It’s been nine months — nine months! — since Acer first announced it was getting into the tablet game, with a promise of both 7- and 10-inch slates. Well, the 10-inch Iconia Tab A500 has been on the scene for months, but until now we’ve been tapping our feet impatiently waiting for the other tab to drop. Acer came out and said it wouldn’t be here until the second half of the year, and meanwhile we’d heard rumors it would arrive in September and that it was delayed due to “Honeycomb compatibility issues”.
Well, folks, dog years later it’s finally here. Say hello to the Acer Iconia Tab A100, the company’s first 7-inch tablet, and the first 7-inch tablet to run Android 3.2. Other than its OS, its specs are fairly run-of-the-mill: a Tegra 2 SoC, five- and two-megapixel cameras, and micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports. And rejoice, geeks, because that’s vanilla Honeycomb loaded on there — you won’t find any custom skins or proprietary widgets clogging your home screens. As much promise as these vitals might have for nerds, though, Acer is clear the tablet is for mainstream consumers (“moms,” among others, according to the press release). We’re not sure how your mother would feel about the precious pattern on the back, but chances are she’d appreciate the bargain factor: the 8GB version costs $329.99 while the 16GB number rings in at a reasonable $349.99, undercutting the 16GB HTC Flyer by $150. We’ve been lucky to get some quality time with the A100 the past few days, and let’s just say we’re coming away with some mixed feelings. But do we like it enough that we feel this little guy was worth the wait? That’s a toughie, guys.
Look and feel
At 0.92 pounds, the A100 is heavier than the 0.83-pound Samsung Galaxy Tab and on par with the 0.9-pound BlackBerry PlayBook and 0.93-pound HTC Flyer. At first glance, it looks thinner than average, thanks to its nearly flat surfaces and the fact that it’s a shade slimmer than the 0.52-inch -thick HTC Flyer. But then you pick up a PlayBook, just four tenths of an inch thick, and the A100 suddenly feels like more of a burden.
But because of its more e-reader-like shape, it feels deceptively lighter than the Flyer. At 4.6 inches tall, it’s narrower in portrait mode, making it that much easier to cradle with two hands and pound out emails using both thumbs. But with a width of 7.68 inches, it stretches farther in landscape mode, which means, conversely, that depending on the size of your hands, you might feel a bit more of a stretch in your fingers while tapping onscreen objects. Also, the bezel is bigger on the two short sides, which means if you’re holding the A100 in landscape mode, you’ll have more blank space flanking the display than if you held it in portrait.
Aesthetically, the A100 seems to take some design cues from laptops — some slightly outdated ones, at that. The back cover has a navy finish with a pattern of thin, golden ribbons stretching from edge to edge. The back side is also stamped with Acer’s logo, though we think it might have looked more elegant without it. There’s also the five megapixel main camera on the back, along with an LED flash next to it.
The flip side to the A100’s clean lines and squared-off corners is that there isn’t much to hold onto. As dense as the Flyer is, we’ve always been endeared by the rubberized panels on the back, as they make the tablet easy to grip. The A100 has a glossy plastic back cover with a subtle contour that puffs out ever-so slightly in the center and tapers near the edges. Make no mistake: this isn’t really an issue of ergonomics — you’re not likely to drop the A100 to an untimely death. There’s just something to be said for the tactile experience of resting your fingers on rubber or cold aluminum instead of warm, slippery plastic.
On the front, you’ll find the two megapixel secondary camera up top, with a home button built into the lower bezel. That button isn’t a physical key, per se, in the sense that you don’t push it, but tap it. Still, the home icon doesn’t glow, but is instead painted so that it’s always visible. And there’s no haptic feedback, so it doesn’t feel quite like interacting with the usual array of keys on an Android device. People who know their way around Honeycomb might find this addition redundant, but we often found it handy while using the tab in landscape mode.
