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Acer Iconia Tab A500 Android Tablet Review
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Date: Jul 07, 2011
Section:Gadgets
Author: Jennifer Johnson
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Introduction and Specifications

As a long-time competitor in the desktop and laptop space, Acer recently began competing against other Android tablet manufacturers with the launch of its Acer Iconia Tab A500. This 10.1-inch tablet is the company's first in the new Acer Iconia family of tablets.

Like many other Android-powered tablets, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 features a multi-touch screen. Under the hood, you'll find a 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 mobile dual-core processor along with an integrated GeForce GPU that is designed to deliver high FPS gaming, 1080p video, and faster browsing.

Running on Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), the Acer Iconia Tab A500 offers all of the multitasking and media playback options you've come to expect from today's popular tablets. This tablet also features a slim design that measures 0.52-inches thick. The tablet weighs about 1.69 pounds. Other key features include a built-in HDMI port for sharing HD video, Dolby Mobile technology, and front- and rear-facing cameras. To help you share your favorite videos, pictures, music, and other media the Acer Iconia Tab A500 comes preinstalled with Acer clear.fi which will connect the tablet to other DLNA-compliant devices.

Acer Iconia Tab A500-10S16u
Specifications & Features

  • Android 3.0.1 Honeycomb
  • 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual Core Mobile Processor
  • 1GB DDR2 memory
  • 16GB internal storage
  • 10.1-inch WXGA HD Multi-Touch Display (1280 x 800)
  • NVIDIA GeForce graphics
  • 5MP rear-facing camera with auto focus with single LED flash; 2MP front-facing camera
  • 802.11b/g/n WLAN
  • Dolby Mobile Technology
  • Dual speakers
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Micro HDMI
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • USB 2.0 port
  • microUSB port
  • Docking port
  • Dolby Mobile Technology
  • MicroSD memory card reader
  • Sensors: gyro-meter, e-compass
  • Two 3260 mAh Li-polymer batteries; up to eight hours of playback for casual games, eight hours of HD video playback and 10 hours of Wi-Fi Internet browsing
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • 10.24 x 6.97 x 0.52 inches
  • 1.69 pounds
  • Box Contents: ICONIA Tab A500 Picasso Tablet PC, Lithium Polymer Battery, Charger, USB Cable, Quick Start Guide
  • Price:
    • $449.99 for 16GB model (A500-10S16u)
    • $499.99 for 32GB model (A500-10S32u)

In addition to the tablet itself, Acer is also offering a handful of accessories (sold separately) for the Acer Iconia Tab A500. Some of these accessories include a full-sized Bluetooth keyboard, dock with IR remote, and a protective case.

Certainly there are plenty of Android tablets available and coming soon. Does the Acer Iconia Tab A500 have what it takes to stand out among the crowd? Join us in the coming pages to find out...

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Design

When it comes to the various tablets on the market today, perhaps the most obvious physical differentiator is screen size, which also greatly affects the footprint of the tablet. Currently, most manufactures offer screens that are approximately 7-inches diagonally or about 10-inches diagonally.

Click to enlarge

Like the Motorola Xoom and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 features a 10.1-inch screen that supports a resolution of 1280x800.To further compare the Iconia Tab A500 to the Motorola Xoom and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, let's compare the dimensions and weight of the three tablets side-by-side:

 
Acer Iconia Tab A500
Motorola Xoom
Asus Eee Pad Transformer
Dimensions (inches)
10.24 x 7 x 0.52
 9.81 x 6.61 x 0.51
10.67 x 6.73 x 0.51
Weight (pounds)
1.69
 1.61
1.499

In terms of physical footprint, the bezel around the Iconia Tab A500's screen makes it a bit taller than the Xoom or Eee Pad Transformer and slightly wider than the Xoom, but the thickness of all three tablets is about the same. The Iconia Tab A500 weighs slightly more than the other two tablets.

The Iconia Tab A500's screen is vibrant and sharp. Viewing angles are excellent and we could view the screen at nearly a 90 degree angle. The screen did attract fingerprints, but it did not affect the responsiveness of the tablet.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

As far as styling is concerned, the Iconia Tab A500 features an Alpine Silver brushed metal aluminum chassis. This chassis is cool to the touch and gives the tablet a more high-end look than you'd get with a plastic or rubber finish.

