Here’s one addition to the tablet clan that’s heading our way and promises to offer quite a functionality at a sensible price. Where have I heard that before? And I’m sure that I’m not the only tech loving human out there who thought so, after hearing the big news of Acer’s ICONIA Tab A500’s big Indian debut. I was at the launch, heard the schpeel and waited patiently to get a short but intimate crack at the tablet, a quick look under the magnifying glass so to speak. So having done that, here’s a quick relay of hands on experience with the A500.
I’ve not been particularly fond of Acer’s overall design form when it came to mobiles, although I will admit, the Liquid E Android device did come off as quite a funky looking handset. Their handsets since then aren’t the kind that usually stand out in a crowd but I have a really good feeling that the A500 is the exception to this rule. Of course it’s far from just an extra extra large mobile handset and far sleeker than any of the existing Liquid series handsets. The brushed metal, slick rear panel and curved edges make for very comfortable handling. Being just 13.3mm in depth, it’s no iPad 2, but it still manages to be quite easy to grip for one hand usage.
Comfy to hold in one hand
It’s equipped with a 10.1-inch capacitive LCD panel with a display resolution of 800 x 1280, making it just a little bit sharper (262K colors) than the iPad 2. I did notice, although it was a tad reflective in direct light. It was nevertheless clear enough to view if you adjust the brightness levels accordingly or set it to auto. It’s got a 5 megapixel camera with an LED flash strapped onto the rear and a 2 MP camera in front for video calls. The two speakers strategically placed at the bottom (when in landscape) seemed to provide quite decent audio output.
So needless to say, in the looks department, the Acer ICONIA A500 Tab is just as smart as the iPad 2, which is its biggest rival as of now.
Elegantly designed right down to the button
Under the hood beats a 1 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor combined with an NVIDIA GeForce GPU, 1 GB DDR2 RAM and Flash 10.2 support. This baby is designed to make functionalities from daily usage to multimedia and tablet gaming as smooth as the Fresh Prince’s one liners on the ladies, pardon the analogy, but I’m sure you get the idea. The prototype ran quite smoothly with a few minor hiccups. I expect that of course, I can tell you more when we’ve got a test piece.
It's quite slim
Honeycomb is going to be a truly enriching Android experience. I’m not sure how it will be for the mobile handset but suffice to say, tablet users will not be disappointed. Acer has also customised the UI to an extent, offering a very neatly laid out specialised interface for your multimedia and other content and Acer’s Social Jogger app allows you to stay connected to Facebook, YouTube and Flickr simultaneously. The onscreen keypad has not been customised and so is the stock Android Honeycomb version, which is nothing to take issue with. It’s large and conveniently designed for typing.
The A500 comes with Dolby mobile support strengthening its overall media prowess. Although I wasn’t able to use any of my test files and an Acer bundled handsfree, I did pop my Moto MILESTONE’s handsfree in while checking out some test videos and games and I have to say, it’s not half bad. With standard sized ports for both HDMI out and USB 2.0, external media sources going either in or out will not be an issue. Incidentally, the A500 supports full HD content i.e. 1080p for playback and would support 720p video capture from its 5 megapixel camera. Preloaded codec support for DivX and XviD formats meaning .AVI, .FLV, MP4 and almost all other types will be supported.
Brushed metal rear (sealed) for class
Acer will be preloading three games with the A500 – Need for Speed Shift, Hero of Sparta and Golf to give mobile gamers the best of all genres. Thanks to the NVIDIA GPU, 3D-styled games should work without a hitch. NVIDIA has also preloaded their NVIDIA Tegra Zone onto the A500 for downloading high-end content including HD and 3D games.
NVIDIA”s Tegra Zone for hi-end gaming
In the connectivity department, aside from USB 2.0 (micro and standard) the first batch of A500 Tabs to make it out will feature Wi-Fi connectivity and not 3G, although we were told 3G models would be here later (4-6 weeks). Bluetooth with A2DP for wireless audio streaming is also on board. With Wi-Fi connectivity Acer has thrown in their Clear-Fi media sharing and streaming functionality. Akin to DLNA, you’ll be able to stream and view media content between the A500 and other compliant devices which will be many as this year progresses.
The Bottom Line
With a price tag of about Rs. 27,990 (16GB), the A500 will be quite the tablet to beat considering the specs. Of course, the iPad 2 is surely going to give it a run for its money. The A500 will be available in 16 GB and 8 GB Wi-Fi models initially and a Windows 7 (W500) version, as well. The 8 GB unit will also be made available at a later, yet to be announced date. There'll also be plenty of accessories available with and for the A500 including a sleeve (dust cover / carry case), screen protector, Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard, cradle / dock with an IR remote and cables (HDMI, AC adapter, USB) etc.
HDMI Out for full HD playback
While tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 are also on the horizon, the Acer A500 is here. It could make a serious statement and having beat Samsung to the punch, could set a precedence. Samsung and other later contenders better bring their A game to this party, as the tablet race in India just got seriously hot.
Stay tuned to this space for the full review on the A500, in the meantime here’s a quick look at the tablet in our hands-on video.