Completing our tour, there’s a glowing power / lock button on the same edge as the front-facing camera, so if you were holding the tablet in portrait mode these would be sitting on top. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack up there. On the opposite edge, below the home button, there are two small speakers on either end, with a micro-HDMI port, docking connector, and a micro-USB socket in between. (That docking connector, by the by, works with the same optional dock that was released around the time the Iconia Tab A500 came out.) Finally, if you were to cradle the slate in landscape mode, you’d see a lever to lock the screen orientation, a volume rocker, and a door hiding microSD slot. There’s another slot next to it, but it’s covered, and although it’s the perfect spot for a SIM card, Acer just refuses to comment. We do wish that Acer labeled those volume buttons, though once you use them enough times you’ll know which is which. On the bright side, we appreciate that the company made the external storage so easy to access unlike — ahem — some tablets we’ve tested recently.
Display and sound
The 7-inch (1024 x 600) display has something of a split personality as far as viewing angles go. On the one hand, you won’t miss any detail if you’re sharing the tablet with a friend and happen to be watching a YouTube clip from an awkward side angle. We did just that with Lady Gaga’s “On the Edge of Glory” video, and even when viewing from oblique vantage points we could make out the smoke in the background along with the purple soundstage sky. On the other hand, trying to watch something with the tablet set down on a table in front of you is an exercise in futility. Forget a washed-out spot here or some color distortion there — what you’ll see is contrast so severe that you’ll think you’re looking at an inverse of whatever it is you were watching.
On the plus side, the sound quality is surprisingly decent, especially considering that we don’t even have high hopes for audio on laptops, much less tablets. That catchy Lady Gaga number we mentioned? A pleasure to listen to, with a minimum of tininess and no one instrument overwhelming the others. The volume, as you might imagine, is pretty weak — even cranked to the max, it felt just a half notch above our comfort level.
Considering that tablet cameras typically offer mediocre image quality at best, we were pleasantly surprised by the A100’s five megapixel rear sensor, which rendered natural-looking colors and did a fine job of capturing close-ups (in the gallery, you’ll notice one sample in which the camera focused on the background instead of the foreground). We were less impressed by the two megapixel front-facing camera, which cast a faint blue tint over some of our shots. Many of our photos taken from that vantage point were also blurry — and not from a failure on our part to stand still.
In our sample 720p video, you might spot some ghosting as cars, bikes, and other faster-moving objects hurdle across the screen. Motion at least looks fluid, though, and ghosting wasn’t a problem with slower-moving subjects — namely, people. Our videos were also as well lit as our sample shots taken with the rear-facing camera, and displayed equally balanced colors, too.
The A100 makes a claim that’s worth repeating: it’s the first 7-inch tablet to run Android 3.2. In a move that will please geeks, the company went with vanilla Android, and refrained from topping it off with any proprietary skins or widgets. That’s good news for people who know their way around Honeycomb, though we do think it’s curious that Acer didn’t attempt to make it any more user-friendly, as Lenovo did with the IdeaPad K1.
Acer also didn’t add much in the way of popular apps, as Lenovo and Toshiba did with their recent slates aimed at mainstream consumers. You will, however, see Docs to Go, along with a lone card game (Solitaire). Acer did throw in one proprietary app of its own — SocialJogger, a Facebook / Twitter aggregator. And, of course, the company bundled clear.fi its own home-brewed software for sharing media with over devices over a shared WiFi network.
Though Acer doesn’t highlight this in it press materials, the main advantage to having Android 3.2 is the apparent performance boost. Like so many other tablets on the market, the A100 packs a 1GHz Tegra 2 processor. In general, we think the SoC has performance limitations, with some visible lags being fairly typical. That said, the A100 fares well. Apps are quick to open and minimize, and the display responds smoothly to taps and swipes. The A100 also has Flash 10.3 on board, and while it loaded sites a bit more briskly than other Honeycomb tablets, the difference was subtle, at best. It’s definitely not a reason to consider buying this over another slate.
And while benchmarks don’t tell the whole story, we were encouraged to see that its scores in Nenamark 1 and 2 and the mobile browser test Vellamo bested those we got out of 10-inchers such as the Lenovo IdeaPad K1. (This was the first time we tried to run the popular Quadrant on an Android 3.2 device, and the app crashed every single time.) In this patchwork of tests the A100 even bested the Toshiba Thrive, which in turn delivered numbers similar to the Galaxy Tab 10.1. It’s nice, then, to see evidence that as cutesy as the A100 is, it might actually play in the same league as bigger, more expensive models.
