoughtfully engineered into the design.

The C314 Tablet PC also features the newest Centrino platform, "Sonoma". The new chipset coupled by the very capable NVIDIA Go 6200 graphics GPU promises an extended future. Chances are good that the C314 is ready for the next generation of Windows "Vista" scheduled to hit the shelves in 2006.

C314 Design and Build Quality

There are noticeable design elements that make the Acer C314 Tablet PC unique. A most interesting innovation is the ergonomical "curved" keyboard. Another element is the design of the lid latch. The latch on the C314 is a reverse of the usual design. The hook itself is located on the lower base of the unit and the "slot" is in the display lid. The switch also locks to keep the display firmly in place. Finally, the design of the trackpad (although not entirely original) is simplicity that offers extra functionality, with the added 4-way scroll button located between the left and right mouse buttons.

The case is built of a sturdy sliver and black plastic. The somewhat rounded edges and smooth surfaces are a pleasant contrast to some of the other square and boxy tablet designs. The rotating display hinge is the strongest I have yet to encounter on any Tablet PC. The unit closes tightly with absolutely no play with the lid closed, providing a promising feel as you carry the C314 in your arm or hold on with one hand to place it in your bag.

Heat and Fan


Like many of the Sonoma-based machines, the C314 is capable of generating some heat. Truthfully you can bank on this machine heating up when it is driven hard for CPU and GPU intensive tasks. Such tasks include gaming, video editing or heavy graphics rendering.

When the CPU temperature rises, you can expect the fan to kick on. The fan on the C314 is quiet and runs at smooth intervals. On some Tablet PC's and notebooks sporadic fan action, (constant on and off, on and off) can become a regrettable annoyance. Luckily, that is not the case with the fan on the Acer C314.

Wireless Connectivity


The Acer C314 comes standard with the integrated Intel Pro Wireless 802.11b/g card. A built-in Bluetooth radio is also featured in this model. Both devices work well. We experienced above average range with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity with no observable lost connections during use. For those with IR PDA's, phones or other devices Acer took care to include an infared port on the right side of the unit.

Battery

The Sanyo 4-cell battery provides about 3 hours of "typical" use (such as cruising the web, office applications, etc).

Using Battery Eater Pro we tested the C314 battery under extreme conditions. Using the "Classic" test mode (stressing all hardware components), we were able to squeeze 2 hours and 32 minutes of time in one charge. This is probably the minimum amount of time you can expect when using the C314 for demanding tasks with the 4-cell battery.

Service and Support

The Acer C314 is backed by a standard one-year warranty. For this review, I placed my traditional "random technical support call". to Acer at 1-800-816-2237. I called the number at 5:16 p.m. (PST) on a Monday afternoon. While on hold, I was subjected to a repetitive classical music loop (about 20 seconds in length) that repeated over and over. The repetitive "music" was combined with constant recorded advertisements about various Acer hardware offerings. I finally got to a human at 5:44 p.m. (28 minutes later)! All in all, I found the wait time to be totally unacceptable compared to the 2-5 minute wait times I have experienced with other manufacturers.

Conclusion

The Acer C314 is an excellent full-featured Tablet PC that is powerful enough to function as a desktop replacement. The generous 1024MB of RAM, 100GB hard drive, Built-in Bluetooth and fast 2.0GHz processor are a good value for the price. This machine is great for students or consumers who want a Tablet to be their "only" PC.

Although there is value in the features that are included, it is obvious that Acer has cut back in their technical support. I would not recommend this model to any first-time computer user who might need to talk to a reliable tech support representative without having to wait for 20 minutes on hold.

Pros

* Powerful CPU and graphics.
* Good build quality.
* Good keyboard and trackpad.
* Built-in Bluetooth.

Cons

* Bad microphone.
* Acer's phone support is very slow to respond.