Acer Iconia Tab W500 review

31 Mar 2011

A poorly executed and expensive attempt to create a hybrid of two popular form factors

Price when reviewed: 
530(£530 inc VAT)
3

“PC or tablet? Choose both,” begins Acer’s description of its Iconia Tab W500, before going on to call its dual-function design “the best of both worlds”. The first of those two quotes is technically correct, but you’d have to be very new to mobile computing to come away agreeing with the second.

It isn’t that the concept is a bad one. The W500 is made up of two distinct elements: the 10.1in Windows 7 tablet and the removable keyboard dock, cleverly designed to fit perfectly together into the shape of a netbook when closed for carrying. A small latch on the front edge of the keyboard holds the two parts together like a traditional laptop lid, and as a whole it feels about as thick and weighty as a netbook from a year or two ago – a small price to pay for such flexibility.

Flip the latch, however, and rather than opening upwards like a laptop, the two segments simply come apart in your hands – a surprise that caused panicked fumbles as we handed it to unwitting test subjects. Instead, to make the necessary connection you have to open the flap behind the keyboard and slot the tablet into the USB dock that emerges.

In that mode, it functions much like any netbook. The base has a USB 2 port on either edge, along with an Ethernet socket for when you’re at your desk. To make room for the dock, the keyboard has shifted forward towards the user, occupying the space where once would have been a wristrest and trackpad. Instead you get a perfectly usable trackpoint, along with some rather skinny mouse buttons on the front edge. If your experience matches ours, you may find yourself clicking the space bar by mistake until you get used to the cramped layout.

Acer Iconia Tab W500

It also performs much like a netbook. It has 2GB of RAM and an AMD C-50 processor, which unfortunately meant it aped the recent Toshiba NB550D in refusing to install Sony Vegas Pro 10. Disabling that element of our benchmarks, performance was almost identical to the Toshiba, putting it a shade behind an Atom netbook in everyday applications but quicker in media tasks. It also coped with the TrackMania Nations Forever 3D benchmark relatively well, averaging 18fps at Medium quality settings and the screen’s native 1,280 x 800 resolution. Finally, the battery gave us 5hrs 8mins of light use – distinctly average by netbook standards.

Details

Price ex VAT £442
Price inc VAT £530
Overall rating 3
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 3
Performance 2

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 275 x 188 x 37mm (WDH)
Weight 1.560kg
Travelling weight N/A

Processor and memory

Processor AMD C-50
Motherboard chipset AMD Fusion
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 10.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,280
Resolution screen vertical 800
Resolution 1280 x 800
Graphics chipset AMD Radeon HD 6250
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk SSD
Optical disc technology none
Optical drive N/A
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
Pointing device type Trackpoint
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Hardware volume control? yes
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 8min
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied N/A