When Acer decided to break into the smart-phone market, it chose to buy up the Glofiish brand instead of starting from scratch. The Tempo M900 is the latest result of this partnership. Priced at about £370 SIM-free, has this keyboard-equipped Windows Mobile handset got what it takes to challenge the likes of the HTC Touch Pro2?
The first thing you notice when you take the M900 out of the box is its sheer weight and bulk. Hiding a slide-out Qwerty keyboard in its frame, it was never going to be the sleekest smart phone on the market, but it feels considerably larger and heavier than other keyboard-toting handsets, like the Touch Pro2 or Sony Ericsson Xperia X1. The phone's rather old-fashioned styling does little to mask its chunkiness, and the build quality isn't brilliant either -- the plasticky case tends to flex rather more than it should.
That said, at least the extra space means Acer has been able to equip the M900 with a roomy keyboard. The keys on the keyboard are packed rather tightly together, but they're slightly larger than usual and quite responsive, so, after some practice, you'll find it relatively easy to tap out long emails and text messages.
The M900's screen is also very impressive. Measuring 97mm (3.8 inches) diagonally, it's one of the largest displays on any Windows Mobile device, and its high, 800x480-pixel resolution is especially useful when viewing Web pages or work documents in the phone's Office Mobile suite of applications, as it means you don't have to do as much scrolling back and forth as on other devices.
Beneath the large display, you'll find the handset's other key feature: its fingerprint scanner. This can be configured either to work as a security mechanism -- so that you need to swipe your finger across it to gain access to the phone -- or just to protect individual folders or the data in certain applications, such as your calendar and contacts book. You can also use it as a touch controller to move through menus and select on-screen icons.
The phone runs Windows Mobile 6.1, which has probably the worst user interface of any of the current smart-phone operating systems. Recognising this, Acer has added its own Shell interface enhancements over the top. Shell presents you with a virtual desktop, with various items spread around it. Selecting these items with your finger takes you to the associated applications. The system works reasonably well, but the graphics look rather drab and it's less slick and intuitive than the TouchFlo interface that HTC uses on its smart phones.
The M900 is built around the same speedy, 522MHz Samsung processor used on the other smart phones in Acer's range, but it only has 128MB of RAM. It runs smoothly when you've got one or two apps open, but it starts to struggle with any more than that, due to the lack of RAM. Battery life isn't too hot either. You'll only get around a day's usage from the M900 before it needs recharging.
The M900 isn't too bad on the connectivity front, though. It supports both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and you also get HSDPA for speedy Web browsing when you're on the move. The on-board GPS is also top-class, proving very quick to get a lock on your location. The 5-megapixel camera has an LED flash and autofocus, and takes decent-enough shots, provided the lighting conditions aren't too poor.
The Acer Tempo M900's large screen and responsive keyboard are impressive, but this handset leaves much to be desired elsewhere. The design is far too bulky for our liking and the build quality isn't particularly good. Compared to similar handsets, such as the HTC Touch Pro2, the M900 definitely comes off second best.
Edited by Charles Kloet