Acer Stream vs HTC Desire

It seems every week there's a new Android on the block, trying to its damnedest to take down the king. That's the price of being top of the heap when you're the HTC Desire. With the news that the Acer Stream is available from 8 August exclusively at eXpansys, those in the market for a superphone might want to know if it's time to look elsewhere other than HTC. Those already with a Desire might want some reassurance that they've still got a great phone. So which is it to be? Does the Acer Stream feel lucky? Well, does it, punk?

 

Form Factor

Winner: HTC Desire
119 x 60 x 11.9mm; 135g

Loser: Acer Stream
119.5 x 63 x 11.2 mm; 140g


From the off, this one is nearly too close to call. With just five grams difference in weight and a matter of tenths of millimetres elsewhere, you’re essentially looking at the same kind of bump in your pocket. Aesthetically speaking, one might argue that the Desire is a nicer mobile to flash around but, ultimately, it’s a personal choice at this level. Certainly both phones are made from good materials. Neither is a nasty knock off.

The only major differences come in the selection of buttons. While both phones have the standard Android quartet, Acer has gone with three additional media buttons on the bottom of the chassis at the expense of the rather useful optical trackpad on the Desire. While the media keys might be interesting, it seems pretty clear from our experience of Android that the added mouse function is going to be a better call. That said, we’ll have to hold our hands up here as to which is better as it appears pretty subjective.

Display

Tie: HTC Desire
3.7”, 800x480px AMOLED

Tie: Acer Stream
3.7”, 800x480px AMOLED


There really is no difference in this category. Both phones have capacitive, 16M colour screens that’ll look fantastic no matter what you play on them. The AMOLED technology offers lovely contrast and crispness at low battery consumption and the only slight issue is the performance in bright daylight which isn’t fantastic. Either way, you’ll get auto-rotating from the accelerometers they have stored inside as well.

Engine Room

Tie: HTC Desire
1GHz Snapdragon CPU, 576MB RAM

Tie: Acer Stream
1GHz Snapdragon CPU, 512MB RAM


We can quibble about the additional 64MB of RAM compared to the memory cost of running the HTC Sense software but, in reality, we’re looking at two phones with the same heart beat here. The 1GHz Snapdragon platform has become de rigueur in 2010 and it’ll keep both the Desire and the Stream at the top end of things when Google releases Android 3.0 later in the year.

Storage

Winner: Acer Stream
2GB microSD expandable

Loser: HTC Desire
512MB microSD expandable


The Acer Stream hasn’t brought much extra to the party so far, but an additional gig and a half of internal storage is certainly handy - particularly while both phones are using Android 2.1 and don’t have the ability to save applications to the microSD card - yet. If you’re rocking a 32GB microSD card, there’s not really enough to make a difference here but, if you’re using an 8GB model or less, than that’s quite a lot more to play with. As it goes, the Desire comes with a 4GB microSD card bundled. The Stream comes with an 8GB.

Imaging

Winner: HTC Desire
5MP + flash, WVGA video capture

Loser: Acer Stream
5MP, 720p video capture


One question you need to ask yourself here - would you rather be able to take pictures in the dark or shoot 720p video? There’s certainly an argument for both but, if you surveyed the mobile phone using public, you’d expect most would prefer having a flash to go with a camera as opposed to HD video shooting. Ultimately, you can still record footage on the Desire. WVGA resolution (800 x 400) isn’t wildly shabby. Both phones will geo-tag your photos and both offer auto-focus as well, although there is the slight additional carrot of image stabilisation with the Stream.

Software

Jury out: HTC Desire
HTC Sense + Android 2.1

Jury out Acer Stream
Liquid + Android 2.1


We’ll save our judgement on this one until we’ve had the chance for a full review but, with both handsets running Android 2.1 - at least until update - the custom UIs are the difference for the user. HTC Sense is highly regarded on this front and Acer’s last Liquid offering was, at the least, light and inoffensive if not quite the same social media revelation. An educated guess would have the Desire coming out on top here but, if we’re going to be professional about this, we have to say that the jury’s out at the moment. You watch a decent preview of the Acer Stream UI and decide for yourself until then.

Connectivity

Winner: Acer Stream
HSDPA, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1, DLNA, micro-HDMI
Loser: HTC Desire
HSDPA, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), Bluetooth 2.1,


While you can use both handsets in any part of the world and both at high speed 7.2Mbps data service access, it’s the Stream that has the bells and whistles you might miss on the Desire. As with the Samsung Galaxy S, the Stream benefits from the longer range n-Wi-Fi  as well as the DLNA connectivity which makes sharing content in your home from one device to another such a joy. There’s also the very tempting micro-HDMI out socket on the side of the handset, which is where both extra storage and the ability to capture and playback 720p video content comes into play.

Price

Tie: HTC Desire
£399

Tie: Acer Stream
£399


Matched pound for pound, it’s pretty clear what market Acer is going for. At the time of writing, you can only pick up the Stream at eXpansys with none of the UK networks involved. One might wonder if any of the mobile operators are interested in a less well established mobile manufacturer’s version of something as similar as the Desire, or if it's just a temporary exclusive deal?

Conclusions

While the Acer Stream has done well in taking a couple of the categories here, it’s only really done so by a nose. By the spec sheet, what we seem to be looking at - without meaning any disrespect - is a copy of the highly successful mobile phone that is the HTC Desire. With the benefit of another 6 months or so of technology, Acer has added a little more to the Wi-Fi, a little more HD, DLNA, Xvid file support, FLAC support, Dolby Mobile and a tempter in terms of storage. 

Now, none of this is to be sniffed at. They're all good things to have but, ultimately, Acer has a bit of a mountain to climb in the mobile space and it's probably going to need something more substantial to take customers away from the Desire. Probably what it would need most would be an equal or better level of appeal in the hand and, more importantly, a high standard of usability.

As a spec-off, show down, you probably have to hand it to the Acer Stream but it doesn't take a gadget genius to tell that the story in practice is going to be very different to that on paper.

From what we’ve seen so far, the Stream certainly looks solid, but hasn’t quite delivered the step up it would need for anyone to choose it over the Desire despite the obvious improvements on a good design. But, with a new generation of HTC Android phones on the way, is it a case of too little too late for Acer? We’ll leave the final word to our upcoming review.