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Thread: Acer Iconia A500 Review

  1. #1
    WHERE IS GOD DennyCrane's Avatar
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    Acer Iconia A500 Review

    Acer Iconia A500 Review














    The time had come to replace my venerable 17" HP laptop. It served me well, but still passed before it's time. I considered another laptop, but decided to explore more options. The first, and it turned out final choice was a tablet. My main need was something to access our databases at work, so it would need to do Flash. This eliminated the iPad 2 out of hand. Still no app for that, I guess. I briefly looked at the Blackberry PlayBook, chuckled, and moved on. The serious contenders were the Toshiba Thrive, the Acer Iconia, the Motorola Xoom, and the HP TouchPad. I looked at the HP entry and dismissed it quickly. I just don't like WebOS. The Motorola Xoom is pricey, clunky, and just feels laggy. That left the Thrive and the Iconia. They are very similar devices, but there's a few subtle differences. The Iconia has a full-size USB port and a mini, and the Thrive has a full-size SD card slot and a micro. The Thrive was also $80 more. In the end, it was the screen of the Iconia that decided me. It's sharp, clear, bright, and seems to have the most accurate color gamut (trueness and range of color). I picked the Iconia up through NewEgg for $399.99 with free shipping and no tax. They also threw in a $50 gift card, so the net savings over buying locally was $85. Not bad.

    I'll skip past all the trials and tribulations of the unboxing ceremony. I'll presume there's dozens of videos online of people recording this momentous event. I simply opened up the boxes and threw away the packing materials. Included was... not very much. A cleaning cloth, the AC adapter, a USB cable, a couple pamphlets and a quick start poster. I think it's a huge mistake not to include a thorough users manual with modern electronic devices. I was OK because I had a background with Android, but someone new to the game could seriously get lost quickly. This would also go for a Windows device, WebOS, Blackberry, or whatever.

    Before I got started, I installed the 16GB micro SD card that I replaced in my Droid X. With the included 16gb of built-in storage that brought me up to a 32gb device. A press and hold of the start button the Iconia booted fairly quickly. Quicker than my Droid X, in fact. Registering it to my existing Google account was also quick and painless. So was the Acer registration. All in all, within 5 minutes of the first powering up, I was off and running.

    I'll start with some of the specifications:

    Dimensions
    L x B x H 10.24 x 6.97 x 0.52"
    Weight 1.66 pounds
    Form Factor Touch-Tablet
    Display
    Type LCD Capacitive Touch Screen
    Size 10 inches
    Colors & Resolution 16Million Colors & 1024 x 1280 pixels
    Input/ User Interface Multi-Touch
    Acer User Interface 4.5
    Light Sensor, Gyro Sensor
    Accelerometer Sensor for UI Auto-Rotate
    Proximity Sensor for Auto Turn On or Off
    System Properties
    Operating System Google Android 3.0 Honeycomb
    CPU NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual Core 1GHz processor
    NVIDIA GeForce GPU
    1GB RAM
    Storage Capacity
    Internal Memory 16GB micro-SD card inserted
    Expandable Memory micro-SD card slot for expansion up to 32GB
    Browser & Messaging HTML With Flash support, HTML5, XHTML,
    MMS, SMS, IM, Email
    Camera
    Still - 5 Megapixels
    - 2592 x 1944 pixels pixels
    - LED Flash, Auto Focus
    Secondary - 2 Megapixels
    - 1600 × 1200 Pixels
    Video Recording - Yes
    Connectivity
    DATA GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA
    Bluetooth & USB v2.1 with A2DP Stereo & v2.0 Micro USB
    Headset 3.5mm stereo headset jack
    Radio –
    WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
    GPS A-GPS
    3G NO
    Video Formats MP3, WMA, AMR, OGG, AAC, AAC+, WAV
    Audio Formats MPEG4, H.263, H.264, Xvid
    Battery Type Li-Po 3260mAh Standard Battery
    Other Features HDMI port, 1080p HD video playback capability
    Android Market
    Dolby Mobile Surround Sound
    Additional Microphone for Noise cancellation
    Google Maps, G-Talk, G-Mail
    Need for Speed: Shift, Let’s Golf games
    Games Zone, eReading, Multimedia and SNS
    SocialJogger app, ‘clear.fi’ app
    Facebook, YouTube, Twitter integration
    Adobe Flash 10.3

    The Iconia comes with Android Honeycomb 3.0. A couple of taps in settings gets you to System Update where 3.1 is waiting. Total time to update- under 10 minutes. So, now I'm ready to go. I'm connected to the wifi (Verizon FiOS) and I open up StrafeRight and the front page leaps onto the screen, This thing screams. Clicking links is uber-responsive and Flash animations are fluid and fast-loading. After playing with it a few minutes here's some initial impressions- it's very fast. And it's a lot heavier than an iPad 2. On paper, only about .33 pounds, but it feels like more. The Iconia packs a lot more muscle under the hood, so it's going to weigh more. The design is very ergonomic. The iPad 2 has a sharp edge at the top of the device that makes it uncomfortable after an extended period. The Iconia has flat edges on the left and right (landscape mode) and rounded edges on the top and bottoms. It's much friendlier on the hands. The back is a very nice looking brushed aluminum surface. Overall, the tablet feels very solid. Like most tablets today, the LCD is behind Corning Gorilla Glass.