We also had mixed luck in the stability department. While some apps, such as Tweetdeck, ran smoothly, others, including Amazon Kindle, force closed. Additionally, the accelerometer is way too sensitive. During our testing, it routinely flipped the screen’s orientation when we didn’t mean it to. It makes us appreciate other tablets, such as the K1, that pause before moving from landscape to portrait and back.
|Quadrant||Would not run|
|Linpack||28.38 MFLOPS (single thread) / 55.36 MFLOPS (multi-thread)|
|Nenamark 1||57 fps|
|Nenamark 2||24.5 fps|
The diminutive A100 houses a small 1,530mAh battery that promises up to five hours of juice if you’re just doing things over WiFi, and up to four and a half hours of 720p video playback. We say, that’s about right. In our standard battery test, which involves playing the same movie on repeat with WiFi on and the brightness set to 50 percent, it lasted four hours and 54 minutes. The numbers don’t lie: that’s one of the shortest runtimes we’ve recorded on a tablet. Why, even the original Samsung Galaxy Tab lasted six hours and change. Not to mention — after the 10-inch Iconia Tab A500 crapped out after less than seven hours, we would have hoped that Acer would have gone back to the drawing board and paid more attention to battery life, especially since the A100 was late to market anyway. It would seem that Acer either sacrificed a larger battery to keep the tablet small, or it wrongfully assumed that mainstream consumers don’t care about longevity. Either way, we’d say that treating battery life as an afterthought is unwise.
|Acer Iconia Tab A100||4:54|
|Apple iPad 2||10:26|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1||9:55|
|Lenovo IdeaPad K1||8:20|
|RIM BlackBerry PlayBook||7:01|
|Acer Iconia Tab A500||6:55|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab||6:09|
If you’re dead set on a 7-inch tablet, it probably means you’ve given your options some thought and decided you prefer that size to more ubiquitous 10-inchers. So in that sense, comparing the different screen sizes feels like something of an apple-to-oranges comparison. Still, we can see people eyeing this inexpensive tablet as a gift for a not-so-tech-savvy person, in which case they might well be pitting the A100 against obvious contenders such as the iPad and Galaxy Tab 10.1. The big draw in that case will almost certainly be the price: the 16GB A100 costs $150 less than an iPad or Galaxy Tab 10.1 with the same amount of storage. It doesn’t hurt that the A100 is fast and runs the latest version of Android (granted, that’s a feature mainstream users might not care about). Still, the iPad and 10.1 are thinner, and both last at least twice as long on a charge.
As for 7-inch tablets, your main options aside from the A100 are the original Galaxy Tab, the BlackBerry PlayBook and the HTC Flyer / EVO View 4G (pictured in the gallery above). The PlayBook, as you’ll recall, is thinner and lighter, but also more expensive, with a starting price of $499 for 16GB. The OS is still a work in progress of sorts, with more functionality yet to come (like, you know, a native email app). The HTC Flyer, too, costs $499 for 16GB and doesn’t even include the $80 stylus if you purchase it in the US. That said, it offers better battery life and arguably better ergonomics, but it’s just as heavy, slightly thicker, and it doesn’t run Honeycomb. For those of you who live outside Europe, there’s the Galaxy Tab, which is almost a year old and still doesn’t run Honeycomb (officially). And though its battery life trumps the A100’s, it still trails other tablets we’ve tested.
Who knew the long-awaited Acer Iconia Tab A100 would turn out to be such an odd bird? On the one hand, the press release specifically calls out moms as potential customers and indeed, the company caters to them with an unabashedly feminine design. And yet, it’s also a curiosity for geeks, given that it’s the first 7-inch tablet to run Android 3.2. We don’t mean to imply that there aren’t any lady geeks out there (you’re listening to one right now!), but soccer mamas and nerds make for an unlikely combination — is there really a whole lot of overlap there? As it is, we think the tablet might alienate both groups. Do mainstream users care if a tablet runs Android 3.2 as opposed to 3.1 or even 3.0? Are there many geeks jonesing for a design that so unsubtly panders to women? And does anyone want a device offering half the battery life of its competitors? We’re guessing not on all counts.
