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Acer Iconia W510 Tablet: A Tale Of Intel Vs. ARM And Acer Vs. Apple

The Novelty Wears Off

Sounds like I really dig Acer's W510, right? Well, the novelty of a fast, functional, x86-based tablet quickly wore off. The device's fit and finish just isn't up to the iPad's standard. There is some creaking and flexing that goes on, and yet Acer asks a premium price. Build quality simply doesn't match.

The Atom's PowerVR SGX545 is great for Web browsing and most Windows 8 applications. Games like Armed (a great turn-based strategy title), Pinball FX, and Angry Birds Star Wars also run well. You can even run classic PC games like Sam & Max. Unfortunately, more graphics-intensive titles, such as Violet Storm (a game inspired by Geometry Wars) don't run properly. The SGX545 is incompatible with XCOM: Enemy Unknown, resulting in a crash. There is always this jarring sensation going from a very fast tablet under the Windows 8 UI to unusably-slow 3D apps. This breaks the "it just works" paradigm tied to Apple's products.

Windows 8 also proved to be disappointing. Now, I have Windows 8 installed on my primary laptop, my home desktop, and my primary workstation, none of which have a touchscreen. Although there's a rough learning curve tied to the new UI, Windows 8 is a faster and more responsive operating system, given the same hardware I was using to drive Windows 7. But even though Windows 8 was envisioned as a desktop and tablet OS, you can tell it's still a desktop environment with touch optimizations.

You can live in the new Windows 8 UI until you can't. For a power user like myself, bouncing back and forth between the Windows 8 interface and the Desktop app is tolerable. And if you're a mainstream consumer using a tablet to check email, surf the Web, and play games like Angry Birds, you can live exclusively in the Windows 8 world. It’s the middle ground that becomes annoying. All of the sudden, instead of using the great IE interface, you're faced with a conventional desktop browser. And when you're forced to the Desktop on a tablet, control is far less elegant.

The more I tried to use the W510 as a tablet, the more problems surfaced. Traditional smartphone/tablet apps are missing in Windows 8. There's no alarm clock. While you can download alarm clock apps, none of them are as effective as what comes bundled in iOS. I’m not sure how this oversight made it past Microsoft. Free third-party alarm clock apps do not reliably wake up the tablet, and an unreliable alarm clock is a useless one.

During my time with the W510, I experienced a few crashes that required a power cycle. They weren't hard locks because Windows' animations were still moving. But the device was completely unresponsive to user input. I suspected an issue with Wi-Fi, since I also had trouble with Windows re-detecting the same access point as new. Even though the crashes only plagued me once a week or so, this is a flaw. During the same time, my Core i7-3770K-based desktop and Core i7-3930K-based workstation never crashed under Windows 8.

Originally, we wanted to publish this piece last December. Just before that, Acer released a BIOS update package that also included upgraded Intel drivers. This process went smoothly; there are not boot drives or firmware utilities to deal with. The update was as uneventful as what you'd expect from Apple. The new drivers were supposed to improve battery life, while maintaining performance. Gladly, I stopped encountering crashes after the software package was installed. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi remains spotty with my Linksys E4200 v1 router, and I have to reconnect to the AP manually after every restart.

  • Priox
    "Because shipping was on my tab and only the keyboard was broken, I shipped it on its own."

    You made a massive assumption here to save yourself a few bucks in shipping costs. Your assumption was wrong, and the delay in processing your RMA is all on you.

    Acer manufactures and sells the dock together as a single unit. They separate physically but they are still both part of the same product. It is very reasonable and logical that they would want to examine both together in order to determine the cause of the problem.

    It is not reasonable or logical to compare the Acer W510 dock to a keyboard or mouse for a Mac Pro. Keyboards and mice are not system specific and are highly interchangeable. Your Acer tablet may function without the dock, but the dock does not function without the tablet; it's a system dependent peripheral.

    Next time you make an assumption that turns out to be wrong, I hope you'll accept some responsibility for it.
    Reply
  • ta152h
    What does "Since I never notebooks for repair with their hard drives, I spent time scrubbing my data." mean?

    As if the whining about having to send the full unit in wasn't bad enough (anyone with any technical knowledge would know to send the complete system, instead of being miserly), but then bad English.

    This was a really bad article.

    Reply
  • Bloob
    Not surprising, I have yet to buy anything Acer which works well. The products may just fill the exact function they are advertised to, but not a hair more.
    Reply
  • adgjlsfhk
    so pretty much what I got from this was that
    a. this is a good tablet, much better than an ipad
    b. it crashes if you try to do things that no ipad could ever do (full pc games)
    c. customer service sucks

    don't read the article, this has all the info
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    The Google Octane benchmarks are completely bogus for IE10 VS Chrome on SB-E .

    Chrome currently performs best in Octane. Nearly matched by Firefox. IE10 is nowhere near these two.
    Either you took a busted Canary build, or there is something wrong with the test setup.
    BTW, why are you testing a Canary build here ? Those are very unstable, and perf goes up and down.

    Could you try the latest release Chrome and retest ?
    Reply
  • hons
    so pretty much what I got from this was that
    a. this is a good tablet, much better than an ipad
    b. it crashes if you try to do things that no ipad could ever do (full pc games)
    c. customer service sucks

    don't read the article, this has all the info

    Plus -------- Acer needs him to pay the shipping charge!!!!!!!!
    Reply
  • xtremeways
    I agree, this was a bad article. Acer's customer service is widely known as crap. Nothing new there, but as someone in the IT field you should have already known this. Armed with this knowledge you should have done everything by the book and not assumed you could just send the dock. I rather had read one of those 20 picture articles than this one. Sorry dude.
    Reply
  • duckwithnukes
    Who is this guy? Why the rant? Very poor article.
    Reply
  • Onus
    I just don't get it. So many companies no longer understand, that service is everything. Niche consumers (e.g. do-it-yourself enthusiasts) may not need service, but they're a niche; a tiny percentage of the market. To everyone else, if the product isn't perfect, the service better be, or they'll find something else. Could this explain why so many people are willing to pay the "Apple Tax?"
    Reply
  • ojas
    I have performance numbers for an overclocked six-core PC in there just to remind everyone that the death of the desktop is still a premature proclamation.
    I have a 9 year old 1.7 GHz Single core Pentium M that can prove the same. Sunspider (0.91) score running Chrome (v24) was 544.6 +/- 6%. 1GB DDR RAM, Windows XP, Intel IGP. Don't remember the clocks.

    Sunspider's sensitive to IPC and clock speeds, doesn't seem to care much about core count, as the rest of my little test went like this:

    Core i7-3517U @ 2.4 GHz + Turbo = 208
    Core 2 Quad Q8400 @ 2.77 GHz = 210.3
    Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.4 GHz = 262.4

    All within a 2% error margin.
    Reply