Acer Iconia A1 review

17 Aug 2013

An attractive price, but a poor screen and mediocre real-world performance put paid to this tablet’s aspirations

Price when reviewed: 
169(£170 inc VAT)
Buy it now for 
3

If you’d told us a couple of years ago we’d be reviewing 8in tablets costing £170 we’d have laughed you out of the room. Yet that’s exactly the price Acer is asking for its Iconia A1 – it’s £100 cheaper than the iPad mini.

The big question is how many compromises Acer has made to hit such a low price point. It starts off on the right foot, with a resolution of 768 x 1,024, which although low compared to many compact tablets we've seen, matches the iPad mini, pixel for pixel. Its 3:4 aspect ratio works well when browsing web pages, and feels noticeably more spacious than the 10:16 panels of its 7in rivals.

The panel falls behind in terms of quality, though. The touchscreen layer adds an unwelcome dose of graininess, and, when we measured it with our colorimeter, we found the screen to be rather dimmer than we'd like. Its maximum brightness is only 235cd/m2; although this is fine indoors, it’s almost unusable in bright sunlight. The way the panel presents colours isn’t particularly vibrant, either.

Acer Iconia A1

Unlike its many ARM-powered peers, the Iconia employs a MediaTek processor. The MT8389W is a quad-core chip that runs at 1.2GHz, and it’s paired with 1GB of RAM. This helped the Acer to achieve a Geekbench result of 1,327, and its four cores easily outpaced the single-core Asus Fonepad, which scored 582 in the same test. The Iconia’s GFXBench result of 5.3fps was more middle-of-the-road, however.

These decent benchmark results translated to mixed real-world performance. Menus and web pages scrolled smoothly, but navigating around the OS felt sluggish, and apps loaded slowly. Basic games such as the 2D side-scrolling Rayman Jungle Run ran smoothly, but the more demanding Real Racing 3 dropped frames noticeably when the action heated up.

The Iconia’s battery life of 8hrs 3mins isn’t wonderful, either, falling almost five hours short of the Fonepad’s result in our looping video test. It also misses out on several key items of hardware. It has no light sensor for automatic control of display brightness, and there’s no sign of NFC. The Fonepad has both.

The one big plus point for the Acer is that it’s loaded with the latest version of Android – 4.2.2 – which brings several useful features, including multiple user profiles and lockscreen widgets. There’s also a selection of Acer software, although these apps are of less interest. The most useful is AcerCloud, a cloud storage service similar to Dropbox, but it’s hobbled by its reliance on Acer’s software. For example, photos must be uploaded from Acer’s own photo app, rather than via the Android Gallery.

Acer Iconia A1

Unusually for a budget tablet, the Acer Iconia A1 has both rear- and front-facing cameras, at 5 megapixels and 0.3 megapixels respectively. Both are fixed-focus, though, and quality is poor, with a lack of detail throughout our test shots.

The A1 isn’t physically impressive, either. The plastic chassis flexes when you squeeze the rear panel, and neither the glossy black bezel nor the white rear panel are particularly attractive. A micro-HDMI socket and microSD slot add versatility, but the sturdier, more attractive Fonepad has a microSD slot, too.

The price might look attractive initially, but the Iconia A1 is a damp squib. Its screen is grainy and dim; it isn’t the smoothest or slickest tablet; the battery life is average; and we’re not sold on the physical design. Ultimately, you’re better off opting for a smaller-screened device.

Detail

Price ex VAT £141
Price inc VAT £169
Warranty 1yr collect and return
Overall rating 3
Performance 3
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 4

Physical

Dimensions 146 x 11 x 209mm (WDH)
Weight 400g

Display

Screen size 7.9in
Resolution screen horizontal 768
Resolution screen vertical 1,024
Display type TFT

Battery

Battery capacity 3,250mAh

Core specifications

CPU frequency, MHz 1.2GHz
Integrated memory 16.0GB
RAM capacity 1.00GB

Camera

Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Focus type Autofocus
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Other

WiFi standard 802.11bgn
Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes
HDMI output? no
Video/TV output? no

Software

Mobile operating system Android 4.2.2

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