    With the 720p resolution (1280x1024), the 10.1" screen is very sharp. The home screens have plenty of real estate to park all your shortcuts and apps. You have 5 home screens to load up. The task bar is at the bottom, opposed to the phone Androids with it at the top. There are no physical navigation buttons, either. They're all soft-keys on the lower left hand corner of the screen.












    The HDMI output is very good. It automatically mutes the tablet's audio and sends it to the external screen. Unlike the Droid X, the Iconia can have the images on the tablet screen and the TV at the same time. It was a hardware limitation on the Droid X and similar devices that made it one or the other. That made it sketchy trying to navigate without seeing where your fingers were going. It's a pleasure on the Iconia. And yes, I played Angry Birds in 42" glory.

    Audio is handled through "Dolby Mobile". The device has 2 small speakers on the back that, while much louder than a lot of other tablets, still is very tinny. It's not until you put on a decent set of ear plugs do you experience how amazing the sound on this device is... from music to movies to gaming, to phone calls, the sound range is great, the stereo separation amazing, etc. It's better than any portable music experience I've ever had.

    There's 2 USB ports, a mini and a full-size. The full-size means you can plug in a huge external hard drive, a jump drive, a mouse, a keyboard, etc. The Bluetooth also means you can use wireless accessories, too. Here's a nitpicky thing... the device will not charge through the USB cable. It has a dedicated power jack. Why they did this, I can't begin to guess. It makes little sense. Another problem is, I can't seem to get my Bluetooth ear piece to work. It's a common problem, apparently. I'd really like to have it working for Skype calling. Earplugs and the built-in microphone work well in the meantime.

    It has a 5mp rear facing camera and a 2mp camera in the front... so, video calling is possible. I'll take some pictures in the next day or 2 and a video and post it in this thread. I'm really flush on cameras, so I don't really care too much about this... but I will get some samples.

    This thing makes for a great media player. Videos, TV shows, and movies look great, and as mentioned, music and other audio is superb. An odd thing is, alongside the standard Android Music and Gallery are other media players from Acer. In fact, a lot of Android apps are duplicated. It's not a big deal... if you don't like them, bury them in the app drawer. I was watching some HD streaming video at lunch today, and it was crisp and sharp. I'm listening to some classical music now and it's stunning. This was an unexpected, pleasant surprise.













    There's plenty of apps available... less than what iFanbois have, but we have far less iFart and ibeer apps. And we dont count the same app in 4 languages as 4 different apps. I'm itching to try the e-book thing, so I have the Nook, Google, and Kindle apps installed along with a few titles on each. So far, they all look very good.











    Battery life is also good. It's around 8 hours with mixed usage. The iPad 2 is around 10 hours, but it has a lower resolution screen that's smaller as well. There's a price for larger screens, and the victim is always battery life. Going to bed with a full charge, doing some reading, a little web surfing, and watching part of a movie... by morning, I was only down to 78%. That's not bad at all. At work, I bring it in charged, use it till lunch, top it off and go unplugged the rest of the day. It's very nice to have a device on, not plugged in , and not having to worry about running out of power. I take the Iconia from car to car and call up flow charts, wiring schematics, specifications, etc. Before this, it was either remember what was on the screen and run over to the car, or get it all printed out and carry around a handful of paper.

    So, while I'm still exploring all this tablet can do, I'm impressed so far. I'm looking to do photo and film editing on the go, and coordinating more through my Google account. I'm going to up the memory card to 32gb and that will give me 48gb total. It's taking a little getting used to, not having 3G and relying on wifi hotspots, but I still have my Droid X for when there's no wifi. I plan on using Skype more, and having all my messenger services open all the time, too. It's a great device to stay connected. It's not a perfect device, but it's strengths and Android familiarness (yes, I invented that word. Patent pending) won me over. Like the iPad 2, it has limitations, and if your intended usage falls within that fenced in area, you'll be happy. It's just the Android tablets have a much bigger area.


    Last edited by DennyCrane; 08-12-2011 at 11:12 PM.
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  2. #2
    MisterX
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    Re: Acer Iconia A500 Review

    Nice review Denny, I've been using the 32gb Wi-Fi only Iconia A500 since the beginning of June and i love it, Its quite an expensive bit of kit over here Just under £500 ( $700-800?) And i had in the back of my mind that it would be a novelty for a bit and then get stuck in the corner gathering dust. Couldn't be further from the truth. I never have it out of my, according to the state of the screen, greasy paws.

