Although not as successful as other Android tablets launched in the last year, the A500 is a pretty decent slate, packing the same hardware as most other devices in its class and one of the best calibrated screens currently on the market.
The iPad 2, on the other hand, is the most successful slate on the market and it seems that only the third iteration of the series, anticipated for Spring 2012, will be able to threat its supremacy. Next, we’re going to compare the two devices and see if there’s something that the A500 can do in order to have a fighting chance against the iPad 2. Stay tuned.
Build and design
Two major differences between the two tablets is that the iPad 2 is built for portrait mode use, while the A500 works better in landscape, and second, that the iPad 2 is smaller in terms of screen diagonal, 9.7 inch, while the A500 has a 10.1 inch screen diagonal. While the iPad 2 is a little more square-ish because of the 4:3 aspect ratio, the A500 is much thicker, looking like it could eat the iPad 2 up and still have room for at least an iPod.
Naturally, the A500 is also heavier, packing almost half a pound extra in comparison with the iPad 2. The A500 comes with a metal finish on the back, which assures for a great grip, especially when in portrait mode. The edges have a more plastic like finish, which doesn’t feel as solid, while the screen is surrounded by a glossy bezel.
The iPad 2 is a much more carefully finished machine, having a metal uni body that’s very light, very solid and looks fantastic- after all, half of Apple’s success has to do with the design. Still, the iPad 2’s edges are a little sharp and a little inconvenient to hold with one hand for a longer while.
Both tablets come with a Gorilla Glass layer on top of the actual display and we couldn’t be more happy about it. The displays is tough and scratch resistant, although the one on the A500 feels slightly more like a plastic toy than the one on the iPad 2, which feels much more solid. Underneath the rather glossy protective layer there is, for the iPad 2, an IPS display with a 1024 x 768 resolution, while the Acer has a standard LCD panel with a 1280 x 800 resolution.
Overall, the iPad 2 offers a very solid experience, with great viewing angles, something that the A500 offers in a rather incomplete way. While brightness levels and color saturation are well adjusted on the slate, viewing angles are poorer, both because of the LCD panel underneath and the glossy Gorilla Glass on top. Still, the A500 has the main advantage of having a better resolution and more comfy orientation for when playing video.
Hardware and performance
The iPad 2 comes with a A5 dual core processor, that’s almost identical in terms of numbers with the A500’s Tegra 2, but does better at most tasks thanks to the tailored OS. Apple had time to customize their OS to work on their in house built processor (and the other way around). Android tablet manufacturers, like Acer, had to grab the best available hardware on the market (always different from cycle to cycle) and pair it up with whatever Google decides to throw out there as a new version of their mobile OS.
The iPad 2 feels a little snappier and launches apps faster than the A500 and generally deals with multitasking a tad better. Even after getting a couple of crucial updates (v. 3.1 and v. 3.2), the A500 is behaving well, but not stellar. Some web pages are rendered sluggishly and not all HD videos run perfectly, even if the Tegra 2 hardware inside claims that.
Still, the A500 will take you through an Android experience quite nicely, and the fact that you can outsource HD video to a big screen via the miniHDMI port directly is a great advantage over the iPad 2, which requires an extra cable that is also quite expensive. Both tablets have cameras, both front and rear facing, but most reviewers and customers were not impressed by the quality, as HD clips are washed out and still photos look good only in bright light.
The iPad 2 runs on iOS 4.3.5, which was released in July 2011. The version is different from the previous one by a number of security features, while iOS 5 is scheduled for a late 2011 release. The A500 runs on Honeycomb 3.2, which is the newest version of the tablet oriented OS from Google.
The performance on the A500 is considerably better after this second update, which fixed a lot of problems dealing with multitasking, sluggish video playback, HTML 5, and added scalable widgets. The slate comes with a bunch of interesting included apps like Social Jogger, that combines your Facebook and Twitter activity in one stream, clear.fi, that lets you transfer data between Acer devices, Documents To Go and an e-reader app. Also, you can always download and install as many apps as you like from the Android Market.
The iPad 2, on the other hand, comes with a bunch of photo editing apps, FaceTime, virtual printer app, GarageBand and iMovie, two apps that will let you edit videos or create songs on the go. The major downturn of the iPad 2 is that it doesn’t support Flash, while the A500 has complete support for it.
The battery on the iPad 2, similar to the one on the first entry, can go for about 10 hours on a single charge, being one of the best (if not the best) battery you can find on a large tablet these days. The A500, on the other hand, is much more modest, being able to run on a single charge for about 8 hours, but if you’ll use it more for video playback or something similar, it might drain much faster.
The iPad 2 has a base price of $499, which gets you the 16 GB, WiFi only version. The versions packing 3G start at over 600 bucks. If you’ll want the top version, packing 3G from either Verizon or AT&T and 64 GB of storage, you’ll have to pay at least $799.
The A500 is one of the cheapest Android Honeycomb slates out there, the 16 GB version going now for a reduced price of $362, but you only have WiFi, as 3G is not available on the slate. Still, the base model of Acer’s slate is 150 bucks cheaper than the similarly equipped version of the Apple iPad 2.
It would be easy just to lash out at the A500 and declare the iPad 2 a clear winner here. In a way, this looks like David versus Goliath, with iPad 2 being the best sold tablet of all times, while the A500 is not even in top 3 of most successful Android slates. Still, considering the price difference between the two, the gap determined by the difference in performance is not that considerable and the A500 is a good choice at any time.
What the iPad 2 does better is handle apps, runs smoother and gives access to that Apple experience everyone seems to enjoy so much, while the A500 lets you browse, play games, watch videos, work, move files easily over a network and much more. In the end, it’s not about which one is better, but how much money you want to spend and what makes you tick between Apple and the rest of the world.
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