Acer Iconia A500

Though it is packed to the rafters with features and options that are unavailable on the competition, the Acer A500 is too heavy to be used as intended.


7.2
CNET Rating
7.5
User Rating

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Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


Design

What should a tablet computer look like? If this question has you imagining Apple's iPad, then you're not alone; it seems as though you share this concept with Acer's design team. The A500 sports a 10.1-inch display up front, surrounded by cool, grey brushed metal in a shade slightly darker than that chosen by the Cupertino designers. Unlike the iPad, the A500 is littered with ports and switches around the edge of the tablet, offering connectivity options unknown to anyone who has bought a tablet before now.

Acer hasn't left out a single port or plug in this portable computer; there's the standard micro USB for file transfers (charging is performed via a proprietary port) and a microSD card to bolster the internal storage. There's also mini-HDMI-out, a feature we are seeing more and more in 2011, but the real kicker is the USB Host port on the bottom-right of the slate. Acer also includes a proprietary dock-mount in the base of the A500, though we didn't get a chance to play with an Acer dock during this review.

The A500 sports a 10.1-inch WXGA display, in line with what you can expect from the Motorola and Samsung 10.1-inch tablets, and for the most part this screen is up to the task at hand. Colours are good, though the LCD panel is recessed deeper than we'd like, making the blacks look a little washed-out, and the glass surface is extremely glossy. Both of these factors can impact everyday use of the tablet, though you'll see it most outdoors and under natural light, where the images on-screen can become difficult to read.

These many elements add up to a feature-packed tablet, though they are also the reason it is so heavy to hold. At 730g, the A500 will be the equal-heaviest tablet on the market alongside the Motorola Xoom, and there's just no way to see this as a positive aspect. More than 10 minutes with the A500 was enough to have us looking around the room for a cushion to cradle this hefty baby on. When we took the A500 out with us, the extra weight had us wondering if it would be easier to surf the web on our smartphones rather than hold this tablet up for an hour on the train.

User experience

Following Samsung and its Galaxy Tab 10.1v, the Acer Iconia A500 employs a stock Google Android Honeycomb experience. Aside from a few custom Acer apps on the homescreen, there is little difference between the two tablets when you first power them on. Honeycomb itself offers a flexible, fast user experience, though there are some unusual button positions — like the Apps button on the top-right of the screen — that will take new users a moment to get their heads around.

Acer's custom apps are a bit baffling; Games, Social, Books and Media act as catch-alls for new apps on the tablet that fall under each of those headings, but they do not automatically populate as you download apps. Instead, the user must add each new game or book to the lists, making them a little more work than they are worth. Until you've downloaded in excess of 50 apps or so, we found it much easier just to find the shortcut for the app we wanted in the Apps drawer, or to dump a shortcut to the app on any of the five homescreens.

USB: useful side bit

We mentioned a number of these features in the opening of the review, but let's take a closer look at them now, in particular the USB Host port. The first thing that we did with the A500 after we received the test unit (OK, the second thing — after we installed Fruit Ninja) was disconnect our wireless keyboard and mouse from our office PC and connect each of them to the tablet. The results? The keyboard worked but the mouse didn't. Even then, a full-sized keyboard connected to Google's Honeycomb system isn't great; you can control most of the system with a standard Windows keyboard, but it'll certainly make you wonder why you aren't just using your fingers and touching the screen.

If you'd like to know more about how to best use a keyboard with a Google tablet, check out our feature detailing all of the pre-defined keyboard shortcuts in the Android Honeycomb OS.

You can also connect USB memory to the A500, in the form of either a flash memory stick or a powered USB hard drive, but be aware that Honeycomb doesn't recognise these devices or mount them like you might expect a PC to. There's no notification of new hardware, and no separate folder tree in any file explorers, though images and videos on storage devices will show up in the Gallery. To access files manually, we had to navigate to the device storage by using a third-party file manager, then to a folder named "mnt" and again into another folder titled "usb_storage". We can understand Google not including USB storage-management in Honeycomb, but it does seem a bit strange that Acer wouldn't include a USB-friendly file explorer tool, considering that it bothered to include the port on the tablet.

Media and the web

If you're in the market for a tablet, then chances are you plan to watch movies on the machine and surf the web from the couch. The A500 is great at both tasks, with its powerful processor dishing up great performance in both applications. Acer hasn't expanded the file-recognition capabilities of the Honeycomb OS, so you will be restricted to H.264 and MP4 video formats, and our 1080p test video file didn't play, so you'll need to keep the resolution of files on this tablet to 720p.

We were also extremely impressed with the quality of audio produced by this machine. Acer includes Dolby Mobile audio-enhancement software, adding EQ settings that are otherwise absent on a Google tablet. Switching between the different EQ presets made a huge difference to the music we listened to while testing, complementing the excellent default Honeycomb music player.

