Acer Iconia W510

The Iconia W510 works well as a standalone tablet and has a very enviable battery life, but it is hampered by a high price, clunky keyboard and too many micro-style ports.


7.5
CNET Rating
6.7
User Rating

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Among the many versions of Windows 8 PCs pushing back against the traditional clamshell laptop is the detachable-screen hybrid. Examples include the HP Envy X2 and the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, but the first version of this style we got our hands on was the Acer Iconia W510.

The version of this 10-inch hybrid we looked at during the Windows 8 launch was a non-final pre-production unit, but now that the final hardware is available, we've been able to benchmark the W510 for an official review. In truth, our experience with the early hardware and this final version differs little, and those initial impressions mostly stand.

While Acer's other Windows 8 systems, such as the Aspire S7 and W700, have impressed, the W510 is held back by a couple of factors. First, it's powered by a direct descendant of the Atom processors behind the Netbook, a nearly extinct laptop subcompact category that was hugely popular for a year or so before low-cost ultraportables and the iPad overshadowed it. The new Atoms are faster than their predecessors while maintaining long battery life and power efficiency, but that may not be enough to satisfy laptop shoppers used to finding Intel Core i3, i5 and even i7 chips in the thinnest of ultrabooks.

(Credit: CNET)

The other psychological hurdle here is the price. The Iconia W510 is AU$849. There are a lot of impressive laptops you can buy for less, are more powerful, have better features and are easier to use than this one. To be fair, there are many Atom-powered Windows 8 tablets and hybrids that cost around the same or more — but they don't make the most compelling case, either.

The idea of a touchscreen slate running a full Windows operating system that can instantly transform into a working laptop is an appealing one. In practice, the slate part of the W510 is well-built and responsive, and the hinge that connects the two halves is easy to use and secure.

But the keyboard half (which contains an additional battery) is too light, making the entire thing top-heavy and prone to tipping over. Adding to my usability concerns, AU$849 only gets you a 64GB SSD hard drive (with about half that space free after OS and software overhead), and the tablet half has connections — micro HDMI, microSD and micro USB — that are only useful if you walk around with a pocketful of adapters.

Hybrids such as this need to be priced appropriately (especially ones with Atom processors), and offer great design and usability in order to be a compelling alternative to other computing products in the same price range. As much as the Acer Aspire S7 touchscreen ultrabook was an excellent advertisement for Windows 8, the Iconia W510 feels like an advertisement for the iPad, or any of the AU$700 to AU$800 ultrabooks that offer slim, portable computing at a reasonable price.

Design and features

There are small differences in colour, button placement and overall visual ID, but Windows 8 hybrid laptop/tablets I've seen from Samsung, HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer and others generally look the same. None are particularly streamlined as all require beefed-up hinge assemblies to keep the screen securely tethered.

The screen part of the W510 looks very professional, like a slightly smaller, squatter iPad, virtually indistinguishable from other Windows or Android 10-inch tablets with edge-to-edge glass and a gently curved back panel. It's solidly built, but not overly heavy.

(Credit: CNET)

In tablet mode, the Windows 8 UI moves smoothly, and the screen rotation in tablet mode feels faster and smoother than in the pre-production version of this system we tried several months ago. There's a rotation lock button on the top edge of the screen if you don't want the screen to reorient with every move.

The keyboard dock it plugs into is somewhat less upscale-looking than the tablet. It's bulky, but contains an additional battery, so connecting the two parts help with battery life. The keyboard features white island-style keys against a light silver keyboard tray with a small clickpad below.

The keys, as noted previously, are on the small side, and reminded me of typing on a tiny Netbook keyboard years ago. Keystrokes were definitely more accurate on this final version than on the earlier sample hardware, but I occasionally ran into a double input, where a keystroke would register twice.

The clickpad-style touch pad (which means it has the left and right mouse buttons built into the pad itself instead of separate buttons) is functional, but feels cramped. As noted with the Acer Aspire S7, the Windows 8 interface doesn't work especially well with a touch pad, so you'll find yourself using a combination of pad and screen for navigation.

When combined, the screen and keyboard form something that looks and feels a lot like a traditional clamshell laptop. The hinge holds very securely, and the entire hinge assembly can also fold open to nearly 180 degrees.

