Display Quality: Color Gamut
We don’t like to rely on subjective opinions in order to evaluate the quality of a display, but there is almost no way to benchmark the Iconia A500's VA panel. On the desktop, we have programs like CalMan and ColorEyes to test monitor performance, but these programs don’t work on mobile operating systems. Even if they did work, Android doesn’t honor ICC profiles.
Because no program currently exists to test the performance of a tablet's LCD panel, we created a custom program. Briefly, we're measuring the color gamut at the display’s native settings (native gamma and white point) with a Spectracal NIST-certified i1Pro.
Even though mobile operating systems don't honor ICC color profiles, native color management does occur at the hardware level. When a GPU sends 10 different hues of blue to an LCD only capable of displaying three, the subpixels display the closest matching color. So, in a way, smartphones and tablets behave as if they’re using relative colorimetric rendering. For more information, read Tom's Hardware Benchmarks Inkjet Printer Paper!
It's surprising to see that these tablets deliver less color quality than some cheap TN panels. More specifically, the Xoom's VA panel does better than the iPads' IPS panel in yellow highlights, but the Iconia does the worse in all highlights due to poorer white luminance.
Understand that these gamut measurements are preceded by a couple of caveats. First, we're disabling dynamic brightness because it doesn’t allow us to get an accurate (or reproducible) measurement of the display’s potential. Second, brightness is set to the highest value. If you don't use the same settings, your color gamut is going to look smaller than what we're showing here.
The Iconia A500 has a great contrast ratio due to its deeper blacks, but this is offset by poor white luminance. Furthermore, the color temperature is way too cool, resulting in a bluish white, while the relatively low gamma distorts color perception. Understand that gamma doesn't affect black or white performance, but it does affect midtones. If gamma is set too high, the midtones appear too dark. If it's set too low, they're too pale
Adobe, Apple, and Microsoft all recommend a gamma of 2.2. It's an arbitrary value carried over from the NTSC standard, but it was originally chosen because it allows colors to appear more natural in slightly dim environments. The A500's lower gamma value suggests that it's best used in a completely dark environment. Apple sets the gamma on the iPads much closer to 2.2, which is why colors appear less washed-out when you're outdoors and in well-lit spaces.
Both the Xoom and Iconia A500 use a 1280x800 VA panel with ~150 PPI (pixels per inch). That's slightly better than the 1024x768 IPS panel on both iPads (132 PPI). However, under a microscope, we can actually see that the Iconia's VA panel is generating the deepest blacks. Based on the shape of the subpixels, it also appears that Acer sources its VA panel from a supplier other than AUO.
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.
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.
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.
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.