    Dislikes:-
    Pre-installed crap, whilst there is not alot, let me stress that, why do i need Demos for games i dont want? Why do they need to be permanently installed? 2 or 3 more apps "appeared" after the last system update, It feels like The tablet is being sponsored, only I've already paid for it. Cut it out Acer. Sure suggest things for me to try, but dont weld them into the OS. Once the warranty is a little less new, I may root it ( v easy) and get rid of them.

    Stupidly short cable on the charger, and as Denny rightly said no USB charging is very odd.

    The optional ( expensive directly from Acer ) Stand/Dock is waaaay too pricey for what you get, it was £60 and all it is is a lump of plastic and a cheap remote control, that doesnt work very well. I expected it to come with a charger, nope. Not worth the money, get a 3rd party stand.

    Likes

    Battery life i think is excellent, given the screen size etc, more than enough for a flight or day in the office.

    Screen - Maybe not be quite as Hi-Res as i'd like but very very nice. At lowest brightness setting its more than enough for indoor use, it goes very bright indeed so I'd imagine its fine in all but the most direct sun light. Sturdy Gorilla glass stands up well to normal use, as with all touch devices, needs cleaning frequently.

    Media Playback - Movies are a pleasure to watch no stuttering or tearing you get on lower spec'd devices. The pre installed movie playing app is even pretty good, more functional than fancy right enough. I think the sound quality, for a portable device, is very good through the in built speakers, but as they are on the back how you hold the tablet can alter how it sounds. The size of the screen is ideal for longer viewing sessions, tis easy on the eye.

    Web Browsing - Its excellent, plain and simple. The vast majority of sites are perfectly rendered, The only real issues i encounter are certain sites that force you to the mobile version which is obviously not the tablets fault, But you can use Dolphin browser to fake being a desktop machine for them. Or certain flash game sites are very sluggish, Lord of Ultima - Free MMORTS - Play The Best Web Strategy MMO - Lord of Ultima for instance but thats an exception. The odd embedded video freezes now and again (never on youtube), minor niggle.

    Gaming - The increased screen size and Dual core shine here, very nice indeed.

    Ebooks - Kindle app is very nice on the tablet, very intuitive and clear I can also now read in bed with the lights off, much to sleep deprived Ohmi's happiness! And it sync's your last page read to the kindle itself so i can pick that up and continue reading should i want to.

    Like all Smart Devices Your experience can be heavily altered by what apps you install. A good bunch of apps coupled with this device and you will be in Gadget heaven.
    On that note Splashtop Inc. - Splashtop Remote Desktop Is awesome, full remote desktop access streams video and sound performs brilliantly on wi-fi. Very handy to watch movies you can't be bothered converting or transcoding. Best $3 i spent.
    Visidon App Lock is pretty neat as well, Facial recognition locking of selected apps! Not the strongest security in the world but it will stop anyone checking out your gmail or gallery if you leave it lying around and its free.
    Last edited by MisterX; 08-16-2011 at 10:29 AM.

  3. #3
    WHERE IS GOD DennyCrane's Avatar
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    Re: Acer Iconia A500 Review

    Even though there's like 35 media players already loaded, I installed arcMedia Player. It's very stable and plays AVI files, along with a lot of others not officially supported by Android.
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  4. #4
    may the Bruce be with you CoffeeShark's Avatar
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    Re: Acer Iconia A500 Review

    can you stream over wifi from your PC? anything like that?


    //didn't read review. too long.
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  5. #5
    C-57D VincentVega's Avatar
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    Re: Acer Iconia A500 Review

    Does it do HTML 5?

  6. #6
    WHERE IS GOD DennyCrane's Avatar
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    Re: Acer Iconia A500 Review

    Quote Originally Posted by CoffeeShark View Post
    can you stream over wifi from your PC? anything like that?


    //didn't read review. too long.
    Acer Clear.fi does that... it allows you to network pretty much anything in your house and stream, transfer files, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by VincentVega View Post
    Does it do HTML 5?
    Yes, as I stated in my review... derrrrp

    lol
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  7. #7
    C-57D VincentVega's Avatar
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    Re: Acer Iconia A500 Review

    that's weird, I did a page search for HTML before I posted that... didn't pick up anything then. did this time, though.

  8. #8
    WHERE IS GOD DennyCrane's Avatar
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    Re: Acer Iconia A500 Review

    I'm looking into apps that will allow texting from the tablet. There's a few solutions out there, I'll see what's what. It's about the only real gap I've found on a wifi-only device not connected to any carrier.
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  9. #9
    Time 2 Play DigitalDD's Avatar
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    Re: Acer Iconia A500 Review

    I heard SyncSMS is OK, but it does what its says it does Syncs your SMS from your Android phone to your tab and vice versa.. And Google Voice can do SMS. There's also HeyWire

  10. #10
    WHERE IS GOD DennyCrane's Avatar
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    Re: Acer Iconia A500 Review

    I woke up this morning and the tablet said there was an update available... Android 3.2 was supposed to start an OTA on August 25th... early? I OK'd it, and... not much. Still at 3.1. Apparently it was a minor wifi issue update. So, the wait continues.
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