Acer Iconia A500 Tablet Review

 

a500

When you think of Android, Acer might not have the brand name clout of the bigger names such as HTC or Samsung, but where they have been strong is in the Netbook sector. Perhaps it is that success that has brought Acer’s first Android Tablet offering to market, with the Acer Iconia A500. Surprisingly this is no second rate offering and is easily comparable to the Xooms and Galaxies of this world, but without the $900+ price tag!

Read on after the break for the review.

Pros

  • Fast Nvidia Tegra 250 Dual 1ghz Chip set
  • 1GB RAM
  • Pure AOSP Honeycomb Experience
  • Affordable (Currently on sale at JB Hifi)

Cons

  • A Little heavy
  • Honeycomb not fully optimised
  • Screen terrible in Sunlight

Acer aren’t my number one pick when it comes to hardware. I’ve seen some solid offerings from them in the Aspire One series netbook, but generally not that impressed with their other kit. But the A500 really surprised me. The screen is bright and responsive 10″ LCD running at 1280×800 and has decent viewing angles, only starting to really wash out at about the 170* angle. It is however complete rubbish in sunlight and you can see the capacitive matrix underneath it and not much else unless you crank the brightness all the way up. The casing is a brushed metal with minimal seams on the back. At 730g it comes in a bit heftier than the competition such as the iPad2′s 600g, my arm did ache after an hour or so of e-book reading. On the left side is a micro HDMI port for video and on the right an external USB for external devices, something that Galaxy and Xoom lack. Plus the standard Android fare like microSD card, volume rocker and a handy orientation lock switch! This model is Wifi Only – the A501 with 3G is coming later.

Under the hood its powered by the Nvidia Tegra 250 (Dual 1ghz) that is powering most of the Honeycomb fleet and 16gb of storage and 1gb of RAM – which surprised me as even the Asus Transformer doesnt pack in that much. Performance is consistently smooth, the Iconia has given me the fastest Angry Birds experience I’ve seen yet! Also playing the included NFS:Shift blew my Galaxy Tab 7″ out of the water!

The camera is a fairly standard 5mp rear, with LED Flash and 2mp front facing camera. Software is the standard Honeycomb camera app. They give fairly standard, if washed out image. The front facing camera is in the top right of the portrait view which makes GTalk video conversations a little awkward to hold and keep yourself in view at the same time. I can’t help thinking if it were 2 inches to the left it would be a lot easier! The battery is touted as giving 10hrs of use. I found with about 6hrs of fairly consistent web browsing and Kobo book reading the battery wore down to about 68%. So that should put it on track to something like the advertised 10hrs.

 

Honeycomb

The Honeycomb OS is fairly close to standard AOSP build. It runs smooth, but as many other reviewers have stated, Honeycomb feels not quite finished. It is prone to slow downs and even a couple of crashes that I couldn’t reproduce. I have faith though that it will mature in time. There are a couple of Acer attempts at customisation, including Acer’s E-book and Multimedia Apps. These are simply lists of icons to other multimedia or e-book readers. Good work there Acer…

The Acer Iconia A500 is by no means the top of the line Honeycomb tablet. It’s heavy, its blinded in the sun, cameras are average and Honeycomb is still finding its feet. It is however fast performing, well built and is pretty much a Google Experience device. But the best thing about it, is the price!

It’s currently onsale at JB Hifi for $547

Matthew McNutt is a guest reviewer who wrote this piece for Ausdroid.

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  • PeteG

    I’ve had a play with our demo unit several times now and it is surprisingly quick .. not being a big fan of acer hardware myself I was quite surprised with the over quality and speed of this tablet. Not a bad effort at all for a first out the gate android tab from acer. Angry Birds Rio rocks on this device as it is tablet optimised unlike the standard angry birds app.

  • http://profiles.google.com/aryonoco Aryan Ameri

    Need to add to Pros:
    - Working microSD card port (which the Xoom doesn’t have, for some peculiar reason)
    - Full size USB port which can be used with USB flash memory or external HDD or keyboard
    - Brushed aluminium back cover (can be subjective, but most people like it)

    As for the weight, I believe too much attention is being paid to too little difference. It’s 730g, the same weight as the iPad 1 and the Xoom. Yes, the iPad 2 and the new Samsung are lighter, but only by about 130g. Is that actually big enough a difference that would make you change your tablet usage?

    I consider all currently tablets heavy for one-handed usage. Perhaps when/if they get to 350-400g range, they are much more usable. Until then, you basically have to put it down after a while, whether it’s this Iconia A500 or the iPad 2.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mcnuttmatt Matthew McNutt

      I suppose for me, I came from using the Galaxy Tab 7″ and it weighs a mere 385g – so I’m a little biased from that

  • Anonymous

    Nice review.
    With the full size USB port, would it be possible to plug in a 3G dongle or something similar, for net when you’re not near a wifi hotspot?

