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Acer Iconia TAB W500/W501- netbook and tablet in one device

Windows tablets are regarded with much more caution than those running on Android. The OS is very buggy and touch input is far from being optimized on Microsoft’s latest OS. There is hope, of course, as Microsoft 8, which is said to be designed with touch input in mind, might be introduced later this year. But let’s take a look at the Iconia Tab W500, which is a 10 inch tablet running Windows 7 and try to understand the reasons behind the decision to launch a tablet running a very problematic OS.

The display is 10.1 inch multi touch capacitive screen and the processor is a dual core AMD Fusion, Ontario C-50 APU. We’re used to see AMD Fusion chips on netbooks, but the low power architecture recommends them also as solutions for tablets. The processor comes with built in graphics, namely the ATI Radeon HD 6250, which, as the name suggests, can support HD playback and is compatible with DirectX 11.

In terms of system memory, you can choose between 1 or 2 GB of RAM– basically, the same set up you get on netbooks. There’s a 32 GB SSD inside, but you can add to that via the SD card expansion slot. The tablet comes with WiFi, blue tooth and optional 3G, while the juice maker is a 6 cell battery- which I don’t think it will last very long, as Windows 7 is known as a pretty hungry OS. There’s also an HDMI port for exporting movies on a bigger screen, as well as a single USB port.

The Ring UI grants access to all major features of the tablet

The Ring UI grants access to all major features of the tablet

The twist with this tablet is that it comes with a docking station meets keyboard, which transforms the W500 into a full forced netbook. It’s a trick we’ve seen before, but works better with a Windows 7 tablet- the less touch input, less frustrating the experience. The chiclet keyboard is comparable in size with those on netbooks and in the middle you have a ThinkPad style track point, which works and not really. But you can always just use the touchscreen instead of the mouse.

The keyboard connects to the tablet via a USB cable, while the tablet gets docked via a fragile, two pin system. From afar, it might look like a laptop which can be folded- but it’s not! If you try that, you might break the pins supporting it and end up buying another docking station. The keyboard setup looks and feels a little fragile, but it also benefits those who have to use a tablet both for entertainment and work.

The keyboard lets you use this as a netbook running Windows 7

The keyboard lets you use this as a netbook running Windows 7

Windows 7 is the OS of choice for most people working for a living and having it at your disposal even on a tablet might prove damn useful from time to time. But you don’t have to deal with Windows all the time- Acer throws on top of it their proprietary Ring UI, which gives you quick access to your settings, media, two 1.3 MP cameras and so on. If we’re to be a little mean, we might say that you can rely only¬† on the ring UI when using the slate without a keyboard, thus bypassing Windows.

There are a bunch of preinstalled apps on the tablet, like Social Jogger, that pulls in all the data from your social networking sites in one place and My Journal, which lets you clip parts of web pages and save them in an environment resembling a mood board– and the cool thing is that those snippets are constantly updating.

Gaming runs sweet on the W500 thanks to the integrated Radeon graphics

Gaming runs sweet on the W500 thanks to the integrated Radeon graphics

The W500 will be available in the next weeks for a starting price of 449 pounds or 529 with the keyboard. It’s sure expensive, but it packs both entertainment and productivity tools, running on some fine hardware. And who knows, maybe you’ll be able to upgrade to Windows 8 sooner than you expected…

About the Author
Mark is an Editor here at Based in London where he studies Screenwriting and Production, he blogs about technology as a hobby. He's mainly in charge with news here on the site, but he doesn't mind publishing some guides, tests and editorials from time to time as well.

Last updated: March 14, 2011 | Published: March 14th, 2011
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