The Iconia Tab A700 is the latest update from Acer for the Android tablet. With Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and a quad-core processor, the new full HD display with 1920 x 1200 pixels is known.
The Acer Iconia Tab A700 should look familiar to anyone who has seen or used a 10-inch Android tablet before. The standard slate design measures 259 mm x 175.2 mm x 10.9 in (10.2 in x 6.9 in x 0.43 in) and weighs 1.47 pounds. The tablet's dimensions and 16:10 aspect ratio display make it much more suitable for landscape orientation than portrait orientation – which is often said about 10-inch Android tablets.
The 1920 x 1200 pixel display of the A700 can easily be qualified as Full HD and offers a pixel density of 224PPI. The A700's resolution isn't quite as high as the Apple iPad's 264PPI, but it's close enough to my eyes and it's difficult to see individual pixels. Needless to say, this is a significant step up from the 1280 x 800 pixel displays that Acer uses on the A500 and A510.
As we've learned in the past, high resolution alone isn't a good display, and the A700's panel fails in a number of important areas. The screen doesn't get nearly as bright as other models, even when the setting is turned up and the viewing angles are pale compared to other competing tablets. On the plus side, colors are accurate and they're in no way oversaturated.
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On the right side of the tablet there is a microSD card slot (under a plastic flap) and a micro HDMI port. The power / sleep / unlock button and 3.5mm headphone jack are on the left edge, while the top of the tablet has a volume rocker and orientation lock switch that are within easy reach of your left index finger when you use the device hold in landscape mode. The buttons and switches are solid and worked fine during my tests, even though they're all made of plastic.
The micro-USB charging and synchronization port as well as two speakers and a reset button are located on the bottom of the A700. The speakers are marked with Dolby Digital Plus logos. I didn't hear any distortion when playing music through the speakers at full volume, although they honestly aren't all that impressive. The volume of the A700 is not as loud as other tablets. The placement of the speakers will likely dampen them a bit when you hold the tablet.
There is a plastic cover with knobs on the back of the A700. The dimples help with the tablet's handling, but they don't go far enough to break the cheap feel it gives off. The back cover bends easily with just a little pressure and definitely doesn't have the quality feel of the metal panels used on the iPad or the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity 700. On the back there is a 5 megapixel auto focus camera with 1080p HD video capability. The A700 doesn't have an LED flash to aid (or ruin, depending on your perspective) photography in low light. There is a 9800 mAh battery under the back cover which is not user accessible or serviceable.
Overall, everything that has been said about 10-inch Android tablets since their inception can be applied to the A700: its dimensions make it difficult to hold with one hand, and it is quite awkward to use in portrait mode. The aspect ratio of the display is suitable for watching widescreen and HD videos, but otherwise I find tablets in the 10-inch size class with 4: 3 aspect ratio displays more comfortable to use and handle.
The A700 is powered by Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor with 1 GB of RAM. In this case, it is clocked at 1.3 GHz for each core, one step slower than the 1.5 GHz to which the Tegra 3 is set for other devices. This is unfortunate as the A700, with its high-resolution display, can use all of the computing power it can get. Usually the Tegra 3 is a solid performer, but it does seem to have problems in the A700.
In benchmark tests, the A700 lags a bit behind the best Android devices, and the tablet exhibits noticeable stuttering and delays in real use. Apps seem to open quickly enough, but there are noticeable delays and delays in navigating the user interface that lead to a sense of frustration while using the tablet.
The A700's performance issues carry over to gaming as well. Although the A700 has a 12-core graphics chip and access to a wide variety of 3D games on Nvidia's Tegra Zone portal, the tablet struggled with the latest 3D games for the Android platform during my tests. The frame rates were significantly lower than other high-end Android devices, and it was difficult to play fast-paced games like first-person shooters.
The A700's higher resolution display certainly contributed to its performance issues, but we've seen in the past that other tablets with high resolution screens perform much better. Another note: the A700 gets noticeably warm on the right side when performing intensive tasks like 3D games. It won't be enough to burn you, but it will definitely catch your eye and be uncomfortable for some users.
Acer has equipped the A700 with Android 4.0.4 and some custom improvements. The most important adjustments include a new lock screen with app shortcuts, quick toggles in the pop-up settings area of the taskbar and the Acer ring. The ring is the company's utility that can be launched from any app via a shortcut in the center of the system tray. It offers a volume control, customizable app shortcuts, and quick access to saved bookmarks.
I like the concept of the ring, but in use I'm not sure how practical it is. It usually duplicates many of the other easily accessible features available in Android 4.0 and is also negatively affected by the general sluggishness of the A700, as there is a noticeable pause between pressing the button to start the ring and actually appearing on the screen . This is only made worse when you're in an app and want to start the ring.
Other enhancements Acer added include custom time and weather widgets, as well as apps for playing music and viewing photos that don't seem to do much more than duplicate Android 4.0's native functionality.