Review: Acer Iconia Tab A500

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The tablets just keep on coming. Not to be outdone by their Taiwanese competitor, Acer has released their take on the Google’s tablet OS – the Iconia Tab A500. Hardware-wise, it’s near identical to the Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 in the bits that count – namely the dual-core NVIDIA Tegra processor that powers everything – so it’ll be interesting to see what the A500 brings to the table.

First impressions are everything, and boy does the A500 bring out the big guns immediately. The A500’s back is treated with a nice, brushed aluminum finish, and the overall design evokes images of sleek, solid machines.

The left side of the device houses the power button, headphone jack and a mini HDMI port, while the right side contains the charging, micro USB and USB port. The top of the device contains the volume rocker and orientation lock and a small flap that protects a microSD slot. There’s a docking connector on the bottom of the device, so it’s not hard to picture the A500 having a keyboard dock in the near future. The screen is 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 TFT LCD deal. On paper the display seems inferior to similarly sized IPS displays, but in practice that wasn’t the case.

The A500 has a 5-megapixel camera at the back and a smaller front facing camera on the front. Unlike other tablets, the A500 has very nice speakers on the back that actually belt out sharable sound. The whole thing weighs in at about 730g, which is a bit on the heavy side, considering the iPad 2 only weighs in at 601g.

Like its contemporaries, the A500 is powered by Android Honeycomb, Google’s tablet OS. The device we got for review had the newer, 3.1 update which meant that it could take some USB devices without issues, like USB controllers. Providing all the number crunching muscle is a dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 1Ghz processor.

There’s not a lot about Honeycomb that we haven’t covered in our previous review, so we’re not going to delve on it too much. Suffice to say that using the A500’s doesn’t veer too far off of the stock Honeycomb experience. Acer’s included an app that takes advantage of their clear.fi experience, which is basically a fancy way of sharing digital content through similarly enabled devices.

Battery life was good – the A500 managed to survive a weekend with occasional trips to Google and YouTube without much trouble. Heavier use (longer browsing, videos, music and gaming) made the A500 tap out from a full charge in about 7 hours.

The biggest weakness of the A500 is something that Acer has no control of – software. A few months ago when we reviewed its competitor, the Asus Transformer, we said that one of our main concerns were the scarcity of apps in the Android Market specifically made for Honeycomb. A few months on and that particular complaint is still valid – I mean, there isn’t even a native Honeycomb app for Facebook. If you want to use this device to access Facebook, you’d have to go through the browser first.

As nice as the A500 is, there are chinks in the design – a firm squeeze reveals some slight creaks, and its weight makes it uncomfortable to use when lying down, as it constantly threatens to fall on your face lest you drop your guard. The display, as good as it is, is a natural magnet for greasy fingerprints, so you may want to keep a handkerchief in the A500’s carrying case.

So is the Iconia Tab A500 worth it? Yes – as long as you’re willing to accept some of the relatively minor faults in the product, and Honeycomb’s underwhelming app selection. At Php 21,900, its price definitely makes it a solid contender in the fast growing local tablet market.

 

What’s Hot:

Orientation switch

Very competitively priced

Good screen

clear.fi makes sharing between Acer products easier

 

What’s Not:

Some slight creaks

Heavy

Screen is prone to glare

 

Bottomline:

Yes it does have some flaws, but at the price Acer is asking for it, it’s definitely a tablet that you should seriously consider.

 

Buymeter: 8.6

 

Tech Specs:

  • Display
  • 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 TFT LCD
  • Operating System
  • Android Honeycomb, 3.1
  • Processor
  • 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual Core processor, Tegra 2 chipset
  • Physical Dimensions
  • 260 x 177 x 13.3 mm
  • Weight
  • 730 g