Acer Iconia A100 in-depth review -

Look and feel

A little on the weighty side but small enough to fit inside your jacket pocket, the A100 is a shapely seven-inch tablet that feels rather like a slinky ereader

Ease of use

The first seven-inch tablet that comes with Android Honeycomb 3.2 straight out of the box; five easily customisable home screens, and improvements like tabbed web browsing and app multitasking make for a pretty polished user experience

Features

Preloaded apps are a tad sparse, so you’ll need to get downloading. That said, an elegant interface for things like email and contacts, modest but effective front- and rear-facing cameras and all for around the £250 mark. It's Wi-Fi-only though so either tether or look to admittedly pricier alternatives

Performance

The dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor is the same as you’ll find in the Galaxy Tab and Motorola Xoom. Expect a few force closes but otherwise very slick performance when switching between apps

Battery life

Expected battery time is around the eight hour mark, which is doable if you’re not using typical battery draining apps. You’ll last the entire day signed into Twitter and Skype but if you’re watching videos then expect that juice to run out a lot faster

 Acer Iconia A100 Review -
3.5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 4:01:50 PM

8

out of 10

Performance

6

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

6

out of 5

Features

6

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Android Honeycomb performs well on this tablet, and the dual-core processor adds an extra kick

Cons:

Seven inch tablets are an acquired taste, so if you want a more meaty multimedia experience look to Samsung and Apple

The Acer Iconia A500 tablet was one of the first tablets to run on Android Honeycomb, designed specifically for tablets. Now its little brother, the seven-inch A100, is looking to make waves. But is this a warning shot to the big boys, or nothing more than a damp squib?

As it turns out, the A100 is a great mid-price range tablet running on the same 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2 processor you find in heavyweights like the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Motorola Xoom but portable enough to fit in a jacket pocket. Honeycomb is also easy to use, and simple to master once you get the lay of the land.

The basics

The first thing that will strike you is the weight – the A100 isn’t as light as its nearest dimensional stable mate the HTC Flyer or even the BlackBerry PlayBook, clocking in at 470g. It doesn’t feel bulky in your hand per se but it does feel substantial and there’s a certain tactile enjoyment to be had in the shapely curves of its metal unibody casing.

The A100 doesn’t have too much in the way of physical buttons: there’s a power button at the top right of the tablet when in portrait orientation, right next to a 3.5mm headphone jack. Down the right hand side you’ll find a volume rocker, a screen lock switch and a discreet tab that can be opened to reveal a microSD slot, but sadly no option for a SIM card. If you want 3G capability you’ll have to look to the A101, but this will probably cost around an extra £100. Unless you can tether to another device, you’ll need to stick to Wi-Fi hotspots.

The main Home button is part of the device’s capacitive multi-touch screen, and beneath it you’ll find the speakers, HDMI and USB ports. When in use, the bottom left display houses three touch-screen navigation buttons: Back, Home and Recent. Your email and social networking notifications will appear bottom right, along with basic tablet status information.

Bite-sized Honeycomb

The A100 is the first seven-inch tablet to run on Android Honeycomb 3.2 straight out of the box and the tweaks make for a pretty slick user experience with all the customisability that you’d expect from Android. Tabbed web browsing, app multitasking and better copy-paste functions all help make Honeycomb polished and satisfying.

You can scroll quickly through the five home screens via a 3D carousel, and access programs with a touch of the Apps option in the top right of the screen. Press and hold any app to drop it anywhere, and customise each screen with widgets for contacts, email accounts and bookmarks.

There’s also an app categorisation system that allows you to tag and scroll though your apps by categories such as games, multimedia and ereading. In short, there are plenty routes in to find content and shape it to the preferred user experience.

Features

Acer’s own preloaded apps are on the sparse side – the usual mix of Calendar, Maps and Email, so you’ll really just have to start downloading for yourself. Although it must be said that the email app does have a very elegant interface, perfectly synching with your chosen account and with desktop-like access to folders.

The A100’s two-megapixel front-facing camera takes average pictures with slightly washed out colours. The rear facing five megapixel camera is clearly stronger, reproducing colour far better. Both however suffer from the bane of any spontaneous snapper’s life; slow shutter speed. This isn’t the device for capturing a blink and you miss moment, or anything fast-moving for that matter. Recording video is a mixed bag with fairly decent resolution but slightly muffled sound quality.

The screen is fairly crisp but only at certain angles. Videos and webpages look great but move a little and the text does look a little fuzzy. Direct light will also be a problem. But the size and portability is massively in its favour. Reading webpages or browsing your social networks is naturally much less cramped than on a smartphone, and its compact dimensions make it feel like a slinky ereader.

For some, the iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 are simply too large and too unwieldy. Sure, movies are luxurious, but is that what you want? Watching YouTube videos on its preloaded app looks pretty damn sharp for the price point, and praise be for a tablet that can play Flash –10.3 to be precise.

Games are a delight on the A100. It feels more like a portable gaming device than a smartphone, taking advantage of the larger screen and running on that dual-core Tegra 2 processor doesn’t hurt either. On-screen typing is also incredibly sensitive, a little too sensitive at times, but you can type very fast once you get a feel for it.

Conclusion

The Acer Iconia A100 is possibly an ideal tablet for someone who’s dipped their toe into ereaders and wants to find out more about this whole tablet business. Tablet geeks will love it too for its solid design, Honeycomb OS and because it feels decidedly more mobile than some of its peers.

It all depends on what you really expect from a tablet; do you want compact or that little extra razzle dazzle? There’s a definite trade off, but it’s one which extends to most seven inch tablets – size over style.

Games and movies will look good but they’re not quite going to match the Galaxy 10.1 or the iPad, so if you don’t want to compromise on the wow factor, this may not be the tablet for you. That said, seven-inch tablets have heaps of personality and are truly portable. If you don’t mind sacrificing a little bit of spectacle for a gadget that’ll fit in a jacket pocket or a handbag then the A100 is a mid-range tablet to seriously consider.

Krystal Sim