    • http://www.facebook.com/mcnuttmatt Matthew McNutt

      There is a thread on XDA Developers working on this already – they have it working for the browser but not for 3rd party apps

      http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1058846

    • Lap

      I think the thing most ppl are doing is simply tethering to their phones as ‘droid doesnt recognise that kind of device at present, maybe 3.1?

  • DAAN

    man can you guys get a better camera to take photos :)

  • DAAN

    man can you guys get a better camera to take photos :)

  • Dsmith6182

    Had a quick play of oe in JB HiFi today. Seemed to be built quite well, and worked very smoothly. Will wait to see what the new samsung tabs and xoom are like before deciding. $547 isn’t a bad price though.

  • Chichi

    Why dont you invest in a better camera. the pictures you have above look like they were taken via a webcam.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wjbeckett William Beckett

    Just FYI. If you’re looking to customize this tab, it has locked boot loaders. so the folks over at XDA are having a few issues at the moment. If you’re wanting a tab that doesn’t have locked loaders, go for the Xoom or the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The Galaxy Tab was given to the 5000 dev’s at I/O yesterday and is already rooted…

  • Mist17

    it isn’t locked if you look at xda forums it was rooted really easily

    • http://profiles.google.com/wjbeckett William Beckett

      It IS locked. Yes it can be rooted but the bootloader is locked. This is preventing any type of custom rom to be created or heavy modifications to be done.

  • Pracy

    $420 at HN while 20% sale is decent value til Mon..

  • Mused

    Got one from Officeworks for $400.05 on Friday. Loving it!

  • Pracy

    At $400 this tab can not be beaten at the moment. My thoughts so far are;
    -tab is fast and smooth and really provides a much better experience then any other early Gen tab.
    -it is a heavy tab and that has an impact. Its a 2 hand device and the common objects around the house tables are not heavy enough to lean it against.
    -for Acer the build quality is better then expected but still not perfect.
    -camera and mic are useless. Google talk is useless with the cam and mic being so crap.
    -screen appears to have no anti gear, no fingerprint resistance either.

    They can be the only complaints as it really is a great tab for the price. Web pages, utube, flash etc all work perfect. Typing is also good. Its good enough that I won’t be buying an Asus etc straight away as I had planned.

    • Mused

      Agreed. I was keen on the Transformer but considering all it really
      offers is a higher quality screen (debatable?) and USB charging, I think
      I’ll stick with my Acer for a while!

      My bullet point review:

      Pros:

      - Generally fast and smooth (although I have had some issues, I think they are Honeycomb related)

      - Build quality is good (for a $400 device anyway!)

      - USB slot and SD card slot (on the Transformer, the USB port is on the keyboard. FAIL!!)

      Cons:

      - Strange quirks with the device (it has comes out of standby by its self on in the middle of the night once or twice)

      - Fingerprint magnet

      - Locked bootloader (not a huge deal at the moment anyway, I think I’ll worry about ROMs etc with the next gen tabs)

    • Mused

      Agreed. I was keen on the Transformer but considering all it really
      offers is a higher quality screen (debatable?) and USB charging, I think
      I’ll stick with my Acer for a while!

      My bullet point review:

      Pros:

      - Generally fast and smooth (although I have had some issues, I think they are Honeycomb related)

      - Build quality is good (for a $400 device anyway!)

      - USB slot and SD card slot (on the Transformer, the USB port is on the keyboard. FAIL!!)

      Cons:

      - Strange quirks with the device (it has comes out of standby by its self on in the middle of the night once or twice)

      - Fingerprint magnet

      - Locked bootloader (not a huge deal at the moment anyway, I think I’ll worry about ROMs etc with the next gen tabs)

  • Alarmist

    I bought this thing on a head full of what it promised to do from its glossy display in the store.
    I found using it very f’;g ANNOYING!! It p’d me off sooo often that I think I should have spent my money elsewhere.
    It failed to deliver on speed to lock onto a satellite for a GPS fix – the metal back case seems to block the signal if you’re in a car and attempting to use it for track logging or navigation, in this attempted use it would drop out very frequently unless the satellites were available through the right windows.
    WiFi connections seem to suffer in a similar way and even after I get a connection to my phone in AP mode I give up and log in using my Laptop because the tablet doesn’t seem to want to go online. To top it off I can’t find out why it won’t – I suspect it is some problem with DNS allocations.

    My summary – don’t buy, there are better machines out there for a little more money that actually do work, when you want them to.

    Nic Tomlin.
    +61468324683

  • Jtacdolta911225

    Does anyone know how to import pics onto this acer