Acer Iconia Tab A500 Preview
Unveiled earlier this year at the 2011 Mobile World Congress, Acer Iconia Tab A500 has been recently launched on the market. The company is silently pushing its tablets in various parts of the world, which will probably take its toll on the device's sales.Even though the manufacturer has yet to announce a release schedule for the Iconia Tab A500, it is expected that it will be available worldwide, by the end of the year.
Furthermore, the tablet can be purchased from various major retailers in several countries, but prices may vary by a lot. For example, the 16GB Iconia Tab A500 can be purchased for $450 in the United States via Best Buy, for $615 in India via Future Bazaar, or for no less than $730 in Romania.
However, Acer must face a fierce competition on each market that introduces its Iconia series tablets. Apple iPad 2, Motorola XOOM and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 are among the high-end tablets available in the market for attractive prices in comparison with the Iconia Tab A500.
The 16GB Wi-Fi iPad 2 is now $500, only $50 more expensive than the Iconia Tab A500, while customers who wish to buy the XOOM will have to pay about $600 for the 32GB Wi-Fi only version.
Acer Iconia Tab A500 is one of the lucky tablets to be 'blessed' with NVIDIA's Tegra 2 chipset with dual-core processor. The simple fact that it embeds a powerful dual-core processor manufactured by NVIDIA (yet, not the most powerful) should be enough to convince Android fans to spend a small fortune to acquire it.
Still, it seems that the tablet market is in full throttle, with so many manufacturers that switched their attention to this segment of the market. Even though this makes things a bit more complicated for the end user who has lots of options at his disposal, the prices may drop because of the competition.
The Iconia Tab A500 is positioned among the larger tablets available on the market, as it comes with a 10.1-inch multi-touch display. It measures 260 x 177 x 13.3 mm and weighs 730g (battery included).
Unfortunately, when put against other 10.1-inch tablets, the Iconia Tab A500 is one of the thickest and heaviest. Only Motorola's XOOM has the same weight, as the iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 are both much lighter.
The main reason might be the fact that the tablets entire back cover is made of aluminum, though it features a low-capacity battery, which should compensate.
Above the large screen, Iconia Tab A500 features a secondary 2-megapixel camera for video-chat. If kept in landscape position, one can notice that on the right side of the tablet there's a very small reset button, a USB and a microUSB port, and the charging slot.
The left side of the device features the Power on/off button, a 3.5 mm audio jack and the HDMI port.
On top of the tablet is a long but thin volume key, a small sliding button that can lock the phone's screen, so it won't switch between landscape and portrait modes, and microSD card slot that is covered by a plastic stripe.
You can notice that the stripe is a bit larger than it should be. This is mainly because it also covers the SIM slot, which in this case is locked because this model does not come with support for GSM voice communication.
Obviously, the docking port has been placed on the bottom side of the tablet, so users can watch the screen in landscape mode.
Acer Iconia Tab A500 runs Google Android 3.0.1 and its own developed Acer user-friendly interface.
As seen in the screenshots, it features 5 customizable home screens that are grouped as a carousel. Half of a carousel more likely. To get into the Main menu simply click on the Apps button on the upper right of the home screen.
Although the device is not that snappy as a high-end Android smartphone, scrolling from window to window is pretty smooth.
I managed to run a few benchmarks to try and make a comparison with other tablets, but it seems that results are almost the same for devices with same CPU that are not overclocked.
For example, Quadrant's (Standard version) result of 1944 points is positioned in the same range as Motorola XOOM, which scored between 1800 and 2100 points.
However, it appears that Quadrant is not yet fully optimized to work on dual-core processor devices.
On the other hand, Smartbench 2011 is a much better benchmark when it comes to testing dual-core devices. You can see from the screenshots that the Iconia Tab A500 performed pretty good.
I have tested the tablet's WebKit browser, which seems to be much better than the one coming with Android 2.2 Froyo or older.
I used V8 benchmark suite (version 6) and SunSpider (0.9.1), but I only made the comparison with Dolphin Browser HD. As reflected in the screenshots, the stock browser was a bit faster by a very small margin.
Although Dolphin Browser HD is not yet optimized for the tablets, it can still be used as a reference as it is considered one of the fastest Android browsers.
Even though it's extremely awkward to try and take pictures with a 10.1-inch tablet, I've done it, but I'm not fully pleased by the 5-megapixel photo snapper. Check out the samples below to have a better view of the pictures' quality.
Obviously, the device comes with NVIDIA Tegra Zone store application. You can find a handful of games that have been especially designed to take advantage of the Tegra 2 dual-core processor.
Unfortunately, there aren't many games available for download and about half of them are not available in all regions. Of course, you'll have to pay for any of the games, but trials are also available for download.
I enjoyed playing Gameloft's 'Hero of Sparta' and I found the gameplay pretty addictive for those who like hack'n'slash games. Controlling the main character is very easy, but a tablet is definitely something that you should play with while it stays on a flat surface.
The game is full of QTE (quick-time-events) that requires players to click on several buttons that appear in a certain sequence in different places on the screen. Oh well, it's hard to reach the middle of a 10.1-inch screen while you're keeping the tablet with both your hands.
Other than that, the graphics looks OK-ish, but it's not mind blowing. I'm pretty sure there are other games that look much better on an Android tablet powered by an NVIDIA dual-core processor.