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Meet Acer's Iconia Tab A500

Acer Iconia Tab A500: A Tablet With Honeycomb 3.1
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Click to view Picture GalleryClick to view Picture Gallery

Compared to the Xoom, the Iconia A500 is slightly heavier at 1.65 lbs. Both are nowhere as thin or light as the iPad 2. But remember that these are still first-generation Android tablets.

Thickness Compared to AA BatteryThickness Compared to AA Battery


iPad (3G)
iPad 2 (3G)
XoomIconia A500
Length 9.56"9.5"9.8"10.2"
Width7.47"7.31"6.6"7"
Height.5".34"0.5"0.5"
Screen Size9.7"9.7"10.1"10.1"
Aspect Ratio4:34:316:1016:10
Weight
1.6 lb1.33 lb1.5 lb1.65 lb


As with the Xoom (and unlike Apple), Acer employs a wide-aspect (16:10) display. As a result, it's slightly narrow than what you'd see on an iPad. Consequently, you'd find yourself holding the Iconia Tab A500 mostly in landscape mode.

We discussed this in the Xoom review, but Apple is clearly taking a different approach, mimicking a pad of paper. That's why it uses a standard (4:3) aspect ratio. You can use the Iconia Tab in portrait mode, but it's a little awkward since you lose a lot of horizontal workspace.

Left SideLeft SideRight SideRight Side

Cable management is a bit of a mess on the Iconia A500 because its I/O ports are located on both sides. On the left, you have the HDMI Mini connector and headphone port. On the right side, you have the AC, Micro-B USB, and full-sized USB ports. This is more of an issue when you're trying to output video (more on that in a bit).

Top: Volume, Orientation Lock, miniSDTop: Volume, Orientation Lock, miniSD

Bottom: Docking ConnectorBottom: Docking Connector

Unfortunately, the button layout isn't configured well for landscape mode. If you're holding the tablet with two hands, you'll probably use your left hand to turn it on. However, in order to change volume, you have to hold the A500 at the corners with both hands.

Acer is going for a simpler aesthetic design than the Xoom. It's somewhat deceptive due to the texture, but the Iconia A500's case is made of blush aluminum, which has been polished down to feel nearly as smooth as ABS plastic. This is a plus for road warriors who might not always be super-careful about the way they set their gear down.

That's very different from what you get with an iPad. If you drag the Iconia A500 across a table, you don’t hear the noise of particles grinding against the surface. Better yet, a single scratch isn't visible after a full week of use.

CameraiPad 2
XoomIconia A500
Front-Facing
0.3 MP (640x480)
2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)
Rear-Facing
0.7 MP (960x720)
5.0 MP (2592 x 1944) 5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)


Like the Xoom, the Iconia A500 is equipped with a front-facing 2.0 MP camera and a rear-facing 5.0 MP camera. The main difference is that Acer only saw fit to equip its tablet with a single LED flash. In comparison, the Xoom sports a dual-LED flash. While the two tablets' cameras share similar specs, the output quality is slightly different between the two Android tablets.

The two stereo speakers on the rear of the tablet offer better audio performance than the iPad's mono speaker, but they're too weak to be of any practical use other than generic audio notifications. If you plan to watch a movie or listen to audio tracks, use the audio port on the left side to connect a pair of headphones instead.

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  • 0 Hide
    joytech22 , July 21, 2011 4:30 AM
    I have this tablet and I absolutely love it.
    It's great fun, has a great battery life compared to my laptops and I just enjoy it.

    I take it to college (I do I.T Cert IV, Diploma next year) and it's very handy for drafting documentation when working with the computers and taking notes.
  • 1 Hide
    acku , July 21, 2011 4:45 AM
    Good luck on the Cert!

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 0 Hide
    Malachi1975 , July 21, 2011 5:07 AM
    I picked up the A500 after doing a hell of a lot of shopping for an Android Tablet and I have yet to look back with regrets. In fact, I have recommended it to several others who have picked it up. Compared to some of the other leading tablets out there, I would still choose the A500 time and again.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 21, 2011 6:46 AM
    The latest update for Motorola Xoom (3.2) has MicroSD support.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , July 21, 2011 6:52 AM
    ThisIsKevinYoThe latest update for Motorola Xoom (3.2) has MicroSD support.

