Google’s Android Honeycomb OS was the talk of the town as the calendar rolled over to 2011. Billed as Android’s first true tablet OS, most got their first look at Honeycomb during CES where it was loaded on the Motorola Xoom. Since then we have seen numerous Honeycomb-based tablets find their way to market, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the T-Mobile LG G-Slate, both products we’ve since reviewed.
Today we’ll be looking at another tablet built around Android, this time coming from a traditional PC maker, meet the Acer Iconia Tab A500.
Acer has been one of the leading netbook manufacturers in the past few years, a position that gave them the chance to grow sales in North America and in Europe. With tablets eating up on netbook sales at an accelerated pace, we can clearly see where Acer is headed with the Iconia offerings. We intend to figure out what’s Acer proposition with the Iconia Tab A500, not only from a value perspective -- a driving force of netbook sales -- but in terms of features, design and overall experience.
Powering the WiFi-only Iconia Tab is typical current-gen tablet hardware which includes an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core 1 GHz processor, 16GB of internal storage, 1GB of DDR2 system memory, front and rear facing cameras, 802.11 b/g/n WLAN and a 10.1” WXGA HD Multi-Touch Display operating at 1280 x 800.
Our unit shipped running Android version 3.0.1 with a retail price of $449. Since then the tablet has received an upgrade to Android Honeycomb version 3.1 and a price cut to $395. A 32GB model is available for a $50 premium. This pricing sets the Iconia Tab to be $100 and $150 cheaper than Apple’s iPad 2 for the same storage capacities.
If one were to compare Acer’s Iconia Tab A500 to other options on the market, it would most closely resemble Motorola’s Xoom both in fit and finish, which isn’t a bad thing though months have passed since the introduction of the Xoom, meaning there’s a lot more competition among tablets than before.
On the front of the tablet is the 10.1” display with a black bezel that stretches from left to right edge and terminates at a 90-degree angle. The top and bottom of the bezel are a rounded extension of the brushed aluminum surface found on the back of the unit. The front facing webcam is a 2 megapixel unit that is positioned on the left bezel.
The display caught our attention as you can actually see the gridlines under the screen that the touch sensors use. In similar fashion, you can see the same grid on the Motorola Xoom although it isn’t as prominent. The Apple iPad 2 uses a different display panel where there are no visible touch sensitive grids. We will return to this topic while evaluating the tablet’s outdoor performance.
On the left side of the tablet we find a power/sleep button, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a mini-HDMI jack. On the right side of the Iconia Tab is a pinhole reset button, a full size USB port, mini USB port and the power connector.
Across the top edge of the tablet is a volume rocker, orientation lock switch and a micro SD card slot under a hidden compartment. Then at the bottom is a proprietary docking connector that works in conjunction with the optional docking station.
The docking station allows for two different viewing angles, works as a charging station and features an external speaker connection. Also included is a wireless remote control that allows you to adjust media playback.
The backside of the A500 is similar to the iPad 2, featuring a beautiful brushed aluminum finish. A 5 megapixel camera resides at the top right side of the panel with a small LED flash above it. Two stereo speakers flank the bottom corners with the Acer logo centered in the middle. I really like what Acer has done with the back panel; I think it looks better than both the iPad 2 and the Xoom.