Software, Camera, Conclusion
The A700 offers the standard Android 4.0 Gmail and email apps out of the box, both of which provide solid email experiences. Both apps have a two-paned display for navigating through the inbox and reading messages, and both also have scrollable home screen widgets to preview messages.
In addition to the email apps, the A700 comes with the standard Google Talk app for video chatting and instant messaging, as well as the Google+ app that provides its own messaging system. Fans of other instant messaging services will be able to find a variety of alternatives on the Google Play Store.
Acer has included a handful of pre-installed apps on the Iconia Tab A700, as well as portals to the Wild Tangent repository of games and Nvidia's Tegra Zone. There is a custom file browser, custom music player, a wireless print utility (only compatible with a handful of printers, unfortunately), and the Polaris Office suite, among others.
The A700 has full access to the Google Play Store, which offers hundreds of thousands of apps to users. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those apps are designed for smartphones and either don't work or look ridiculous on the A700's 10.1-inch display. It is still difficult to find high-quality apps designed specifically for tablets in the Google Play Store, and the A700 suffers compared to the competition because of that.
The A700 makes good use of the default Android 4.0 browser which is snappy and loads pages quickly, but it struggles when using gestures to pinch-zoom or double-tap to zoom on the A700. Scrolling is acceptably smooth and the A700's high-resolution display means that you have to zoom-in less frequently than you would with a lesser screen. The A700 also supports the Google Chrome browser, which can be installed manually from the Google Play Store.
As a Wi-Fi-only device, the A700 lacks cellular connectivity options. It does support 802.11b/g/n networks, but it was unable to see my 5GHz network, so I was limited to 2.4GHz during my evaluation period. The A700 also carries support for Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and GPS services.
The A700 is equipped with two cameras: a 5 megapixel unit on the rear and a 1 megapixel camera on the front. The camera interface is the stock Android 4.0 camera app, which offers quick access to zoom controls and a handful of settings. The camera does autofocus rather quickly, and shot to shot times are respectable, but that's where the positive aspects come to an end.
The camera's narrow lens makes it hard to capture a vista of any sort, and images taken with the camera are quite noisy and grainy, even in good lighting. Likewise, the 1080p HD video is pretty choppy and unimpressive.
Fortunately, the front-facing camera is bright and sharp enough for video chatting, though it too could stand to benefit from a wider angle lens.
As noted earlier, Acer has equipped the A700 with a custom music player, but you can use the standard Google Play Music app as well, since that is also installed on the tablet. Play Music can play back music stored on the A700's 32GB of internal storage or stream tunes from a Google Music account.
Despite carrying Dolby Digital branding, the A700's external speakers don't get particularly loud. Bass response is pretty poor, which isn't a huge surprise, but the speakers do resist distortion even when the volume is cranked to the max.
The A700 comes equipped with a 9800mAh battery that easily lasted for a full day or more under normal usage. Acer claims that the battery is good for 10.5 hours of continuous video playback or up to nearly 8 hours of web surfing, and my tests showed those to be accurate estimates.
The Acer Iconia Tab A700 is an appropriate upgrade to Acer's earlier efforts, but it doesn't really go far enough to make it a viable choice for new tablet buyers. Its sluggish performance and cheap feel make it hard to recommend against the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity or the Apple iPad.
Acer is selling the A700 in either black or silver for $449.99, which is a little bit cheaper than the competition, but the extra money spent on the other options goes a long way towards providing a better user experience.
Pros: High resolution panel looks good and is on its way to become a must-have on new generation tablets. Great battery life. Android 4.0 (sort of, see below).
Cons: Sluggish performance. The A700 may be in desperate need of an upgrade to Jelly Bean to correct some of its performance ackwardness. Hardware feels sub-par for a premium-priced tablet. Software customizations not all that useful.
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