The web browser is on-par with the browsers in both the Galaxy Tab 10.1v and the iPad 2, as you can see in the BrowserMark benchmark results below:

BrowserMark benchmark

  • Acer Iconia A500
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v
  • Apple iPad 2
  • Longer bars equal better performance 87727 91507 67867

Performance

Across the board, the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHz processor in the A500 delivers pleasingly fast performance across all applications. We tested some high-quality 3D games, like Samurai 2, on the tablet and found smooth gameplay was the order of the day.

The only major downside to report was the battery life of the A500. Unlike the Galaxy Tab 10.1v, our review unit wasn't a 3G-compatible model, but even without the burden of 3G connectivity on the battery, the A500 battery cycles were noticeably shorter than with Samsung's Tab. Two days of light use was enough to drain the battery of this machine, with a good portion of this drain occurring during standby, or you can expect about six hours of continuous use. Because the A500 requires the use of a proprietary charger, you will have to plan carefully to make sure the tablet always has some juice.

Overall

Looks can be deceiving, and although your tablet choices may seem to be down to Apple or Samsung, there are many more options to consider. Acer's first Android tablet effort is cautious but assured, the hardware feels solid, it's feature-packed and, most importantly, its performance is comparable with its competition. It's also considerably heavier and its glossy screen is tough to read outdoors on a sunny day. Between the A500 and the Galaxy Tab 10.1v, you're choosing between features and portability; trading off HDMI and USB ports in the Acer for a much lighter tablet in the Galaxy Tab. This is a personal choice that you'll have to make, though we're leaning towards the Samsung. A difference of 130g may not sound like much, but your wrists and forearms will tell you otherwise after the long commute to the office.

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ChenhaoL Facebook
9
Rating
 

"Good product with great connectivity options, but lacking in some bits."

ChenhaoL posted a review   

The Good:Good performance, good connectivity, good battery life, bright screen, expandable memory, camera has flash, HD recording

The Bad:A little heavy, the aluminium is not unibody, only 262K colour support, charge cable too short

The Acer Iconia Tab A500 is a great 10 inch tablet with lots of connectivity options like USB, Bluetooth, Wifi b, g and n, HDMI and much more.

However, it lacks in some areas where other tablets have achieved, like the screen with only 262K colour support as opposed to 16 million, and the aluminium body is not unibody. The charge cable is also inconveniently short.

In conclusion, I think that the Acer Iconia Tab A500 is a great tablet with great features, but in many ways it could improve. I am giving this tablet a nine because most of the cons are not big ones that affect the performance.

ChenhaoL Facebook
9
Rating
 

"Good product with great connectivity options, but lacking in some bits."

ChenhaoL posted a review   

The Good:Good performance, good connectivity, good battery life, bright screen, expandable memory, camera has flash, HD recording

The Bad:A little heavy, the aluminium is not unibody, only 262K colour support, charge cable too short

The Acer Iconia Tab A500 is a great 10 inch tablet with lots of connectivity options like USB, Bluetooth, Wifi b, g and n, HDMI and much more.

However, it lacks in some areas where other tablets have achieved, like the screen with only 262K colour support as opposed to 16 million, and the aluminium body is not unibody. The charge cable is also inconveniently short.

In conclusion, I think that the Acer Iconia Tab A500 is a great tablet with great features, but in many ways it could improve. I am giving this tablet a nine because most of the cons are not big ones that affect the performance.

JosephB2 Facebook
1
Rating
 

"Inferior product"

JosephB2 posted a review   

The Good:cant find one

The Bad:eveything about this tablet

This tablet A501 is the biggest piece of **** I have purchased in the last month. I have taken it back to the dealer twice in 2 weeks for software problems

 

ChenhaoL posted a reply   

What problem in software did you experience? It could have been your own error.

mateusz415
10
Rating
 

mateusz415 posted a review   
Australia

Just bought mine for $249 and im very impressed :) couldn't get anything better at that price and im using it every day now !

Its fast and im very happy that it easily streams videos of my wireless network

 

lewilaloupe posted a reply   
Australia

Hi,

Where did you buy this for $249???

I have been looking around today and the cheapest is around $380.

Thanks in advance.

mateusz415
10
Rating
 

mateusz415 posted a review   
Australia

Just bought mine for $249 and im very impressed :) couldn't get anything better at that price and im using it every day now !

Its fast and im very happy that it easily streams videos of my wireless network

RichardandEmmaB Facebook
8
Rating
 

"very pleased"

RichardandEmmaB posted a review   

The Good:price tag, connectivity, lots of apps, cameras, storage options, honeycomb experience, good speakers, LED flash

The Bad:average battery life

very pleased with the user experience on this tablet. honeycomb is great but you need the hardware to get the most out of it. The tegra processor pumps out brilliant gaming, the mini-SD card slot expands the storage, the cameras are good quality, totally connected with WiFi, Bluetooth,mini hdmi, mini USB and regular live USB host. The only thing missing is 3G but personally i don't need it or use it.

