Acer Iconia A1-830 review

29 May 2014

Not as good as the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HDX 7in, but Acer’s second stab at a budget 7.9in tablet is a good performer for the money

Price when reviewed 
138
Buy it now for 
4

Last year’s Acer Iconia A1 7.9in Android tablet failed to impress us: its low £169 price was unable to make up for a grainy screen and lacklustre performance. This time around, Acer has fitted the Iconia A1-830 with a higher-frequency, dual-core Intel Atom CPU and lowered the price even further to £138. Continue reading for our Acer Iconia A1-830 review.

Acer Iconia A1-830

The Iconia’s IPS panel is a big step up from its predecessor’s display, yielding adequate, if uninspiring image quality. With a resolution of 1,024 x 768, it has a relatively low pixel density of 162ppi, but even this isn’t too much of a problem. Yes, there’s stair-stepping visible if you look closely at text, but otherwise it’s barely noticeable. See also the 11 best tablets of 2014

More importantly, quality is fine. In our tests, the panel’s LED backlight topped out at a respectable 337cd/m², meaning that using the Iconia outdoors isn’t out of the question. Images stand out thanks to a contrast ratio of 843:1, but as with many budget tablet displays, lower-end greys have a tendency to blend into black, resulting in a loss of shadow detail. The panel’s colour fidelity is good for the most part, although skin tones, reds and oranges take on a slightly washed-out, anaemic quality.

Similarly, the Iconia’s 7.9in touchscreen is unspectacular, but serviceable. The onscreen keyboard works well, with no lag, and we found the screen to be responsive for the most part, bar one or two occasions where lighter prods or gestures weren’t registered.

Unusually for an Android tablet, the Iconia A1 is driven by a dual-core Hyper-Threaded Intel Atom – in this case a dual-core Z5260. It completed the SunSpider JavaScript test in 457ms, not too far behind the Apple iPad mini 2 with Retina display’s score of 418ms. Its Geekbench 3 score was somewhat less impressive, however, delivering single- and multi-core results of 460 and 1,064 respectively.

Acer Iconia A1-830

While this can’t hope to match the performance of our current favourites, the Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7in, it’s better than we expected. We had to open a large number of apps before the Iconia exhibited any noticeable lag; navigating around Android 4.2 felt smooth; and zooming, panning and scrolling around web pages was as fluid as we could have hoped for.

The Iconia is surprisingly games-capable for a budget tablet, too, and managed a respectable score of 14.4fps in the GFXBench T-Rex HD gaming test at native resolution. You won’t be playing high-end games at top detail levels, but the majority of titles should be playable, thanks to the low resolution. We were even able to play Asphalt 8: Airborne without tearing our hair out in frustration.

The Iconia’s build and design is also superior to its predecessor. The white rear panel has been replaced with a sturdier, less flexible, matte-plastic panel with a metallic finish. The black bezels are now white, giving the tablet the tastefully cohesive looks of an Apple product. The chassis adds very little extra bulk and the back panel curves at the edges just enough to prevent it digging into your flesh when held in one hand. That’s not to say the Iconia’s build is perfect: while it isn’t as creaky as its forebear, the back panel exhibited slightly too much flex when squeezed for the tablet to feel really top-end.

While build, processing and graphical performance are more than adequate considering the price, it’s clear that battery life is one of the main areas where costs have been cut. With the screen set to 120cd/m² and a low-resolution video left looping continuously, the Iconia persevered for a mere 8hrs 33mins, more than three hours short of the Nexus 7.

Acer Iconia A1-830

The Iconia isn’t exactly bristling with expansion options, possessing only a micro-USB port that doubles as the charging point, a 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD card slot, with no HDMI output, but it isn’t unusual in this regard. There’s a 5-megapixel rear camera, which takes extremely grainy photographs that are horribly lacking in detail. The 2-megapixel front camera is even worse, bathing images in a murky gloom. The speakers found at the bottom of the tablet’s back panel are quiet and tinny, and bass is almost completely inaudible.

Perhaps more disappointing is that the Iconia equipped with only Android 4.2, now two years out of date. Acer has preinstalled a couple of applications of its own to sweeten the deal, but these aren’t particularly exciting: Life Image is an inconsequential scrapbook app for collecting and arranging photographs; then there’s AcerCloud, a data-backup and file-synchronisation service with a user-friendly interface.

Like the Iconia A1 before it, the Acer Iconia A1-830’s price is highly attractive. However, unlike its predecessor, the A1-830 boasts passable performance and screen quality, plus marginally better build quality. In the overall scheme of things, the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX 7in are better quality all-round, with superior displays, quicker performance and longer battery life, but at a lower £138, this tablet has some budget appeal.

Detail

Price ex VAT £115
Price inc VAT £138
Overall rating 4
Performance 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4

Physical

Dimensions 136 x 6.3 x 203mm (WDH)
Weight 388g

Display

Screen size 7.9in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,024
Resolution screen vertical 768
Display type IPS touchscreen
Panel technology IPS

Core specifications

Integrated memory 16.0GB
RAM capacity 1MB

Camera

Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes

Other

WiFi standard 802.11n

Software

Mobile operating system Android 4.2

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