In terms of ports and connectivity, the Iconia Tab A500 has a few options, including a docking port, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, micro HDMI, 3.5mm headset jack, USB 2.0 port, and a microUSB port. Keep in mind that many tablets do not offer a full-size USB 2.0 port or a micro HDMI connection, so these are features that help differentiate the Iconia Tab A500.

With the full-size USB port, you can access media files stored on a flash drive or connect peripherals such as a keyboard. USB storage devices connected to this port must be FAT 32. It's also worth mentioning that Acer does not currently support the use of USB mice on the Iconia Tab A500. However, Acer does plan to add support for USB mice later this quarter via an over-the-air firmware update. Keep in mind that you can also expand the Iconia Tab A500's storage via the microSD memory card slot which is accessible through a slide-out door on the top of the tablet.

Update (7/8/2011):  We just got word that Acer is rolling out an update to Android 3.1. Indeed, our Iconia Tab A500 received the update a few hours after we published this review. In addition to Android 3.1, Acer says you'll get a smoother user interface experience, enhanced performance, and support for more standard apps. Other features that come with the update include a push of Adobe Flash 10.3, full support for Bluetooth and USB mice, and the ability to share 1080p video with external devices through the HDMI port.


Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Taking a look at the edges of the Iconia Tab A500, you'll find the docking station on bottom edge. The left edge of the tablet houses the power button, a headphone jack, and the microHDMI port. A reset button, USB 2.0 port, micro USB port, and the AC adapter jack are found on the right edge of the Iconia Tab A500. On the top edge of the tablet, you'll see a door that slides out to reveal the microSD card slot. When applicable, a SIM card slot can also be found behind this door (our test model does not have a SIM card slot). The volume rocker and a screen rotation lock switch are also located on the top edge of the tablet.

The front-facing 2 megapixel camera is located on the left edge of the bezel near the top of the device. When you flip the Iconia Tab A500 over, you'll see the rear-facing 5 megapixel camera and LED flash in the upper right corner of the tablet. Two speakers are located near the bottom corners. 

Click to enlarge

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User Interface

The Acer Iconia Tab A500 runs on Android 3.0 aka Honeycomb. This OS was designed with larger screened tablets in mind. In large part, the Iconia Tab A500 uses the base Honeycomb without very many additional tweaks or add-ons, and that's ok by us. Acer does include a custom interface with the tablet, and it adds some useful functions, such as grouping similar applications. If you take a look at the application screen, you'll see icons which house additional programs. These icons are labeled eReading, Games, Social Jogger (which integrates Facebook and other social networks), and Multimedia. While browsing the app listing, you'll also see hollow icons that remind you there are additional apps on the next page

     

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Like many other manufacturers, Acer ships the Iconia Tab A500 with a few extra apps. On the tablet, you'll find clear.fi, Need for Speed: SHIFT, Lets Golf, and others. A trial version of Hero of Sparta is also installed. The tablet also comes with NVIDIA Tegra Zone, which provides information and links to various games and other apps that take advantage of the Iconia Tab A500's dual core Tegra 2 mobile processor.

Thanks to the tablet's high-res16:10 widescreen display and HDMI port, the Iconia Tab A500 can be used for enjoying HD entertainment. Currently, you can output 720p HD video to external devices via the HDMI port. In the second quarter, Acer plans to push out an over-the-air update that will provide 1080p video to external devices through the HDMI port. For enhanced sound quality, Acer includes Dolby Mobile technology which is said to provide more realistic sound with extended bass response and enhanced high frequencies. Although the two rear speakers sound great, you won't get the full experience from the Dolby Mobile technology unless you plug in a pair of headphones. When headphones are connected, you'll enjoy surround sound effects. 

Update (7/8/2011):  We just got word that Acer is rolling out an update to Android 3.1. Indeed, our Iconia Tab A500 received the update a few hours after we published this review. In addition to Android 3.1, Acer says you'll get a smoother user interface experience, enhanced performance, and support for more standard apps. Other features that come with the update include a push of Adobe Flash 10.3, full support for Bluetooth and USB mice, and the ability to share 1080p video with external devices through the HDMI port.

