Acer shows newfound focus, but we won’t see most of the new gear

Acer shows newfound focus, but we won’t see most of the new gear

This time last year Acer unveiled an overwhelming range of products in New York. From laptops, tablets and 2-in-1s to wearables, smartphones, and a full range of gaming gear. The Taiwanese consumer electronics company showed off so many devices — not all of them eventually coming to fruition — it was hard for those in attendance, let alone consumers, to keep track.

This year’s a little different. Acer, perhaps realising its folly (or recognising how limited most people’s attention span is), has decided to focus on one new device for each major market segment in which it plays. It’s a relief for those of us covering it, but — like a short menu at a restaurant — also speaks to a newfound confidence in its line-up. Acer’s no longer trying to make every device in every conceivable configuration, instead it’s making a few really solid ones that’ll cover all sorts of bases. So far, so sensible.

Bike curious

First up, Acer’s got a product from one of its recent acquisitions. Last September, the company bought cycling tech business Xplova. And now it’s unveiled the Xplova X5 biking computer, a Go-Pro-cum-Cateye that offers the bike data you’d expect from a regular bicycle computer and a front-facing camera, so you don’t meet a messy end wrapped around a tree trunk while trying to capture your “sweet air” smartphone in hand.

Why look when you can touch?

Why look when you can touch?

The Xplova 5’s camera can be wirelessly tethered to a heart-rate monitoring strap and set to trigger when your HR crosses a predetermined threshold. Companies like TomTom have taken similar record-when-something-fun-happens approaches with devices like the Bandit camera. It makes a lot of sense on something like the Xplova. Sadly, Acer says it’s unlikely to come to South Africa, so if you want it you’ll have to import it.

Leap of faith

Next up is the Liquid Leap Fit, a thin wearable with a built-in display and optical heart-rate monitoring that promises “personal coaching”. We expect that’ll mean some sort of mix of the things we’ve seen in the awesome app that accompanies Jawbone’s UP3, or the tap-and-talk coaching found on the Moov Now. By the looks of it, the Leap Fit will also be able to serve its wearer reminders. It’s not revolutionary, but, if you want a go on the swings in the wearables’ playground you’re going to need constant HR monitoring. No indication yet on pricing or SA availability, though.

The Leap Fit will prompt you to take you pills. It can't promise the voices will stop, though.

The Leap Fit will prompt you to take you pills. It can’t promise the voices will stop, though.

Zest for (long) life

The 5,000mAh battery packing Liquid Zest Plus is Acer’s latest flagship handset. Android-powered (version 6.0 Marshmallow) and with a tri-focus (laser, contrast and face-detection) camera, 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM, it looks a little pedestrian, aside from the monster battery.

Not that it matters, as Acer’s not bringing that to SA either. In fact, don’t expect to see any more Acer phones or its Iconia tablets in South Africa. It’ll no longer carry either in the local market, choosing instead to focus on its bigger ticket items and more niche things like projectors.

Time to switch?

Acer's i-series processor-carrying Alpha Switch 12

Acer’s i-series processor-carrying Alpha Switch 12

Hurray! Here’s a device we will be getting in South Africa, namely the Switch Alpha 12. It’s a 2-in-1 tablet-laptop hybrid in the Microsoft Surface mould. What sets it apart is Acer’ Liquid Loop cooling mechanism that lets it use Intel Core i-series processors without needing to try cram in cooling fans. We like the look of it, but we still can’t help feeling if you’re in the market for a 2-in-1 because you need the keyboard you’re probably better off just buying an ultraportable laptop.

The Switch Alpha 12 will start at R15,000 when it lands in SA later this year, but we’re expecting you’ll need to fork out a whole lot more for the i7-toting version. Which brings us back to our argument about an ultraportable outlined above.

Have you lost weight?

Speaking of ultraportable laptops, may we introduce the Aspire S 13? Pricing will start at R14,000 — though, as with the 2-in-1, you’ll need to spend a whole lot more than that for the top-spec i7 processor and a 512GB SSD — it’s a mere 0.57-inches (1.45cm) thick, and it includes an HD display — with optional touch capabilities — and Dolby Audio. The non-touch version is rated for 11 hours on a charge, while the touch should offer up to 13 hours. And you’re gonna want the touch.

Acer-Aspire-S-13-top

No points for guessing which devices the S 13 wants to challenge.

Acer’s also taken the chance to update the Chromebook with a new model, the Chromebook 14, that’s aimed at corporate customers. It’s the slickest-looking Chromebook we’ve seen and its Corning Gorilla Glass lid means customers can have custom imagery beneath it but, as you’ve probably guessed, this won’t be coming to SA, either. Cue sad faces all round.

The pickings may be slim on the general consumer-tech front for the South African market, but did we mention SA’s getting all of the Predator gaming goodies?

Craig is Stuff magazine's editor. He's provides tech analysis and commentary for TV stations like eNCA, CNBC Africa and BusinessDay TV, and radio stations like 702, CapeTalk, PowerFM, MetroFM and Classic FM. You can contact him at craig@stuff.co.za

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