Google's Android Honeycomb OS was the talk of the town when the calendar changed to 2011. Regarded as Android's first true tablet operating system, most got their first glimpse of Honeycomb during CES, where it was loaded onto the Motorola Xoom. Since then, numerous honeycomb-based tablets have made their way into the market, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the T-Mobile LG G-Slate, both products we have tested since then.
Today we're looking at another tablet based on Android, this time from a traditional PC maker. The Acer Iconia Tab A500.
Acer has been a leading netbook maker for the past several years, a position that has enabled them to grow sales in North America and Europe. Since tablets eat up netbook sales faster, we can clearly see where Acer is going with the Iconia offerings. We want to find out what Acer proposes with the Iconia Tab A500, not just in terms of value – a driving force behind netbook sales – but also in terms of features, design, and overall experience.
The Iconia Tab's Wi-Fi only power supply is typical current-generation tablet hardware that includes an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core 1 GHz processor, 16 GB of internal memory, 1 GB of DDR2 system memory, and front and rear-facing cameras as well as 802.11 b / g / n WLAN and a 10.1-inch WXGA-HD multi-touch display with a resolution of 1280 x 800.
Our device shipped with Android version 3.0.1 for 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. At this price, the Iconia Tab is $ 100 and $ 150 cheaper than Apple's iPad 2 with the same storage capacity.
If one were to compare the Acer Iconia Tab A500 to other options in the market, it would be the most similar to Motorola's Xoom in fit and finish, which is not a bad thing, although months have passed since the Xoom was launched, which means that there is a lot more competition among tablets than before.
On the front of the tablet is the 10.1-inch display with a black bezel that extends from the left to the right edge and ends at a 90-degree angle. The top and bottom of the bezel are a rounded extension of the brushed aluminum surface on the back of the device. 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 grid lines under the screen that the touch sensors are using. Similarly, you can see the same grid on the Motorola Xoom, although it's not as prominent. The Apple iPad 2 uses a different display field in which no touch-sensitive grids are visible. We'll come back to this topic while evaluating the tablet's performance outdoors.
On the left side of the tablet there is a power button, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a mini HDMI jack. On the right side of the Iconia tab is a hole reset button, a full-size USB port, a mini-USB port, and the power connector.
A volume rocker, an orientation lock switch and a micro SD card slot under a hidden compartment are located above the top edge of the tablet. At the bottom is a proprietary docking connector that works in conjunction with the optional docking station.
The docking station allows two different viewing angles, acts as a charging station and has an external speaker connection. Also included is a wireless remote control that you can use to adjust media playback.
The back of the A500 is similar to the iPad 2 and has a beautiful finish of brushed aluminum. At the top right of the control panel is a 5 megapixel camera with a small LED flash above it. Two stereo speakers flank the lower corners, with the Acer logo centered in the middle. I really like what Acer did with the back. I think it looks better than the iPad 2 and the Xoom.