Hands-On: Acer Iconia A500 Honeycomb Tablet


How Does The Acer Iconia A500 Stack Up To The Competition?

The Acer Iconia A500 is one of the four different Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets available in the market today and more are on the way. It contains the same baseline hardware of the other options being a 1 Ghz dual core Tegra 2 and a 10.1" 1200 x 800 resolution display. It has a nice look and feel in the hand and its clear Acer spent time working on the aesthetics of the A500. The real question is how does it compare to the other Android tablets on the market the Motorola Xoom, Asus Eee Transformer, and the T-Mobile LG G-Slate? Keep reading as I lay out exactly where this tablet fits in.


As stated the Acer Iconia A500 feels great in the hand and the brushed metal look of the casing gives it a tasteful but industrial look. It comes in at 1.69 pounds and 13.3mm thick, it's not  heavy but it does feel beefier than the Xoom. Like all Honeycomb tablets the front has no hardware buttons and there is a small bezel around the screen the houses the front facing camera. The buttons along side include the power button, volume rocker, and an interesting addition of an orientation locking slider. Around back you have the camera along with rear speakers. Connectivity includes a 3.5mm headphone jack, a mini-HDMI port, a docking connector along bottom.



The display is a 10.1" TFT LCD display with a 1280 x 800 resolution and it is crisp and clear with a nice viewing angle. Acer has equipped  with a capacitive digitizer and can track ten simultaneous touch inputs which is great but I can't think of  a time when you'll actually need that many inputs.

The only real complaints about the screen are that the brightness levels are too low and the screen gets washed out in sunlight. Also on close inspection you can view individual pixels. Weaknesses aside it is a good quality display and you should only have problems in direct sunlight.



I'm sure you all know about the performance on the Tegra 2 that resides in every Honeycomb tablet and in a number of high-end smartphones. Acer matches up in specs on almost every detail with the others except for its use of 1Gb DDR3 Ram while the Xoom and G-Slate have slower DDR2 memory. The upgraded memory does pay dividends in performance testing as the Iconia A500 was getting general quadrant scores around 2300 while the other two stayed in the 1800 range.

The Iconia lead in virtually every benchmark actually it recorded more MFLOPS with score of 47 Linpack and 1,988ms in the SunSpider Javascript performance test. Real world performance didn't seem to vary in comparison to the Xoom under most normal circumstances. Overall the Iconia A500 has no problem running Honeycomb, playing games or with HD video playback and really only lacked when it came to battery life coming in a little under 7Hrs while the Xoom was around 8 1/2Hrs.



Android 3.0.1 Honeycomb is present in its standard form here which means it has an elegant 3D Holographic UI and comes with the support of perfectly tailored Google Apps for the expanded tablet screen size. It being Honeycomb as we know also comes with a few issues mainly being the lack of tablet specific applications. However as the Android tablet market continues to grow, it will garner expanded developer attention and there will be plenty of apps in due time.

While it is stock Honeycomb Acer decided to add some of their own software which turns out to be rather redundant and unnecessary. Almost all of their applications serve a purpose that is already out done by Honeycomb's default Google Apps such as LumiRead which is an eBook reader that pales in comparison to Google Books or the NemoPlayer for media which again is outclassed by the default app. Acer additions aside it is a functional and elegant Honeycomb experience with the performance to match.



The cameras on the Acer Iconia A500 leave much to be desired and their performance seem more like an afterthought than a key feature. Above is a sample shot taken with the 5 megapixel rear camera that actually looks decent, as the shooter has no problem taken closeups with good focus and color reproduction. The issue lies in its ability to take shot of anything at a distance because it simply does not focus well on objects more than a few feet away. Videos are much the same and although it is 720p HD recording you would be hard pressed to shoot anything you would truly consider HD quality.

The front facing 2 megapixel camera works well for video chat and is a higher resolution recorder than some of the other options out there. It will serve your needs if you ever need to have a little face-time with friends and family.

Overall Impression


Overall the Acer Iconia A500 is a solid piece of hardware and if it is your style appearance is actually a plus with the brushed aluminum outer shell. The performance is on par with all of its peers and it comes it a lower price than the Xoom. While Honeycomb is a great OS and has the potential to be the best tablet interface at this time the lack of developer support is really a hindrance if you want the most out of your tablet right now.

Comparatively amongst those that have reviewed the Honeycomb slates the Asus Eee Transformer takes the lead for recommended purchase. The A500 though will not disappoint and hopefully more developer support comes sooner rather than later.

Via Engadget