Acer Iconia Tab A500 review
A competent Android 3 tablet, but just loses out to the Asus Eee Pad Transformer in the value stakes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Price ex VAT||£375|
|Price inc VAT||£450|
|Features & Design||4|
|Value for Money||5|
|Dimensions||260 x 13 x 176mm (WDH)|
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,280|
|Resolution screen vertical||800|
|Display type||Graphical LCD|
|CPU frequency, MHz||1,000MHz|
|Camera megapixel rating||5.0mp|
|Upstream USB ports||1|
|Mobile operating system||Android 3|