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

Reconsidering The W510

In my original draft of this story, I thought the W510 was two steps away from our highest honor. The company needed to adjust pricing to $500 instead of $600, and it needed to fix the keyboard. At that lower price point, there was an argument to be made for trading off 3D performance in favor of full x86 compatibility. Many folks, including myself, who have a system for gaming and don't need 3D on the road, would find that reasonable.

But as I waited for Acer to fix the tablet's trackpad, and then went back and forth with customer service, my opinion changed. As much as I was willing to acclimate to Windows 8's idiosyncrasies, poor customer service and not-quite-polished hardware made Acer's Iconia W510 more of a technology demonstration than a real-world winner. Most frustrating is that Acer's engineers in Taiwan and its customer service folks in America aren't the ones to blame. The whole system was broken. Nobody tested the track pad to make sure it worked as well as the touch screen. The individual customer service folks were very kind and rationally understood how silly sending the whole tablet back for a broken dock, but were powerless to help. And the retail box, which Acer spent so much time crafting for a grand reveal, was discarded without any consideration. Somewhere along the line, someone just didn't care.

I don't know that Apple truly cares about its customers. In the end, it's a business, and its employees are only doing what they think will be profitable. Where Apple succeeds is that it knows a good business needs good customer service. With Apple, you can bring in a broken iPad and walk out with a refurbished one the same day. Your 12-month warranty is really a 13-month warranty; if you're just out of the coverage period, they'll still cover your product, suggesting that they actually care. None of those perks are free. They're part of the Apple Tax. The problem is that companies trying to compete against Apple forget that its premium is more than just hardware, an operating system, and arbitrary mark-up. It also involves service. So, even though companies like Acer are in hot pursuit of Apple when it comes to hardware, they are generations behind everywhere else.

Of course, my purpose here wasn't just to unload on Acer. I originally wanted to evaluate the technology in the W510, and discuss Intel's challenge to ARM. Can x86 CPUs compete in the tablet space? The answer is a resounding yes. Today's Atom offers performance that's competitive with the fastest platforms powering Android- and iOS-based devices, yielding comparable battery life. The SoC itself appears even faster and more responsive thanks to a custom set of drivers. As the next generation of ARM CPUs emerges, so too will we see the next iteration of Atoms.

Intel currently employs 32 nm high-K lithography to manufacture Atom. But it has the ability to improve performance and efficiency even more as it transitions to 22 nm FinFET. If the company can introduce similar gains as what we saw shifting from the desktop Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge architectures, with more speed and lower power, it's going to change the low-power CPU marketplace. Intel just needs to find the right team to build the best hardware. Now, is it really any surprise that the company shut down its desktop motherboard division and tasked those engineers with creating boards for new devices?

  • 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