     

Click to enlarge

As you may have noticed from the application listing, the Iconia Tab A500 comes with Acer clear.fi, which is a cross-platform solution that lets you share content with DLNA compliant devices. With clear.fi, you can access digital photos, videos, music, and more wirelessly.

Although the Acer Iconia Tab A500 does support Adobe Flash, it does not come pre-installed. Rather, you'll need to visit the Android Market to download and install it. Acer plans to push Flash to tablets via an over the air update in the second quarter.

Update (7/8/2011):  See above note, this update is now available.

     

Click to enlarge

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Performance Benchmarks

Next, we'll take a look at how the Iconia Tab A500 compares to other tablets by running and examining a few benchmarks that are currently available in the Android Marketplace.

In the Linpack test, the Iconia Tab A500 outscores all of the other tablets in our reference bank. With this score, the Iconia Tab A500 shows that the tablet's 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core processor really does offer some competitive advantages.

Although the Iconia Tab A500 doesn't perform quite as well in the An3DBench or An3DBench XL tests, it still posts respectable scores.

In the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, the Iconia Tab A500 performs very well, coming in just behind the Asus Eee Pad Transformer.

A Note On Battery Life: Acer says you should get up to eight hours of playback for casual games, up to eight hours of HD video playback and up to 10 hours of Wi-Fi Internet browsing from the Iconia Tab A500's two 3260 mAh Li-polymer batteries. Overall, we felt that the Iconia Tab A500's batteries held up very well during everyday use.

While using the Iconia Tab A500 for a mix of social networking, surfing the Web, checking email, watching short videos, etc., we were able to use the Iconia Tab A500 for a few days without needing to charge it. Of course, this was all dependent upon how often and heavily we used the tablet on those days. Your mileage will also vary depending on use.

In an attempt to quantify battery life and better compare one tablet to the next, we also ran the Iconia Tab A500 through our own battery test. In this test, we set up a webpage with a mix of graphics and text. The page automatically refreshed itself every three minutes. We set the Iconia Tab A500's display to 50% brightness.

For this test, the Iconia Tab A500 managed to last seven hours and 45 minutes before it died. Above is a look at how the Iconia Tab A500 compares to other tablets and smartphones we've tested using this same method.

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Conclusion

We're seeing a lot of Android tablets hit the market. What's more, many of these tablets offer similar specifications, including a 10.1-inch screen, dual-core processor, 16GB (or more) of storage, and Wi-Fi capabilities. Some tablets also have 3G or 4G cellular connections built-in.

The Acer Iconia Tab A500 offers all of the specifications you'd expect from a manufacturer who intends to truly compete in the Android tablet market. It also features a few extras, the most notable of which are the full-size USB 2.0 port and the microHDMI port. In addition to the microHDMI port, multimedia enthusiasts will appreciate the Iconia Tab A500's Dolby Mobile technology along with Acer clear.fi which lets you access and share content with DLNA compliant devices.

We wish Adobe Flash would have come preinstalled, but it's a minor thing to install it. We are also excited for Acer to release an update which will enable the tablet to share 1080p video with external devices through the HDMI port.

Update (7/8/2011):  We just got word that Acer is rolling out an update to Android 3.1. Indeed, our Iconia Tab A500 received the update a few hours after we published this review. In addition to Android 3.1, Acer says you'll get a smoother user interface experience, enhanced performance, and support for more standard apps. Other features that come with the update include a push of Adobe Flash 10.3, full support for Bluetooth and USB mice, and the ability to share 1080p video with external devices through the HDMI port.

All in all, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 is a solid tablet with a nice outer finish and shell. The tablet is quite similar to others on the market, but it does offer a few extras that help set it apart from the pack and pricing is competitive too. With street priced hovering around $444 for the 16GB model and $479 for 32GB, the Acer Iconia Tab is somewhat more attainable than some more popular tablets, that don't offer the same kind of performance or features. 

 

 

     
  • 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual Core Mobile Processor
  • NVIDIA GeForce graphics
  • Micro HDMI
  • Full-size USB 2.0 port
  • Adobe Flash isn't preinstalled (Update: It is pushed to tablets via an update available as of 7/8/2011)
  • Limited to 720p output via HDMI until an update is released (Update is available as of 7/8/2011)

 



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