Acer Iconia A1 review: first look

The Acer Iconia A1 is the latest of a flurry of compact budget tablets to have hit the market recently. It was launched alongside the exotic Aspire R7 and Aspire P3 at the company's annual Global Press Conference in New York.

It's a 7.9in tablet, runs a plain looking version of Android Jelly Bean 4.2, and is clearly aimed at being a low-cost rival to the iPad mini. Both the screen size and resolution (1,024 x 768) are identical to Apple's smaller tablet, and Acer boasts it can be held one-handed too.

However, that's where the physical similarities end. The Iconia A1 is a much chunkier, thicker device, and 100g heavier at 410g. It's finished in bright white plastic rather than aluminium, and the screen surround is broader, too. It's by no means ugly, but neither is it a tablet for design snobs.

Indeed, it's all about the price with the Iconia A1. The 8GB Wi-Fi version will go for £150 when it hits the shops at the end of May, and 3G models will start at an equally reasonable £210.

And there are plenty of positives, aside from the low cost. Powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core ARM-based Mediatek processor, the Iconia A1 scored 1,571ms in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, which is perfectly acceptable – it's as fast in this test as the  iPad mini.

In use, the A1 felt spry and slick, and it's very practical. It has an HDMI output and a microSD slot for adding up to 32GB of storage, and the tablet also has a pair of cameras. On the rear, a 5-megapixel snapper lets you use the A1 as a giant camera, while the 0.3-megapixel front camera will get you videoconferencing.

And although the screen lacks sharpness (the Nexus 7's smaller, 7in screen has a higher pixel density) it did appear reasonably bright and colourful in the time we had with it. We weren't able to measure it, but under bright white lighting it remained readable and viewing angles were excellent. Not bad for a tablet this cheap.

The A1 might not be the slickest looking tablet around, then, but what it lacks in panache it more than makes up for in utility. We can't wait to get our hands on one for a more thorough test.

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