Acer simply isn’t doing a good enough job of convincing mainstream shoppers that the latest version of Honeycomb on a 7-inch tablet offers a better user experience than an iPad. And if Acer is banking on women choosing a 7-inch tablet just because they have tiny fingers, then that’s some misguided strategy too. People will choose the 7-inch form factor because it seems like the perfect balance between mobility and screen real estate, not because a 10-inch slate is too unwieldy. And if anything, we can more easily see a low-tech person picking up an HTC Flyer — yes, it runs Gingerbread with Sense, but that would at least ring familiar to folks who aren’t as gung-ho about their gadgets, but have at least mastered a smartphone.
Meanwhile, the company might have just burned a bridge with nerds who wouldn’t be caught dead toting anything whose pattern looks like fishnets — or that has sub-five-hour battery life, for that matter. Sure, it runs Android 3.2, but it won’t be long before other tablets get updated to this version of Honeycomb and start reaping the performance benefits. The A100 isn’t making a persuasive case for geeks either, then. And it’s a shame, because the company might have had more success if it went after that person — the enthusiast who has done his or her homework and decided 7 inches is the ideal size for a tablet. The person who can appreciate the value in having the latest version of Android. Acer should have gone after those people, and come up with more compelling reasons for them to bite.
ACER ICONIA TAB A100 NOW AVAILABLE IN NORTH AMERICA:
INDUSTRY’S FIRST 7-INCH ANDROID HONEYCOMB TABLET
Acer Extends Popular Iconia™ Tab Line with Its First 7-inch WiFi Tablet; The Ideal Companion for Families; Features Adobe Flash 10.3 for Web and Games
SAN JOSE, Calif., Aug. 12, 2011 – Acer America expands its Acer Iconia™ Tab line of tablets with its first 7-inch tablet – and the industry’s first 7-inch tablet running Android™ 3.2 (Honeycomb) – in the United States and Canada. The new Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 features an incredibly portable sub-one pound design, a vibrant 7-inch multi-touch display, and a sleek, thin design that is comfortable to use and take virtually anywhere.
With the Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 tablet, customers can have a single portable device for enjoying entertainment such as games and websites as well as productivity applications such as a calendar and email. The tablet comes pre-installed with Adobe Flash Player 10.3, so Adobe Flash games and websites can be enjoyed right out of the box. In addition, the WiFi device is the ideal size for moms, families and individuals who want to stay entertained and productive, since the screen is large enough to enjoy video and other multimedia, yet the device is portable enough for comfortable single-handed use.
Weighing in at a mere 0.92 pounds and measuring only a half-inch thick, the Acer Iconia™ Tab A100’s super-portable size makes it easy to take anywhere. The vibrant 7-inch TFT WSVGA screen displays social networking sites, photos and more in 1024×600 resolution and high-color contrast, so customers can enjoy crisp, vibrant content enhanced by a 16:10 aspect ratio and 75-degree wide viewing angle. Plus, the 7-inch capacitive touch-screen is incredibly responsive and accurate for convenient finger-tip control.
“The Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 tablet delivers the ultimate combination of portability and performance for fun and gaming as well as staying in touch,” said Sumit Agnihotry, vice president of product marketing, Acer America. “Families are spending more time social networking and enjoying web-based digital media, so a highly portable tablet like the Acer A100 will let them get more done and stay connected on-the-go to enjoy their lives more fully.”
Ultimate Companion for Mobile Moms and Families
The Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 is the ultimate companion for mobile consumers such as moms and families who want a single device for gaming, fun, entertainment and staying in touch on the go. Customers can enjoy movies right out of the box with the Google® Movies app that allows users to rent and play movies on the Acer A100. Also, Google® Music gives customers instant access to their personal music collection on the web without the hassle of wires or syncing. Customers can also use NemoPlayer® for video, photos and music and Aupeo! for enjoying online radio. Dolby® Mobile Technology on the tablet delivers dynamic sound to enhance the enjoyment of music and movies. In addition, the Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 can be connected to a TV via its HDMI port, so customers can share full HD videos in 1080p resolution. Game play can also be extended to a big screen TV or display with the Acer A100’s HDMI port and dual-display support. As a result, more people can watch and enjoy the game as it is mirrored to the larger screen. Plus, the Acer A100 can be used as a controller for the game as the player watches the image on the larger display.
