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Buying Considerations, Conclusion
The rear facing 5-megapixel camera on the Iconia Tab, like many other tablets, is pretty subpar. I snapped some photos to compare the iPad 2's camera with that on the Iconia Tab. The results were a mixed bag - sometimes the iPad 2 performed better; other times it was the Iconia Tab that produced the best results. Either way, I wouldn't use either tablet as my primary mobile camera based on the poor overall results. Video quality on each tablet was about the same as well, with perhaps an ever-so-slight edge going to the iPad 2.
While taking these sample photos and videos, I can give some feedback on using the screens under direct sunlight. With both tablets set to maximum brightness and auto-dimming disabled, the iPad 2 was much easier to view under these conditions. At times the Iconia Tab was nearly unreadable. Furthermore the grid system that I mentioned earlier was extremely visible under direct sunlight and quite distracting.
I'm happy to report that under normal indoor use, the grid lines on the Iconia Tab's screen aren't visible. The higher resolution 1280 x 800 is a plus but again when compared side-by-side with the iPad 2, Apple's offering is superior. The Iconia Tab looks a bit washed out in comparison and the iPad 2 features better viewing angles.
The dual speakers on the Acer tablet performed well when listening to music and movies. Despite being Dolby Mobile equipped, the speakers don't get quite as loud or have as much depth as the iPad 2's audio offering. The two speaker system, however, does seem to fill the air more with sound and gives you a better sense of being immersed in the music / video.
Head to head: Apple iPad 2, Motorola Xoom and Acer Iconia Tab A500
To test the battery on the Iconia Tab, I set the screen brightness to roughly 70%, disabled auto-brightness and loaded a 720p rip of Inception for continuous playback until the battery expired. The Iconia was good for 6 hours and 18 minutes of usage. In contrast, the iPad 2 lasted 10 hours and 25 minutes under the same test conditions.
That's not to say, however, that the iPad 2 is better in every aspect. I much prefer the Android keyboard thanks to its ability to enable a tactical feel, a small vibration, each time you tap a key. Additionally the connectivity options on the Iconia Tab are far superior to the iPad 2. For example, I was able to plug a flash drive directly into the tablet and listen to music, watch videos and view photos with ease. Apple users are required to sync with iTunes to do the same and that can be extremely annoying or inconvenient at times.
It's not mere coincidence that Acer recently lowered the price of the Iconia Tab A500 to match the Asus Eee Pad Transformer that's considered one of the best budget Android Honeycomb tablets around (our review is coming up soon). Acer sells the Wi-Fi only Iconia Tab A500 16GB for $395 which is $100 cheaper than Apple's same capacity offering.
If you are on a budget but must have a tablet, the Acer Iconia Tab is a pretty decent choice. Android fans will have everything they need in a capable tablet. Newcomers might find the learning curve a little steeper than they would on an iPad 2.
Android Honeycomb 3.1 and subsequent updates will likely bring innovative features to the Iconia Tab and potentially to the tablet world, something Google must do to overcome the iPad's dominance. For now though, if you are going after the best possible tablet experience I would likely spend the extra $100 and get an iPad 2.
Despite the inclusion of Flash and more flexibility in the OS and expansion options, today iOS is definitely more polished and smooth. The difference in weight doesn't sound like much but after handling both tabs extensively, it will eventually catch up to you and you'll appreciate having the slimmer iPad.