    Yeah I saw an email from Motorola. The OTA update is rolling out in stages, which is why my Xoom probably didn't get the update last week. I need to test it out to confirm that it works.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , July 21, 2011 7:27 AM
    This summed it up for me: "The Iconia A500 isn't any different from other tablets; you're paying more than you would for a better-performing notebook."

    If I'm to pay a significant fee for a niche product, it had better be really good at a specific purpose. Better at it, in fact, than other, cheaper products. I got my kindle despite the fact that you can read ebooks on computers, smart phones, ipods, etc, because it damn well did a great job of being a book. It did it better than these other devices. The form factor combined with the great battery life and easy on the eyes screen made it worth it. Plus, you can read it in sunlight.

    What then, is the purpose of buying a tablet over, say, a netbook? The tablet is geared at media consumption, but it doesn't do a significantly better job of that than the netbook. In fact, it does a worse job of it, allowing me fewer media options, while simultaneously costing more and having less storage, with an OS that won't run proper, useful software.

    Maybe they'll get better, but right now, they're overpriced toys.
  • 4 Hide
    ubercake , July 21, 2011 9:33 AM
    First, let me say I can't stand Apple and I wasn't too impressed with the Zune. Because of its hardware, there is a lot of potential with the A500. The games look impressive with the Tegra2 and the nice screen. The sound is great for a tablet. The cameras (front and rear) are better than those available on the iPad.This is why I looked only at the Android Tablets when I shopped for a tablet.

    I bought the A500 under the assumption Skype, Netflix, HBO2Go, and Xfinity were standard apps across the Android offering. Turns out Netflix and Skype will run on newer phones with earlier versions of Android, but not this one.

    Xfinity and HBO2Go are yet to be created for Android.

    I worked with the network admin at my job to get this running on the network there (we are currently evaluating handhelds in the workplace) and we found it doesn't work on all PEAP/Wep Wifi network combos. It won't even connect out of the box. I read up on 'Advanced Network tools' for Android and found that people on earlier versions of Android were able to connect to this type of network using these tools. By golly they didn't work on this version.

    Additionally, those on screen keypads are frustrating. The lag is apparent if you have any typing ability beyond the 40wpm mark. If you type too quickly, it won't even pick up your laters as I think it recognizes them as "mistake touches".

    I've owned my A500 for around 2 months now. I've picked it up to use it around 10 times since I've gotten it primarily only because someone else was on my favorite laptop and I wanted to browse the web. I keep waiting for the update to let me do all the things I still can't and it hasn't come.

    The finger swipe games are fun for people who are into that. I'm not. There are plenty available.

    Again, I can't stand Apple, but out of the box we got the iPad on our corporate network and it plays Netflix, HBO2go, Xfinity and does Skype. While the hardware seems extremely advanced with these Android tablets, it seems the newer OSs are taking steps back in time.

    As a result, I've found this device to be an over-sized mediocre gaming device (like a DS) with OK web browsing capabilities since not everything works in the browsers on Android. It has plenty of potential since the hardware is great, but these things aren't ready for prime time. Look for mine on Ebay come late November if they don't pick up on real software support for these things or if I still can't connect to my corporate network.

    I sum it up as such:

    Unrealized potential means nothing!
    "Oh he was always so smart, but he just didn't apply himself" - kind of like that.
  • 0 Hide
    obarthelemy , July 21, 2011 11:13 AM
    "lack of apps"... Which apps exactly ? There ain't thousands of identical apps, but which apps are currently missing on Android ?
  • 0 Hide
    cknobman , July 21, 2011 1:50 PM
    Ive played with the Iconia first hand in a Best Buy along side other Android tablets (Xoom, Toshiba, Asus) and I thought the Iconia felt cheap and unpolished.

    Out of every tablet I have played with so far(sorry havent seen a Galaxy yet) the Asus is a homerun and there is absolutely no chance I would buy the Iconia or any other Android tablet besides the Asus.
  • 0 Hide
    Kahless01 , July 21, 2011 2:05 PM
    Didnt seem to catch my last comment. I believe your price is wrong. They price dropped the A500 recently and added a 32gb model to the lineup. There is a 64gb model on the way and they are also adding 3g/4g. Ive had my A500 for 2 months and forced 3.1 on it because i got tired of waiting for the update. Not missing my laptop too much beyond storage space for all my movies.
  • 0 Hide
    ubercake , July 21, 2011 2:10 PM
    obarthelemy"lack of apps"... Which apps exactly ? There ain't thousands of identical apps, but which apps are currently missing on Android ?

