Perhaps the biggest problem currently with Windows 8 tablets is that they don’t play well with the portrait form factor and there are no tablets that are smaller than 10-inches. Acer, today, changed all that as it launched the Iconia W3 in India which becomes the first 8.1-inch Windows 8 tablet. Originally announced at Computex earlier this month, it has been launched for an opening price of Rs 27,999 in India. Acer has warned that the price of the product could go up to Rs 30,999 if the Rupee continues to be as weak against the Dollar. We had the opportunity to play around with the device for a bit, so read on for our first impressions.

Just to get the ball rolling, we have to say that the Iconia W3 is not going win any slenderness awards as at 11mm it is quite thick for a tablet of its class. That said, when one considers most Windows 8 tablets in the market, this one handily takes the cake. It is by far the most comfortable Windows 8 tablet we have used and can be easily operated with one hand. The weight also helps because at 500 grams it’s not very hefty.

One advantage of the form factor is that, it supports USB ports and has a microHDMI port, so it’s a more flexible tablet than say most Android tablets or the iPad just because it is running a full version of Windows. Want to copy a file, no problem! Want to transfer music, no problem!

On the flip side, the display on the Iconia W3 is a lowly 1280×800 pixel screen which to us was a little washed out and clearly did not have the deepest black levels. But we thought the unique form factor would allow it to be a more usable tablet in terms of content consumption while in portrait mode, unfortunately this was not to be because Windows 8, still is not very optimized for that view and the text becomes even smaller when in portrait view, which made our eyeballs cringe.

Performance wise, it was pretty smooth. Internally, it has the Intel CloverTrail Z2760 chipset which is a dual-core chipset clocked at 1.8GHz which works in tandem with 2GB of RAM and has 32GB of internal memory. This means if you are not gunning for a lot of heavy duty work, then the tablet should work just fine.

It also packs in 2-megapixel dual cameras on the front and back. We did not test the cameras in the short time we had with the product.

Acer claims a battery life of 8 hours which is not exactly earth shattering, but should be good enough for most. We’d preferred the battery life to higher considering the higher battery life of the iPad. Perhaps, this is a limitation of Windows 8 running on the Intel Atom chipset which is considered to be more power hungry than ARM based chipsets.

Notably, Acer is also bundling the student edition of Microsoft Office 2013, with the Iconia W3, which sweetens the deal further, but considering the Bluetooth keyboard is an optional accessory and Office in its current form is not exactly touch optimized this may not prove to be the best solution for most. The problem gets accentuated by the smaller screen on which desktop apps become even harder to operate due to the tiny touch points.

Overall, the Iconia W3 is shaping up to be a decent solution for someone who needs the power of Windows in a small package. That said, the deficiencies of the OS and the ecosystem will remain a problem and till that is sorted out we are not too sure about its prospects as a great work and play companion. Of course this is not our final opinion about the product plus the fact that Windows 8.1 will improve the experience further. We’d suggest to wait for our final review.

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