Acer's gaming tablet probably a bet too far

Acer's gaming tablet probably a bet too far
The 8-inch Predator weighs in at 350g. An app called MediaMaster optimises the video in terms of contrast and saturation.

Angular lines, Transformer-like logo at the back and four red-tinted speaker grilles - just one glance is needed to recognise the Acer Predator 8 as a gaming-oriented tablet.

But while gaming laptops exist because they are better than typical notebooks at running games, the same cannot be said of the Android-powered Predator.

Its Intel Atom x7 quad-core processor is fast, but not significantly better than its rivals. Tablet games also do not push the graphics envelope, unlike PC titles.

What makes the Predator more of a gaming device than its rivals is a haptic feedback system that causes the tablet to vibrate during certain gaming moments, such as when pressing the turbo boost button in Asphalt 8: Airborne.

This Predator TacSense feature is similar to the vibration feature on console controllers.

The only problem is that Predator is the only tablet with this feature. So it is very unlikely that TacSense will be supported on other tablet games, at least not without Acer offering game developers some form of incentive. For now, Asphalt is the only game to support TacSense.

Even if developers are somehow convinced by this feature, I doubt gamers will be queuing up to demand that their devices vibrate while playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush.

The 8-inch Predator, at 350g, is fairly thin and creaked when I tried to bend it. The corners are sharp and pointy, and dug into my palms when I held the tablet.

The speakers located at the corners are loud and punchy. They do not sound as resonant as the ones on the Apple iPad Pro, but the Predator definitely produces better audio than most tablets.

An app called MediaMaster optimises the video (in terms of contrast and saturation) and audio settings for gaming, movies and music. You cannot tweak these settings manually.

But no amount of adjustment can compensate for the overly saturated appearance of its display, which reminds me of certain older Samsung devices.

Acer says the Predator's display supports the full colour gamut on the NTSC standard, but NTSC is less relevant nowadays compared with sRGB and Adobe RGB colour gamut standards.

While some users may prefer the intense vivid colours on the Predator, it is not my cup of tea. The colours just look too unreal. But at least the Predator's in-plane switching screen looks crisp with its 1,920 x 1,200-pixel resolution.

Acer also says the touchscreen has a higher density of touch sensors than typical tablets. This results in more accurate and finer controls while playing first-person shooter (FPS) games. I could not really tell, though, when using the tablet. In any case, an FPS game is not ideal on a tablet.

The tablet comes preloaded with some Acer apps. You probably have seen similar apps from other brands like Samsung, but they are still useful. For instance, EZ WakeUp lets you wake up the tablet by tapping it with five fingers instead of pressing the power button.

There is a multi-window feature called EZ Tasking, which shows two apps side by side in a split screen mode. I used it to listen to music on YouTube while surfing the Net. Supported apps include Chrome, Gmail and YouTube.

Battery life is good. It lasted 7hr 49mins in our video-loop test. This is slightly better than the Apple iPad mini 4.

Acer has tried to differentiate the Predator as a gaming device with some interesting ideas, some of which work better than others. Perhaps Acer will succeed with the next attempt.

This article was first published on January 6, 2016.
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