    Lack of apps on the A500 specifically... Netflix (though there are hundreds of 3rd-party queue managers), Skype, HBO2go, and Xfinity.
  • 0 Hide
    ubercake , July 21, 2011 2:11 PM
    Kahless01Didnt seem to catch my last comment. I believe your price is wrong. They price dropped the A500 recently and added a 32gb model to the lineup. There is a 64gb model on the way and they are also adding 3g/4g. Ive had my A500 for 2 months and forced 3.1 on it because i got tired of waiting for the update. Not missing my laptop too much beyond storage space for all my movies.

    The prices are dropping on these things because people are finding out they aren't even as functional as an iPad.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , July 21, 2011 2:19 PM
    Kahless01Didnt seem to catch my last comment. I believe your price is wrong. They price dropped the A500 recently and added a 32gb model to the lineup. There is a 64gb model on the way and they are also adding 3g/4g. Ive had my A500 for 2 months and forced 3.1 on it because i got tired of waiting for the update. Not missing my laptop too much beyond storage space for all my movies.


    Hi Kahless01,

    I'm using the retail "non-special non-sale" price. That's why it seems slightly higher. There are always deals going around, like the Staples $299 A500 deal http://news.cnet.com/8301-13845_3-20081008-58/get-an-acer-iconia-10-inch-android-tablet-for-$299.98/#ixzz1Si5wvVfD, but I post the regular price.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 0 Hide
    San Pedro , July 22, 2011 12:36 AM
    I love mine. Only downsides are weight and inability to play 720p mkv correctly.
  • 0 Hide
    zkevwlu , July 22, 2011 1:55 PM
    San PedroI love mine. Only downsides are weight and inability to play 720p mkv correctly.


    Mine plays 720p MKVs just fine, you just need to find the right app. I currently use MoboPlayer.
  • 0 Hide
    cking , July 22, 2011 2:03 PM
    We need to verify the fact about the hardware we are talking about. The Xoom got Micro SD Card Support with Honeycomb 3.2 which started going out a few weeks ago.

    I have confirmed that it works on mine. Android 3.2 really smoothed out the edges. It should also be noted that the Xoom is basically a Dev platform like the Nexus line of Phones. Which is why it gets updates sooner rather then later

    Also if you are wanting Netflix you need to go look for the most recent APK file that is now published all over the place online. It is believe it is enabling Netflix on any Honeycomb device. So far netflix looks pretty good on my Xoom.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 24, 2011 1:30 AM
    I love the Acer Iconia. I eBay'd my Asus Transformer and bought the Iconia. In a word, it's all about the audio. These tablets all run the same once Honeycomb 3.1 is loaded. But, I can't buy more Audio, at least not out of the box audio. I wholly disagree that you can't watch a movie on this. I do that AND use it for my entertainment during my stationary biking workout. I grab a youtube channel or plug in the microSD i had been using for my car and listen away. I used Queen's Another One Bites The Dust and Bohemian Rhapsody as well as MJ's Thriller for reference songs. The Iconia just barely nudges out the Lenovo IdeaPad for audio quality. I am happy with how it sounds on all counts. Styling, well, I REALLY loved the copper color on the Transformer. I'd like to have diff color Iconias. Aside from that, I can not give the Iconia higher marks. Screen wise, the panel is where Acer saved costs vs the Transformer and the Ideapad. Those are DEFINITELY IPS panels. The Iconia is about on par with the Xoom but dead on and side to side it is an enjoyable view all the same. I'd rather have great visuals and superb sound than superb visuals and so so sound.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 24, 2011 2:52 AM
    It's too bad that Tom's hardware seems to Microsoft centric. I am willing to bet that ext2 and other common Linux file systems are supported. NTFS is a bear to support under Linux....You do realize that Android is just another Linux distribution, don't you? That's why I am willing to bet that ext2, and maybe ext3 is supported.
  • 0 Hide
    11796pcs , July 24, 2011 2:54 AM
    Forget these tablets, if you're going to spend obscene amounts of money on a tablet anyway (like the 64 GB iPad 2) you may as well get this bad boy and call it a day http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2375081,00.asp
  • 0 Hide
    wangwang , July 25, 2011 7:02 AM
    Great review. But still prefer the Asus Transformer.
    Thanks.
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