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Acer Liquid Leap Fitness Band Underwhelms

Acer wants to prove it can make wearables too, but we were underwhelmed by the company's Liquid Leap wristband. The lightweight "smartband" is a fitness tracker, sleep monitor and smartwatch in one, but just performs the most basic functions of each.

During our hands-on time with the Leap we liked the color options of orange, blue, pink and black, as well as the physical design. The rubbery strap of the Leap was soft and pliable, and the device was impressively light, looking very similar to the Jawbone Up. But we were otherwise unimpressed.

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As a fitness tracker, the Leap -- which is expected to retail for $100 -- uses a built-in pedometer to track your number of steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and time spent working out. That makes it about as useful as one of many smartphones on the market that carry a pedometer onboard or an accelerometer to trace your steps. Fitness trackers such as the Jawbone Up, Withings Pulse and Fitbit Force can trace how deep you're sleeping, your heart rate and how high you're climbing respectively.

As a sleep monitor, the Leap times how long you've slept, nothing else. You've got to remember to go to your wrist and tap start before going to bed, and then check in again when you wake up though. So it's essentially a timer.

All the collected information is transmitted via Bluetooth 4.0 to a companion app called the Leap Manager so you can understand your fitness at a glance, and see if you've met set goals.

As a smartwatch, the Leap tells you the date and time. It also alerts you when you receive a message on your linked phone and shows you the full message instead of just telling you a message arrived. You can also control your music from the band -- play, pause and skip.

The device frequently went to sleep after seconds of inactivity. We hope this is something you can tweak in settings, although it wasn't clear during our demo whether that is possible.

One disorienting thing about the Leap is its orientation. The display switches between landscape and portrait orientation -- landscape when you're in apps such as the fitness and tracking tools, portrait in the apps menu. It's not difficult to understand at a glance, but we imagine it might get a little annoying to read long messages in horizontal mode even though you'd mostly hold the device up in portrait.

Another limitation of the Leap is that it will only work with Acer's Liquid Jade smartphone, although we did see it being linked to another Acer smartphone at the company's booth. It's not clear whether the device will arrive stateside.

Follow Cherlynn Low at @CherlynnLow and on Google+. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.