The A100 is a 7 inch Android tablet that Acer introduced, in a bundle show, together with the A500, during a tech event sometime last winter. While the A500 is already out there, being one of the so and so 10 inch Honeycombians, the A100 is a tad more interesting at a first glance, because it’s the first 7 inch slate to come with Android Honeycomb, although others claimed that spot.

Also, the A100 is a pretty affordable tablet, having a base price of $329, which is a hefty 150 bucks less than other relevant new gen 7 inchers, like the Blackberry Playbook or the HTC Flyer. Let’s see if the A100 is a great device throughout or it falls short of quality here and there like its 10 inch brother.

Specs

The A100 has a good setup for a 7 incher, including a Tegra 2 chip, which we usually see on larger tablets. True, newer 7 inch slates are packing it as well. Spec list below.

  • CPU: Nvidia Tegra 2, 1 GHZ dual core
  • System memory: 1 GB
  • Storage: 8 GB (16 GB version also available)
  • Display: 7 inch screen, 1024 x 600 resolution
  • Operating system: Android Honeycomb 3.2
  • Cameras: 5 MP rear facing camera, 2 MP front facing
  • Connectivity: WiFi
  • Ports: microSD (up to 32 GB), microUSB, microHDMI, audio jack, proprietary port
  • Dimensions: 7.6 x 4.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Weight: 0.92 pounds

We’re happy to see a decent selection of ports on a 7 incher, but a 3G module, even as an extra, would have been nice.

Build and design

Being only 0.5 inches thick, the A100 is as slim as two other major 7 inch slates, namely the first Galaxy Tab and the HTC Flyer. But it doesn’t borrow anything in terms of design from the two, being basically a shrinked version of the A500. It has the same tapered edges, which will make the slate feel a little slimmer than it actually is and a glossy black bezel in front, which will attract smudges and fingerprints like a charm.

On the back you get a gray, slightly textured finish, with the Acer logo sitting right in the middle of the surface. The A500 has a similar finish on the back, but the material is aluminum, not plastic, like on the A100. I guess that the low asking price had its saying in build materials. Nevertheless, the tablet feels solid, with the plastic feeling sturdy, not shaky or bendy, like the one on many similar, entry level slates.

The A100 has a quality all plastic body

The A100 has a quality all plastic body

Display

The slate comes with a 1024 x 600 display, which is fairly well calibrated, maybe a little better than the one on the Flyer. Colors and brightness are very good and touch input is snappy, but tilting the screen a little will reveal the horrors of any glossy display. Like with any other slate with a glossy display, if you can use it only at fairly straight angles, you’ll be fine. Edges and tight angles will be kind of a challenge which might make you punch the air in frustration.

Hardware and performance

The A100 comes with a Tegra 2 chip and 1 GB of RAM, which is a strong setup for a 7 inch slate. The slate is very fast, videos run smooth- this is helped also by the 1024 x 600 resolution, and screen orientation changes pretty fast when rotating the tablet. The good performance is partially caused by the superior version of Android, namely 3.2, which fixed many performance bugs that 3.0 had.

Gaming  is also flawless, which is kind of normal, considering there are less pixels to process than on 10 inch screens. As for testing, the A100 scored decent scores, like 53.2 in Linpack, which tests overall performance, placing the A100 well over the category average, and over 8.000 in An3DBench, which is much more than the category average and is outclassed only by the 10 inch Eee Pad Transformer.

Software and apps

The A100 packs the 7 inch friendly Android 3.2, which is the first fully tablet oriented OS from Android for this form factor. Acer left everything pretty clean and there’s no dedicated skin on top of Honeycomb, so you can enjoy the OS in all its splendor. On the bottom left side of the screen you get the back, home and recent apps buttons, with the later granting access to the latest apps you closed.

On the right you have a bunch of indicators, namely time, notifications and settings, while on the top right there’s a button granting access to all installed apps. There’s no master UI, as we said, but Acer did brought in their own themes when it comes to sub categories like games, media, e-reader and social media, in which you can group appropriate apps.

The slate comes with a bunch of apps including clear.fi, which is Acer’s platform for moving data between connected devices, Social Jogger, that merges your Twitter and Facebook activity into one interface, some media players, internet radio stations and Docs to Go. Of course, you have a plethora of Google apps, like Mail, Music, Books, Movies and Marketplace. Also, Nvidia’s Tegrazone games market is available– too bad it’s barely populated.

With Honeycomb 3.2 on board, the A100 is a very enjoyable slate

With Honeycomb 3.2 on board, the A100 is a very enjoyable slate

Camera

Like many cameras on tablets, the duo on the A100 leaves very much to be desired. We should settle for the fact that these devices are not meant to deliver great photo and video performance and not expect too much. The rear facing, 5 MP camera can record video, but the colors are “washed” and in modest lighting, images will be very grainy.

As for pictures, if you want to capture something half decent, you’ll need as much light as possible. The 2 MP front facing camera can’t perform beyond the limits of a video call and probably that’s its purpose. Even for this, make sure you’re in a decently lit room or the details of your face won’t be very clear.

Battery life

Not really impressive. The tablet can go for a maximum of about 5 and half hours on a single charge if you limit use to browsing. Playing HD clips or games will drain the battery much faster, in just a little over four hours. The numbers are not really good, considering that most worth mentioning 7 inch slates can go on a single charge for at least 90 minutes more, with the Galaxy Tab 7 being able to last for 8 hours and a half.

In other words, the A100 won’t be able to take you through the day, so you’ll have to either have a charger with you at all times or turn it off completely every time you don’t use it. Not quite mobile and not quite on the run, Acer.

The screen is, sadly, a fingerprint magnet

The screen is, sadly, a fingerprint magnet

Prices and availability

The Acer Iconia A100 , which is available in the US, with 8 GB of storage sells for $329, while the 16 GB version goes for $349. The slate was available for pre order in the UK a while back for around 400 pounds, but now Amazon unlisted it. Tough break, brits.

We’ll update this part once we find more stores selling it.

Final thoughts

With the exception of the weak battery life, Acer got most things right with this 7 inch slate. The design is good, the body is fairly slim and light, while the fresh Honeycomb 3.2 and decent selection of apps make up for a great ride. Fortunately, Acer didn’t splashed a UI on top of the OS, so you can enjoy it in all its snappy grandeur.

The A100 fails to impress in categories that would have pumped the price up: screen, battery life and cameras, but the performance is overall OK, being in synch with even more expensive slates have to offer.

I think that if the A100 would have packed a 7 hour battery it would have been a great 7 inch slate. This way, it’s just highly recommended.