The 10-inch 1366x768-pixel display is clear and bright, suffering no visual degradation from having touch incorporated into it. Despite my Atom-centric concerns, touch response is immediate and quick, and off-axis viewing (important for a tablet) was excellent from any angle.

Connections and performance

If you look at the W510 as a tablet, its ports and connections are decent. If you look at it as a laptop, it's potentially frustrating. As mentioned, the display has micro USB, micro HDMI and a microSD card slot. The keyboard base adds a full-size USB port, but available USB ports are of the older 2.0 variety (something to look out for when getting an Atom over a Core i-series Intel chip).

(Credit: CNET)

While most Windows 8 systems, even touchscreen or tablet-like ones, use an Intel Core i-series CPU, a few, including both this and HP's Envy x2, have the Intel Atom Z2760 CPU inside. I thought we had perhaps seen the last of the Atom line after the Netbook market collapsed. No such luck. The next-gen Atom (also known by the code name Clover Trail) is an improvement on previous models, but you still won't get even the performance of a low-end Intel Core i3 out of it.

For web surfing, email and other basic tasks, it actually works fine. Doing heavy Photoshop work, trying to play even basic games or just running too many windows at once can be frustrating. If you temper your expectations, it's acceptable, but my issue is the price — at that level, Core i3 and i5 laptops, even very slim ones, are available. With the Atom, you also don't get the benefit of Intel's latest HD 4000 integrated graphics, so even low-end games will be unplayable. Is the Atom a deal breaker? No, but systems with this chip belong in a lower price category.

The Atom does offer one important advantage: it's very power-efficient (although, Intel's Core i-series chips are also very efficient these days). In our video playback battery drain test, the tablet screen alone ran for a whopping 10 hours and 10 minutes. Add in the keyboard base with its additional battery, and you get 13 hours and 14 minutes. That's a definite selling point, although non-stop web surfing might lower those numbers by a good deal.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Load test (average watts)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Conclusion

The detachable-screen hybrid Windows 8 laptop feels like a check box that nearly every PC maker needs to hit for 2013. None of the variations on this theme is as elegant as the best clamshell or convertible laptops, and some of the prices we've seen will be hard for consumers to swallow. That said, the Iconia W510 works well as a standalone tablet and has a very enviable battery life, but it is hampered by a high price, clunky keyboard and too many micro-style ports.



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christinegulil
5
Rating
 

"Still no good"

christinegulil posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Nothing

The Bad:Poor product but even worse poor service

The computer store where I bought the Acer Iconia from, told me that Acer are an absolute nightmare to deal with. They are unhelpful at best and sometimes downright obstructive. Another good reason to steer clear of the Iconia

christinegulil
5
Rating
 

"Not haoppy Jan!!!!"

christinegulil posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Very little so far.

The Bad:I wish the on off button would work

Has been a bit of a nightmare since the beginning. The on off button still doesn't wok It's back to the computer store again tomorrow. I have a definite feel that this is turning into an ongoing saga. I am tempted to go back to my Toshiba Ultralight which is a lot less temperamental

netlinkaus
10
Rating
 

"Great Allround Tablet"

netlinkaus posted a review   
Australia

The Good:The Screen, Tablet, Feel

The Bad:The Micro Ports get annoying

The Acer Iconia W510 is a very good tablet for users that want an iPad like experience but with more power and the flexibility of Windows 8

 

J NinaS posted a comment   

I am still waiting for my refund from my last attempt at buying an Acer Iconia. I am appalled at their customer service and trading policies. When the brand new product is faulty and will not charge, they should replace it with one that WORKS and not make their customer wait weeks for a refund! It is in effect theft. One wonders how much money is Acer making by providing faulty goods while banking the customer's money?

It might be an OK product but beware of dealing with Acer.




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User Reviews / Comments  Acer Iconia W510

  • christinegulil

    christinegulil

    Rating5

    "The computer store where I bought the Acer Iconia from, told me that Acer are an absolute nightmare to deal with. They are unhelpful at best and sometimes downright obstructive. Another good reason..."

  • christinegulil

    christinegulil

    Rating5

    "Has been a bit of a nightmare since the beginning. The on off button still doesn't wok It's back to the computer store again tomorrow. I have a definite feel that this is turning into an ongoing s..."

  • netlinkaus

    netlinkaus

    Rating10

    "The Acer Iconia W510 is a very good tablet for users that want an iPad like experience but with more power and the flexibility of Windows 8"

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