We have recently received an Acer Iconia A100 and boy what a great device it is. So enough of the introduction, lets get down to the nitty gritty.
The Acer Iconia has a 7″ Capacative screen, Android 3.2, Tegra 2 chipset, 8GB built in memory and a Micro SDHC slot. It also has Dolby digital enhanced sound. The Iconia has a few buttons, openings and slots. These are for Power, Rotation Lock, Volume, Micro SDHC slot, Headphones, Speakers, Micro USB, Dock connector, Micro HDMI, Reset, a capacative Home button, a front facing camera and a rear camera with flash.
Here is the spec for the Iconia, Tegra 250 Dual cortex A9 Processor, 1GB DDR2 RAM, eMMC 8GB Hard Drive, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Micro SD Cardreader up to 32GB, Bluetooth:2.1 + EDR, Android 3.2 Honeycomb, Screen:7” WSVGA LCM, Resolution:1024×600, Webcam:Front 2.0 MP & Back 5.0 MP with flash, Battery:11.3W (1530 mAh cell, Touch screen:Multi-touch, Dimensions:195 (L) x 117 (W) x 13.1 (H) mm and Weight:450g. Phew I hate tech spec lists. The things that stand out here are the Tegra 2 processor and the resolution. The Tegra 2 chip means that it shares the same chipset as all of the other bigger tablets. Which makes the Iconia feel a lot smoother than other tablets. The resolution in itself is not a problem, it’s the DPI of the screen. The Android Market misses certain apps out because they do not have a certain low level DPI. This means things like BBC iPlayer and Photoshop Touch do not appear in the market. This is the app developers fault not Acer’s. The app developers when creating their app just didn’t make the app compatible with a variety of screen sizes. This will all change soon with Android 4.0 which insists that an app must be developed for all different screens sizes. Acer have been rumoured to be updating the current range of Iconia tablets to Ice Cream Sandwich so hopefully this shouldn’t be a problem for much longer.
Size wise I really like the Iconia, it feels just right for a tablet. Easy to hold, maybe a little heavy though, I have actually managed to put it in the pocket of a pair of trousers to listen to music though, which is ideal. Some of the larger tablets after a while start to hurt your hands holding onto them to play a game. This would be ideal to take on holiday, load it up with lots of games, maps, music or videos, it would be ideal. The screen is nice and bright, with viewing angles to side being good, the viewing angles from above are good but from below are ever so slightly distorted. So if the device is flat on a table sometimes the image is a little off. Compared to my Advent Vega the screen is miles better, compared to my HP TouchPad it is slightly worse. The Micro SDHC slot is hidden away behind a plastic flap which also has a blanked off sim card slot, the Iconia A101 has this function enabled. The built in speakers are as you would expect, totally lacking any bass and rather tinny sounding. In the real world no one listen to music through them and complain though. You would just put headphones in. When I put my headphones in I was astounded, the Dolby Mobile software really makes a difference. It’s basically just a graphic equalizer, but none the less it made the music sound great. Better I should add than my HP TouchPad. The mini HDMI out socket supports output of 1080p so showing pictures and videos on the big screen will not be a problem. I normally use a tablet in the landscape orientation, but with the Iconia I kept feeling I should be holding it in portrait, the home button on the bezel and the speakers on the side just kept whispering to me “your holding it wrong”. Luckily there is a switch to lock the orientation, so I locked it to landscape and the voices stopped. There is also a dock socket, for which Acer sell a dock with Audio out, HDMI out and it acts as a charger as well. The two cameras are pretty basic, I always find taking photos with tablets a peculiar activity. However the rear camera is a 5mp camera so photos are pretty good, the camera app has a few extra settings, scene mode and colour effect, which both help take better photos in different conditions. The camcorder can record 720p and also has the colour effects, so you can easily film in sepia if you require.
Most of us by now have used a tablet. I use tablets for music, film, news, web browsing, emails, books, magazines, games, some more music, Twitter, Facebook the list is quite long but they are probably common uses for tablets. I thought I would start the software review off a bit differently. I have a few tablets lying around the house and my wife never really understood what you would use one for. She is a laptop kind of person. So I thought I would force/convince her to spend a few days using the Iconia. Luckily she already had a Google account so the setup was easy. Bear in mind here that she has never used an Android device or any other sort of tablet, so here are her findings.
She liked the size of the Iconia. She liked having her emails and contacts on the device. She liked how easy browsing the web was. She loved the quality of the sound (with headphones on). She liked having such an easy version of YouTube in her hands. She liked how well the Iconia handled whatever games she installed. She liked having a camera on the device. She absolutely loved finding the Gtalk app and hassling me at work. She loved the huge amount of games and apps available on the Android Market. She was disappoint when I had to remove the Iconia from her tight grip. But hey life goes on. So her findings were mainly about the Honeycomb system more than anything else. When I handed her my Advent Vega she remarked that it was stupidly big and asked why the screen was rubbish.
The Iconia has an internal memory of 8GB which rapidly fills up with pictures, music, videos, apps and games. Luckily it has a microSDHC slot. The other thing that helps keep on top of everything is some smart app organising by the Iconia. Basically in the app drawer are four icons games, social, multimedia and reading. These let you add apps to the group and when you tap on the games icon you get a nice shelf graphic displaying all of you categorised apps. Yes you can do this with folders anyway and yes you can use something like Folder Organiser to make it even easier, but it is nice of Acer to include something like this straight out of the box. Acer have also included Social Jogger which pulls in your Facebook and Twitter streams into one app. There are also a host of media streaming and syncing apps that may be of some use. The built in book reader is nice, it’s similar to Aldiko in its look, allowing landscape or portrait reading and has a night-time mode as well. As I mentioned earlier the camera and camcorder apps have both had extra options and filters added to make life easier. The stock music app was Google Music compatible so my online music appeared pretty much straight away. It even let me update this to the current version of Google Music. Video playback was impressive too, I ripped a few dvd’s down to about 1gb and saved the as mpeg-4 .m4v files. It easily played these. The screen is ideal for watching films on, although the standard Honeycomb video player does not have any options at all. So I installed RockPlayer Lite which allowed me to watch the films fullscreen and use hardware acceleration.
Overall the Iconia is a great tablet. It is the ideal size for being really mobile. Perfect for holidays or travelling. Price wise it is getting better as the weeks go on. The recent drops in the price of tablets has been because of the imminent release of the Ice Cream Sandwich tablets. The closest competition for the Iconia are the Archos 80 G9 and the Viewsonic 7X. I have briefly used an Archos and I prefer the widescreen style of the Iconia. Also the build quality and screen are better on the Iconia. Oh and this has more ram and is Tegra 2 based, which means various games that have been released for Tegra 2 devices will work on this. The rumoured fact that Acer have mentioned Ice Cream Sandwich for the current Iconia range makes this an appealing prospect. The only downsides to the Iconia are certain apps will be missing from the Market until the developers make them compatible with Android 4.0. A few missing apps didn’t really effect me that much. Not having BBC iPlayer whilst at home is allowed as I could always get my laptop out instead. As to whether or not you wait for the next generation of tablets to be released and then hunt for deals is up to you.