In addition, games are crisp, fast and realistic thanks to the performance technology and six-axis motion sensing gyro meter. Customers can enjoy rich and exciting Adobe-flash based Web pages, games, videos and animations with Adobe Flash Player 10.3. Thousands of additional apps can be easily downloaded from the Android Marketplace.
Save Memories, Shop Better, Stay Connected with Cameras
The Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 allows customers to always be ready to take photos and video on-the-go and quickly share them by email and on social media sites. Lighter than most SLR cameras, the Acer A100 has a 5MP rear-facing camera with flash, so families will know they have a great camera with them to capture all of life’s fun and unexpected moments. It also records clear and detailed HD Video at 720p at 30 frames per second. Plus, the rear-facing camera can be used with many available apps to read bar-codes and QR codes for shopping and other promotions. The tablet also has a 2MP fixed-focused front-facing camera and webcam for video chats.
Reading and Productivity Apps Let Moms and Families Get More Done
The Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 e-reading functionality will be appreciated by a range of family members. Moms and dads can download e-books to enjoy during quiet moments in comfortable single-handed usage. The tablet comes pre-installed with Acer LumiRead and Google® Books eReading apps for enjoying e-books. Plus, the color screen vibrantly displays children’s e-books, so they’ll always have something to enjoy during long or unexpected waits. Extra features like the realistic page turn effect make reading even more fun. The auto-rotation allows customers to enjoy e-books, games, movies and more in either landscape or portrait mode.
In addition, everyone can stay up-to-date with extended family and friends via Acer’s Social Jogger, which puts Facebook® and Twitter® in one place for quick and easy reading and updates. Moms can keep their family schedule organized with the easy-to-use Acer “Day Planner” application that gives an easy-to-view list of upcoming activities. Working moms and those with busy schedules will appreciate that the Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 helps them stay productive. Customers can set up multiple email addresses and view Microsoft® Office documents using the trial version of the “Docs to Go” app for getting things done quickly.
Android 3.2 Brings Additional Benefits for Browsing and Entertainment
The Acer A100 comes installed with Android 3.2, the latest version of Honeycomb to give customers the latest in advanced mobile browsing. Customers can browse the Internet with speed and ease, even web pages built with Flash, thanks to Adobe Flash 10.3 that comes pre-loaded on the Acer A100 tablet. In addition, Android 3.2 lets customers have more control over their entire browsing experience, such as managing web pages by tabs, more advanced privacy settings, and proper sizing of apps and web pages for the 7-inch display.
Connectivity to WiFi and Other Devices
The Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 can quickly and easily connect to Wi-Fi networks via the integrated Acer InviLink Nplify 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi CERTIFIED wireless technology to access the Internet, the Android marketplace for apps and more.
Customers can enjoy their own digital content on the Acer A100 tablet by transferring files such as videos, movies and eBooks to it through the tablet’s micro-USB port or by using the Micro-SD card reader that can read Micro-SD cards with a capacity up to 32GB. Plus, the integrated Bluetooth allows consumers to connect the tablet to a variety of other devices, such as headsets and keyboards.
High-Performance for Maximum Enjoyment
The Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 packs maximum performance into its incredibly portable size. It uses a high-performance NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM to give customers blazing fast access to multiple programs and apps at once. The Ultra Low Power GeForce® GPU enhances gaming, web, and multimedia for a more realistic, responsive experience.
The Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 provides solid uptime with a 1530 mAh Li-polymer battery for up to five hours during Internet browsing with WiFi, up to four hours during web-streamed video and up to 4.5 hours during 720p video playback.
Sharing Digital Media is Easy with clear.fi
Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 comes with Acer clear.fi, which connects with any other DLNA-compliant device to quickly and easily share and enjoy digital media. It automatically detects clear-fi-enabled devices on the wireless home network (smartphones, notebooks, HD media players, etc.) and gathers and organizes media files by type (video, music, photo, pre-recorded TV).
Priced Starting at only $329.99
The Acer Iconia™ Tab A100 is available in the U.S. and Canada at national retail stores now. The Acer Iconia™ Tab A100-07u16u with 16GB of memory has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $349.99 U.S and $399.99 CAD, while the Acer Iconia™ Tab A100-07u08u with 8GB of memory has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $329.99 U.S. and $349.99 CAD.