Acer offers just two choices of Iconia W4 models, but we won't complain too loudly given the appealing prices. You can snag a 32GB model for under $300, or at least $80 less than an equivalent W3 cost when new. Your other option, the 64GB variant, is still less expensive than the 32GB original at $350. There are even better deals available if you hunt around; we've seen the 32GB W4 discounted to $250 at Amazon. Of the two W4 variants, you'll want to splurge on the 64GB device so long as you're not strapped for cash. It didn't take long for us to chew up half of the 52GB of free space, and that was after installing a handful of benchmark tools, games and productivity apps. The 32GB Iconia W4 is best for those who tend to keep only small files (think Office documents) and get most of their content from the cloud.
As we mentioned, the only real official W4 accessory is the $80 Bluetooth keyboard. There's a chance that cases and other W3-oriented add-ons will work, but we'd recommend trying these older accessories before you buy to avoid any rude surprises.
When the Iconia W3 arrived, it was an easy choice; there weren't any other small Windows tablets on store shelves. Flash forward to early 2014, though, and the Iconia W4 is facing a glut of competition. There isn't even much to separate the W4 from the pack at first blush. As a general rule, you can expect each of these devices to carry a 1,280 x 800 screen, a 1.33GHz Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, at least 32GB of storage and an official $300 price point. They even go on sale at similar prices (you can pick up either the W4 or Venue 8 Pro for $250, as an example). Does Acer have a chance of standing out?
Yes, actually. The W4's most obvious competitor is the Dell Venue 8 Pro, but it's not as strong a contender as you might think. Acer typically comes out ahead with a longer-lasting battery, micro-HDMI video and a higher-resolution front camera. Dell's main weapon is its pen support; if you like to take handwritten notes, the Venue will make more sense. We could also see some customers preferring Dell's more grippable chassis, although it's not so important that we'd ignore other factors.
Other compact Windows tablets don't usually fare much better. At its official $329 price, ASUS' VivoTab Note 8 isn't easy to justify unless you crave Wacom pen input. Lenovo's Miix 2 is lighter at 0.77 pounds, but its seven-hour claimed battery life and lack of video output may take it off your list; it no longer has a meaningful price advantage. The one competitor that catches our eye is the Toshiba Encore. With an 8-megapixel rear camera, micro-HDMI and that extra-long runtime, it's potentially an ideal tablet if you can find a good bargain (it's $270 at Newegg as we write this). We'll be testing the Encore soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
If money isn't an object, there's the Lenovo ThinkPad 8. It costs at least $100 more than the Iconia W4, but you also get more -- a faster processor, a higher-resolution screen, premium build quality and a sharper camera. There are options for 4G data and up to 128GB of storage, too. While we've yet to test the ThinkPad beyond a hands-on, you'll want to at least consider it if you're looking for the best possible 8-inch Windows device.
Going into this review, we were skeptical that Acer could fend off its challengers. And yet, for the most part, it has. The Iconia W4 has the screen we were looking for the first time around, better battery life than some of its peers and the performance to handle most apps with grace. As long as you're a fan of Windows 8.1 to start with, the big knocks against the W4 are limited to its relative heft, poor speakers and lack of native stylus support.
Having said this, the Iconia W4 doesn't break any molds. The battery and display are good, but not spectacular; you'll want to look to the Toshiba Encore for a longevity champion. The cameras won't have you ditching your smartphone, and mobile OS tablets at this size still tend to have both higher-resolution screens and wider native app selections. Even so, the W4 represents a lot of tablet for the money. If you're intrigued by running desktop-grade software on a miniature tablet, it's worth checking out.
Daniel Orren and Edgar Alvarez contributed to this review.