The sound is great on the speakers. There is a significant bonus in having an led flash for the camera for night shots and night movies. the increased weight over some of its alternatives is not really noticeable.

plus the price tag is amazing. i got one on sale in Australia for $380 AUD for the 16Gb version, paid $45 for a 32 Gb mini-SD card and was laughing.

boybunny
1
Rating
 

"WARNING Deliberate design flaw!"

boybunny posted a review   
Australia

The Good:It is a tablet... big woop!

The Bad:It is designed to fail

I just threw mine out of a first floor window to the concrete below! It is an overpriced POS! Acer designed it to FORCE unsuspecting users to purchase the ~$100 envelope to protect the screen!

If you have children, dogs, or use this outside, or away from a desk, expect it to be scratched badly across the screen sooner or later!

I have an iPad2 (childrens play tablet), a Toshiba T901, and my children also have a Nintendo DSiXL... none of these have exposed screens like the Acer A500! They have recessed screens, either slightly or by a couple of millimetres. This protects the screen when the unit inadvertently ends up face down.

I will NEVER buy Acer again! Their customer support DARED me to turf the POS out the window not believing I would do it. They also said it would cost $250 to repair the scratched screen! I can buy better designed Android tablets for less than $250! I think I am buying the Andypad Pro when they release it in the next week or so.

JustinM Facebook
8
Rating
 

"Fun and easy"

JustinM posted a review   
Australia

The Good:.avi playback, can put website shortcuts on homepage, USB!

The Bad:Slightly laggy at times

I've had the unit for less than 24 hours but I am loving it already. As a retail salesperson I plan on using it as a sales tool, so I love that I can put bookmarks to my most common websites on the homescreen, in fact I have a dedicated area for all these links. Moboplayer is proving to be a far better media player than the pre-installed nemoplayer app. The only downside I've come across so far is the lag that seems to be present whilst typing as I am now

drc1351
9
Rating
 

"Excellent product"

drc1351 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:connectivity, memory expansion, speed, versatility

The Bad:microphone performance

I have had my A500 for a few months now.
I didn't think I would use a tablet much but now I find I can't put this one down.

It connects quickly and easily to wifi or phone hotspot. Great for browsing.

I don't think the screen is much more reflective than my phone. I don't find it a problem.

Great for connecting a mouse when finger is too big. Connect a keyboard at the same time too!

3.1 was a really big improvement.

The only thing I can fault is the microphone performance with Google Talk -software or hardware, I don't know?

Great work Acer!

anysia Facebook
8
Rating
 

"Great product, brilliant screen, easy controls"

anysia posted a review   
Australia

The Good:32 gigs onboard means lots of room for audio/video/ebooks. Mini and full USB allows easy data transfer, and devices (external storage, card reader etc) to be used.

The Bad:Charger cable rather short. No USB charging. No full sized SD card reader (not really a con, explained below)

Honeycomb is a great step up from Froyo or Gingerbread. As for Apps, There hasn't been anything I have needed that I couldn't find.

The WiFi/3G model is perfect for me, to have mobile broadband, and the USB port allows me to preview photographs via a card reader. Now, it doesn't have a full sized SD card reader, but my camera uses compact flash, so I would have needed a card reader regardless.

Plays HD games without stalling or pausing.

As for it being the 'heaviest' tablet . well , like many Android devices, it has more hardware in it than the iPad, and has an anodized aluminum back, so of course it will be a bit heavier, and it's not as if it's going to give you a hernia carrying it around. (Also there are a few other tablets out there that are even heavier) At least it doesn't feel as if it's going to fly apart at the first sneeze, and can stand up to a few bumps along the way which is what I wanted in a tablet that won't be living a sheltered life.

Both WiFi and 3G connected without any trouble. Wifi signal stays strong and steady no matter where in the house. It charges up quickly. Let the battery run down all day so it was 17% and in a little over an hour, it was fully charged again.


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User Reviews / Comments  Acer Iconia A500

  • ChenhaoL

    ChenhaoL

    Rating9

    "The Acer Iconia Tab A500 is a great 10 inch tablet with lots of connectivity options like USB, Bluetooth, Wifi b, g and n, HDMI and much more.

    However, it lacks in some areas where ot..."

  • ChenhaoL

    ChenhaoL

    Rating9

    "The Acer Iconia Tab A500 is a great 10 inch tablet with lots of connectivity options like USB, Bluetooth, Wifi b, g and n, HDMI and much more.

    However, it lacks in some areas where ot..."

  • JosephB2

    JosephB2

    Rating1

    "This tablet A501 is the biggest piece of **** I have purchased in the last month. I have taken it back to the dealer twice in 2 weeks for software problems"

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