The Acer F900 is one of Acer's first breed of smartphones, sporting a 3.8in touchscreen and running Windows Mobile.

Global PC vendor Acer made its first move into the smartphones market at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month and we had a chance to sit down and try out a few of the new devices in Taipei.

The handsets are all courtesy of a company called E-Ten Information Systems that Acer bought last year. The company originally designed GPS devices, which you'll find on nearly all of its smartphones, and expanded into smartphones a few years ago with Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS.

The Acer F900 is a complete 3G touchscreen smartphone with built-in camera, computing and more, that runs on Windows Mobile 6.1 software. It differentiates itself from the rest of the pack almost immediately with a 3.8in touchscreen, among the biggest we've handled.

The Acer F900 is the more stylish of the two, thinner and meant for just about anyone. The Acer M900 is armed with a slide-out qwerty keyboard that makes it a little bulkier. It's aimed at business users.

The Acer F900 is 12.85 millimeters thick, slightly bigger than the iPhone 3G's 12.3mm, and measures 117.5mm tall by 63.5mm wide. Some reports have said looks a lot like Samsung Electronics' Omnia. There is a resemblance, but the fact is many smartphones with large screens on the front look similar, and almost all are compared to the smartphone that initiated the touchscreen fad, the iPhone.

The nice thing about the 3.8in screen on the Acer F900 is the sharp picture quality. The resolution on the screen is 800x480, which is the same as High Tech Computer (HTC)'s Touch Diamond2 and Touch Pro2, and better than the 480x320 resolution on the iPhone 3G.

That's a good thing, too, because you need a big screen with good picture quality for the Acer Shell user interface (UI).

The Acer F900's UI was so much fun to try out.

Acer F900 and M900

Most mobile phone makers that use Microsoft Windows Mobile software develop a UI for easier touchscreen navigation. Windows Mobile still requires too many steps to get your songs, contacts and whatnot.

Acer Shell simplifies navigation by making the home screen a room with a desk and window inside, and each of the objects in the room, a total of nine, will take you directly to content when tapped.

A calendar hanging on the wall, for example, displays the date and time, and will take you to your appointment book. A rolodex icon will convey you to contacts. One nifty aspect of the software is that the picture of the last contact you called will be displayed on the rolodex icon on your home screen. A picture frame icon in the room will take you to the camera and your pictures, and it too will display the last picture you viewed.

A window in the back of the home screen room shows the day's weather. The sun was shining in the little window on the day we tested the handset. Nice.

Tap the window and you're transported to a view of the earth, which rotates when you tap on icons of five different places you've pre-set for weather information. The same globe is used for time. You can pre-set five different cities and the phone will keep track of the time. The globe on the screen rotates to the location of the city you've tapped, too.

There are other icons.

An icon of a mobile phone on the desk goes to the phone function of the handset, and missed calls will be shown as a number on its face. Similarly, a letter icon is for email and a number on the face of the letter lets you know how many emails are waiting for you to read. A message on the desk is for SMSs.

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The colour of the home screen is mostly shades of blue, from very light to very dark. Other colours pop in when photos are in the picture frame or on the rolodex, or a CD cover is on the music player.

We had a lot of fun playing with the Acer F900's UI and the touchscreen worked fast. The only drawback was once we got into Windows Mobile, the tasks became more tedious.

For people who already use and like the Windows Mobile 6.1 UI, the Acer F900 can be switched to that instead, or a quick menu that resembles the iPhone's home screen.

The Acer F900 has a lot of other features, including connectivity through Wi-Fi or HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) and more that you can find on Acer's website.

NEXT PAGE: our expert verdict

Acer F900 and M900

Acer F900: Specs

  • Samsung SC3 6410, 533MHz
  • Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard
  • ROM: 256MB
  • 128MB RAM/256MB ROM
  • 3.8 inches, 480 x 800 pixels, 65 536 colours, TFT display
  • GSM Quad-band phone capable of global roaming (850/900/1800/1900MHz), UMTS tri-band global 3G (850/1900/2100MHz), GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA 1.8 Mbit/s/HSDPA 3.6 Mbit/s/HSUPA
  • Built-in GPS
  • Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 b/g, MiniUSB
  • MicroSD/MicroSDHC
  • 3.2 megapixel colour camera with fixed focus
  • Built-in microphone and speaker
  • 1530mAh lithium ion
  • 117.5x63.5x15.8mm
  • 150g
  • Samsung SC3 6410, 533MHz
  • Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard
  • ROM: 256MB
  • 128MB RAM/256MB ROM
  • 3.8 inches, 480 x 800 pixels, 65 536 colours, TFT display
  • GSM Quad-band phone capable of global roaming (850/900/1800/1900MHz), UMTS tri-band global 3G (850/1900/2100MHz), GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA 1.8 Mbit/s/HSDPA 3.6 Mbit/s/HSUPA
  • Built-in GPS
  • Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 b/g, MiniUSB
  • MicroSD/MicroSDHC
  • 3.2 megapixel colour camera with fixed focus
  • Built-in microphone and speaker
  • 1530mAh lithium ion
  • 117.5x63.5x15.8mm
  • 150g

OUR VERDICT

Overall the Acer F900 is a very nice smartphone and certainly a good first effort for Acer.

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