Acer Iconia Tab A500: A Tablet With Honeycomb 3.1

Final Words

If you add up the cost of buying a case, cradle, keyboard, and apps, tablets continue to be expensive mobile devices to own, despite their compact dimensions. The Iconia A500 isn't any different from other tablets; you're paying more than you would for a better-performing notebook.

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Tablet Pricing16 GB32 GB64 GB
iPad 2 (Wi-Fi)$499$599$699
iPad 2 (AT&T 3G)$629$729$829
iPad 2 (Verizon 3G)$629$729$829
Xoom (Wi-Fi)-$499-
Iconia Tab A500 (Wi-Fi)$449--

If you're willing to look past those notebook comparisons, picking a tablet gets easier. In terms of capacity, Motorola offers the better choice now. A recent price drop from $599 to $499 reflects Motorola's desire to attract new customers in the wake of more Android tablet competition. The problem is that the company has yet to enable microSD support for Xoom tablets here in the U.S., even though it was promised with the Honeycomb 3.1 update. That was almost three months ago, and it's maddening to see non-U.S. Xooms get microSD support with the latest update.

As a result, the Xoom effectively limits you to 32 GB without microSD support (if you're in the US), which means you have to buy the capacity you want, just like an iPad 2. There is no option to expand storage. For some folks, fitting audio tracks, e-books, and movies on a 16 GB iPad 2 is a challenge, and that doesn't even include the space needed for apps. Thirty-two gigabytes is much easier to manage, though for some, 16 GB is just fine.

The beauty of Acer's solution is that the company lets you buy in at that lower price point with the ability to expand storage at your leisure (microSD works, we triple-checked). As an added bonus, you can use USB thumb drives and external hard drives, just as you would with a notebook. This is really where the A500 shines. Suddenly, your capacity possibilities are endless. Format a 2.5" portable hard drive as FAT32, and you can basically take your entire movie library with you. Forget the hassle of syncing.

Many people pegged the A500 as an underdog because it took so long for it to get a Honeycomb 3.1 upgrade. But that was undeserved in our opinion. Even though the A500 shipped with Honeycomb 3.0, all its USB functions worked, at least. Plug in a USB keyboard and you could type. Install OI File Manager and you could copy to and from USB-based storage. Can't open Word docs in Documents To Go? Just do it from the same third-party app. The only additions that Honeycomb 3.1 makes are a boost in graphics performance and USB mouse support. 

Unfortunately for Acer, Motorola happens to be Google's launching partner here in the U.S., which means the Xoom is always going to be one step ahead. That's reflected in the recent Honeycomb 3.2 update, thus far only available to Xoom owners. The good news is that specific patch doesn't change much. It's the last update prior to Ice Cream (Android 4.0), and the new zoom functions are really intended for tablets with smaller screens.

The number one issue facing all Android tablets continues to be a lack of apps. No tablet can truly succeed without third-party support. OI File Manager is a great example of how third-party apps can make or break a feature (in this case USB support). However, tablet programs for Android continue to be few in number. The argument that Honeycomb hasn't been around long enough just doesn't fly. Apple and Google both started with operating systems limited to smartphones, but the number of apps for the iPad exploded within months of the iPad's launch. Nearly five months have passed since Honeycomb's launch and the number of tablet-specific apps is less than 100. The figures that Google cites seem more impressive because many apps are simply upconverted for a larger screen. Very few programs are designed expressly for Android tablets.

In a nutshell, we need more tablet apps and we need them now.

  • joytech22
    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.
  • acku
    Good luck on the Cert!

    Andrew Ku
  • Malachi1975
    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.
  • The latest update for Motorola Xoom (3.2) has MicroSD support.
  • acku
    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.
  • 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.
  • ubercake
    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.
  • obarthelemy
    "lack of apps"... Which apps exactly ? There ain't thousands of identical apps, but which apps are currently missing on Android ?
  • cknobman
    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.
  • Kahless01
    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.