acer Iconia Tab A501 – Review

The tablet has dimensions of 260x177x13.3mm and weighs in at around 730g, weighing a good 100g more than an iPad.  Whilst 100g doesn’t sound much, using the Iconia Tab for any lengthy period of time results in fatigued forearms – it really is a two-handed device.  (The acer protective case for about $50, that folds into two positions, is a must and gives your forearms a rest.)

The display is a 10.1 inch LCD capacitive touchscreen with 800×1280 pixels – and is actually quite nice to look at. It boasts NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 mobile processor and verison 3.0 (Honeycomb) of Google’s Android platform. At the moment the Iconia Tab A501 can play back video at 720p HD, but with an upgrade coming soon via Honeycomb, will soon play at 1080p. The stereo speakers are surprisingly good, sounding much better than the sound coming from an iPad, and of course the Iconia Tab comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Other features include:

* 32 GB flash memory

* 1 GB RAM

* 5 MP, 2592 x 1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash rear camera

* 2MP front camera

* microSD card slot catering for up to 32GB of extra storage

* HDMI port allowing 1080p video output 

The user interface of the Iconia Tab is at times a little unresponsive — launching applications can sometimes take a while and the user interface is perhaps not as intuitive as it could be. The touchscreen also appears to be somewhat insensitive. Battery life is about 6 hours with intermittent web surfing, video streaming, game playing etc. Streaming video from Youtube over Wi-Fi was very good and the interface enables you to stream 720p with a simple touch. 

Whilst supporting Flash, the Iconia Tab still has difficulty in loading and playing Flash-based web games…. And whilst on games, the one thing that continues to under-impress me is the quality of tablet games currently on the market. Aside from classics like the very simple and yet at times infuriatingly difficult Angry Birds, the current games on the market lack depth, sophistication and replay ability. The Iconia Tab comes with Let’s Golf, Hero of Sparta and NFS Shift – the later whilst sporting nice looking graphics, basically only uses the gyro functionality of the tab to allow the player to steer – whilst fun for about 5 minutes, that’s all there is to it.

Downloading the DocstoGo app for $15 allows for viewing of Microsoft docs, pdf’s, and gives the ability to create new docs and edit existing ones – it also allows the Iconia tab to read your usb as an external storage device. (I have noticed that some apps on the Android market are device and location specific…) Video playback from usb supports H.264, mp4, oog, wav & wma – but no native avi support is frustrating. 

Starting at around $690 in Australia (JbHiFi), which is only slightly less than the starting price for the equivalent iPad 2 ($800), the Iconia Tab is still not quite there – especially considering the latest report from McAfee; the popular anti-virus maker reported that Android was the most targeted mobile platform for malware during the second quarter of the year.

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