Review: Acer Iconia Tab A500 PDF Print E-mail

Joel Kopping reviews the Acer Iconia Tab A500.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit right up front that I have not been a great fan of tablet computers. It is my view that, while these devices typically are able to do lots of things - which is good - they do not do too many of these well.

When I pondered whether Acer’s Iconia Tablet A500 would change my mind, I was told that if I was willing to keep an open mind, it would. According to the PR company supplying it for review, it is a good tablet.

Before I tell you whether the Iconia A500 managed to sway me, let us have a quick look at its most important specifications.

The Iconia has a 10.1 inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. You can buy it with either 16 or 32 GB of internal storage. It boasts a micro SD card slot, both Micro USB 2.0 and USB 2.0 ports, as well as an HDMI port. It is powered by Dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, a ULP GeForce GPU and a Tegra 2 T20 chipset, and runs on Android 3.0.

As you would expect from a tablet that prides itself on its ability to offer entertainment, it has built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, an accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate, and a Gyro sensor. There are also two cameras of 5MP and 2MP respectively.

While most of these specifications and features are becoming pretty much standard fare, I certainly appreciated the addition of a USB 2.0 port, since this makes it so much easier to transfer information to and from the tablet. This feature alone makes the A500 more desirable than those that don’t have USB ports.

So, did the Acer Iconia Tablet A500 turn me into a tablet convert?

When it comes to entertainment purposes, I’ll admit that I am now more of a fan of tablets that I was before I had spent time with the A500. However, when it came to getting any work done, it showed those traits that are unfortunately common to the breed as a whole.

I don’t have enough space to go into details about why I still don’t believe tablets are great for productivity, but what I can say is that when it comes to actually doing work on the A500, my Acer Aspire One beats it hands-down in terms of ease of typing. In terms of wireless connectivity, the A500 also lost. The WiFi on it was so poor, I didn't get full signal, despite being seated two metres from my wireless router! So the Aspire One won in being able to connect to a wired network, and having more USB ports.

While many tablet users will disagree with me, I am still not convinced that tablets are such great work tools.

As an entertainment device, the A500 does much better, packing a lot of fun into a neat little package. Here too, though, it has some positives and negatives.

On the positive side, there is the ease of use of the touchscreen. It reacted quickly to taps and, since most sites and apps are icon-based and preloaded onto the A500, it means simple navigation between them. 

The USB port made it easy for me to browse pictures stored on a memory stick, and I was impressed when the A500 detected my MP3 player and let me listen to the FLAC encoded music stored on it.

Watching downloaded videos was a pretty good experience too, and while on-screen videos were limited to 720P resolution, the A500 has the capability to send full HD video from its HDMI output.

As I tended to look more intently at the screen when watching movies, or while looking at pictures, the smears and smudges on it became more noticeable, and this became an annoyance, because I constantly felt like wiping the screen. This is one of the downsides of using your screen as your control interface.

Another big plus was gaming on the A500, and in this it actually scored points against the Aspire One. The built-in Gyro made playing Need for Speed a lot more interactive and enjoyable than it would have been had I played the same game on my Aspire One.

The final point worth mentioning is that while the cameras on the A500 worked, I wouldn’t say that they were the best parts of the tablet. Image quality was merely okay, and good for low short takes, but all budding Stephen Spielbergs should know that you aren’t going to film an epic on your A500.

The rating of 7.5 out of ten that I've given the ACER Iconia A 500 is essentially for its entertainment value. If its WiFi was better, it would have scored a little higher, as this would have added to the overall mobility of the tablet.

IN SUMMARY
 
Good: Gaming is fun, it's easy to use and USB port adds to its flexibility. Battery life is good too.
Bad: It's on the heavy side, WiFi is poor and the built-in cameras could be better.
Rating: 7.5/10
Price: R 4 999
Contact: Acer - www.acer.co.za

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