Not to say that Acer is not trying, but manufacturers seem to offer the same thing over and over again and new tablets have to fight both the competition and a reluctant audience. Stay tuned for a review of the A500 Android tablet and find out if it’s worth your time and money.
First, let’s see what the A500 packs under the hood and what goodies we can find above it.
- Display: 10.1 inch, capacitive, multi touch display with a 1280 x 800 resolution and 16:10 aspect ratio
- Processor: Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core processor clocked at 1 GHZ
- Memory: 1 GB of RAM
- Video: GeForce
- Storage: 16 GB
- Connectivity: WiFi and blue tooth
- Ports: 1 x USB 2.0 port, 1 x mini HDMI, 1 x mini USB, microSD (maximum 32 GB)
- Cameras: 2 MP front facing camera and 5 MP rear facing camera
- OS: Android 3.0 HoneyComb
- Weight: 1.7 pounds
- Measurements: 10.2 x 7.0 x 0.5 inches
The specs are kind of normal for today’s standards, especially if we look at Honeycomb tablets. An IPS screen would have been great, though. The rest is kind of standard- let’s see how Acer makes everything run together.
Design and construction
The A500 has an Alpine Silver brushed aluminum exterior, which is both sturdy and good looking. Maybe a little too heavy, as the tablet weighs no less than 1.7 pounds and it’s kind of difficult to maneuver with only one hand. Also, it’s kind of difficult to move around in a crowded place and getting it out or sliding it in a bag is not as comfy as with other slates. What you lose in mobility you gain in safety, as the tablet looks and feels way stronger than most plastic tablets out there.
The power button is positioned on the left side, being very close to the thumb when you hold the tablet in landscape mode. It’s very easy to access and comes with color signals- white for when it’s on and orange when charging while shut down. The volume controls are kind of awkwardly positioned on the top of the tablet and they’re hard to reach without turning the tablet around. On the right side, there’s a full size USB port, as well as a miniUSB port, while on the left you get a miniUSB port and the card reader. On the bottom there’s a docking station, which is kind of bulky and disrupts the design a little, while on top of the screen there’s the front facing camera.
The tablet has a 10.1 inch, 1280 x 800 screen. It’s pretty standard, but it delivers good visuals and crisp colors. It’s not as good as the one on the iPad 2 when it comes to brightness, even if it has a better resolution. The screen doesn’t use the IPS technology, meaning that when you’re looking at the tablet from a more extreme angle, colors might lose consistency. Also, the screen of the A500 has a weird and ultimately annoying problem- when holding the tablet flat on a table, the screen is hardly responsive, going all resistive on you. Hopefully some sort of sensor update will resolve this problem.
Hardware and performance
The A500 has the same hardware line up that most of the 10 inch, Honeycomb powered slates have these days. There’s the dual core Tegra 2 processor, backed by 1 GB of RAM and an initial 16 GB of storage. The tablet is snappy and doesn’t choke on apps, as the Xoom tablet does more often that it should. Android 3.0 works better on the A500 than on other tablets running the same OS, a sign that Acer had more time (and consideration?) when customizing the software for their tablet.
Apps load very fast, 3D games like Heroes of Sparta run very smooth and web pages load fast and fluid, without some sections appearing much later than others. The accelerometer is fast and sensitive enough to keep track of gaming and changing the orientation of the screen without having to do a movement twice. The tablet can play 720p and 1080p videos without a problem and thanks to the miniHDMI port, you can watch clips on a bigger display. Unfortunately, for now there’s support only for 720p, but a future update will let you play 1080p via the port.
Software and applications
Acer played around a little with the interface, but the Honeycomb experience is still there. On the home screen you get a few buttons that represent the essential stuff you do with the tablet: web, games, social, books. When you press one of them, a submenu appears that offers access to apps dealing with that category. Of course, you can customize up to 5 home screens with your favourite widgets and shortcuts. At the bottom of the screen you’ll find the system bar, that hosts Android commands- Back, Home and Recent applications.
Like other 3.0 tablets, the A500 has the same standard virtual keyboard, with the important difference that alternative characters (like @ or ? ) are available through a tap and hold command. The tablet comes with some preloaded apps, including Social Jogger, that streams your Facebook and Twitter in one place, the clear.fi platform for sharing media, an e-book reader, browsers and media players. If it’s not enough, you can always hop on the Android Market express, but the titles optimized for tablets are still very lonely- only about 60 of them. Still, there are enough games and apps designed for Android 2.x versions that will work just fine.
The 5 MP camera in the back captures relatively clear images when it comes to colors, but everything seems a little washed out. Objects tend to have weird edges and blurry contours, but overall the video quality is good. It’s the same with pictures, as they have good colors, but so and so edges. The front facing camera does its job when it comes to video calls, but if you stand too close to the the tablet, you’ll be one big pile of pixels.
The A500 has medium performance when it comes to battery life, as it can run for about 8 hours of normal use on a single charge. If you intend to watch HD video on it, expect the battery to go down way faster. Anyway, it’s still a decent output, considering some tablets out there don’t even last for a mere 4-5 hours.
Prices and availability
The 16 GB version of the tablet is now available for $449, from Best Buy, being cheaper than both the iPad 2 and Xoom tablets- of course, the two come subsidized from a bunch of carriers because they have 3G modules.
It is also available on Amazon.com for $44 as well, but you get Free Shipping included as well. See the link for more details.
The A500 is a decent entry on the 10 inch tablet market, having a solid build, good performance and offers all the delights of Honeycomb. Everything you need from a tablet is there, but maybe that’s it- the A500 plays it safe and didn’t try to innovate in any compartment.