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Acer Iconia Tab A500 review

Verdict

A competent Android 3 tablet, but just loses out to the Asus Eee Pad Transformer in the value stakes

Review Date: 21 Apr 2011

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £375 (£450 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

Acer's Iconia Tab A500 is the third Android 3-based tablet in a week to reach the PC Pro office. It's not as radical as the convertible Asus Eee Pad Transformer, but as a straightforward tablet it gives both Asus' offering and the Motorola Xoom a run for their money.

The hardware cuts a familiar dash. As with the Xoom and the Transformer, there's a 10.1in 1,280 x 800 resolution display, and the tablet is powered by the dual-core 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. There's 1GB of RAM and 32GB of integrated flash storage.

The A500 also sports a 5-megapixel camera on the rear and a 2-megapixel one up front, and around the edges are scattered a good selection of ports: a proprietary docking connector at the bottom, Micro HDMI on the left, micro-USB (plus an upstream USB-A port) on the right, and a microSD slot on top. For those who can’t live without 3G, the A501, including a cellular data modem, will be available from 24 May for £530. Both versions include GPS.

Acer Iconia Tab A500

Physically, the Iconia Tab A500 sits somewhere between the Xoom and the Transformer: it isn’t quite as attractive as the former, but its aluminium exterior, which wraps sensuously around the top and bottom edges of the tablet, makes it look and feel more expensive than the latter.

It’s a hefty slab, though, weighing in at 756g and measuring a broad 260mm across. That may sound close to the Xoom's 729g, 249mm frame, but the extra ballast is instantly noticeable when you pick it up. Once you’ve been holding it a while, to play games or watch video, the corners jab uncomfortably into your palms.

Performance

The Iconia is pleasingly light on its feet. Android 3’s menus and animations whizz by more smoothly than on the Xoom, and rotating the tablet from portrait to landscape mode doesn’t produce quite the same lag. Generally it feels pretty responsive.

Our performance tests back up this impression, with the Android-centric Quadrant app producing a score of 1,887, the SunSpider JavaScript test completing in two seconds and the BBC homepage loading in an average time of four seconds. The games we tested played smoothly too, from sedate titles such as Angry Birds to much more intensive titles such as Need for Speed Shift, Gun Bros and the Tegra Zone game, Fruit Ninja HD.

When panning and zooming around complex web pages, however, the Iconia Tab A500 suffers from the same slight sluggishness as other Android 3 tablets. The problem's exacerbated by the presence of Flash components, but you can mitigate that by delving into the browser’s settings and switching Enable plug-ins to On demand. Pages then load and scroll more smoothly until you activate their rich content.

Acer Iconia Tab A500

Battery life is middling. With a low-resolution podcast video on loop, and the screen set to medium brightness, the Iconia lasted 10hrs 1min in our test. That’s slightly longer than the tablet part of the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, but behind the 12hrs 47mins of the Motorola Xoom, and (as with all these Android 3 tablets) well behind the iPad or iPad 2.

Software

Acer has chosen to leave the Android 3 user interface as is, with none of the tweaks we’re used to seeing on Android-based smartphones. It has, however, thrown in a few extra apps. First up is a rather pointless, landscape-only, launch app. This duplicates the Android desktop, but with less flexibility; we suggest you remove it to free up storage space.

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User comments

Saw this in Singapore - no GPS?

Saw this in Singapore. Nice to use, but not quite as smooth as the iPad.

One question - do none of these tablets have GPS?

By DJ2003 on 27 Apr 2011

Oops found the GPS

Sorry checked the specs again - found it.

By DJ2003 on 27 Apr 2011

At last a tablet to truly compete and in our opinion 'better' the Apple iPad! At GoGoDigital we always have a play with new stock (purely for product knowledge of course!) - and we were honestly amazed by how fast and intuitive the Acer Iconia A500 is. In the past we have struggled to source a tablet that can either compete with the Apple iPad or at best be so much cheaper to account for its lack of features. The wait is over; the Acer A500 overrides the iPad in both price and features.. and we have it on special offer here: http://
www.gogodigital.co.uk/acer-iconia-a500-android-3-0
-tablet-pc-32gb-tegra-2.html

By gogodigital on 21 Jul 2011

Getting cheaper

This has come down again in price for those looking to buy this :) - http://amzn.to/ktF2hZ

By weeweeman on 21 Aug 2011

Had a play...

I had a play with one at my local MediaMarkt at the weekend.

I played around with the A500, the Packard Bell variant, as well as the iPad 1 and 2.

To be honest, the Iconia and the Packard Bell "felt" better in use and the interface looks more "modern".

I don't know what it is, but the iOS interface is starting to feel very dated...

By big_D on 29 Aug 2011

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