Acer Iconia Tab A100 review

Iconia-tab-and-box

Earlier this month, we took a preliminary look at the Acer Iconia Tab A100, a 7-inch Android tablet from Acer. The company's second Android offering and the first 7-inch tablet with Android Honeycomb, the A100 was highly anticipated by MID and Honeycomb fans alike. Now, after a couple of weeks of use it is time for a final verdict.

Will the Honeycomb-powered pocketable tablet be a success, or will the flaws of both Acer and Honeycomb be too prominent? Read on past the break to find out.

Specs

The Iconia Tab A100 brings to the table a dual-core Tegra 2 processor, a 5MP rear and 2MP front camera, 7-inch 1024 x 600 display, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS. You can get the tablet with either 8GB or 16GB of storage, which will set you back $329.99 and $349.99, respectively.

For a look at what's in the box, check out the unboxing post.

Hardware

A100-front
Overall, the A100 is well built and feels solid and good in the hand, despite being bigger than both the Galaxy Tab and the Nook Color. The front of the device is dominated by the screen, with only the front facing camera and a capacitive home button visible.

The inclusion of a home button is an interesting one, as Honeycomb does not require it. There were one or two times when it was useful for exiting full-screen apps, but it also failed to recognize many taps. So, the lag when pressing the button negated any convenience it may have provided.

A100-top

On the top of the device is the power button and standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Oddly, the power button often has a delay when waking the device from sleep. It is noticeable enough to be annoying, and I couldn't find an explanation for it. I don't know if it's a problem with Honeycomb or the Iconia Tab specifically, but it needs to be fixed.

A100-side

On the right side of the device you will find the volume rocker, orientation lock switch, and microSD card slot underneath a plastic flap. The volume buttons are solid and work well. However, when in landscape the buttons switch functions; what would be the volume up button is down, and vice versa. Because of this they match the onscreen volume bar, but I would prefer it if the functions stayed the same in both orientations. There's not much to say about the orientation lock, other than it works properly and is immensely useful when using the tablet lying down.

A100-ports

You will find all the ports other than the headphone jack on the bottom of the device, including two speakers, miniHDMI port, proprietary dock connector, microUSB port, and the power connector, from left to right.

Don't be alarmed by the proprietary dock; the device charges and syncs fine over microUSB. I assume Acer included the dock for use with accessories, but I have yet to come across any that utilize it. 

A100-back

Acer made an odd decision with the back of the device, making it out of patterned plastic with a large Acer logo in the center. It doesn't necessarily look bad, but I really would have liked at least the option of a more average back cover.

A100-fingerprints

Not helping the looks is the plastic's tendency to attract and show fingerprints. In my use the device became both gross-looking and oily. Unfortunately, the screen also displayed the same properties and became overly smudged in my testing.

Also on the back is a 5MP camera with flash, which took surprisingly good pictures for a tablet camera. 

Software

A100 homescreens

The main attraction of this device is the fact that it offers the most updated version of Android Honeycomb, release 3.2, which generally works fine. The revamped user interface makes a great deal of sense on a tablet, both on the homescreens and in Google Apps. 

A100-widgets

The widgets are also informative and useful, and the two-pane system for email and settings is a pleasure to use.

A100-browser

Although the browser is the best I have used on a tablet, it too has some quirks. First off, the new tab button is too near the close tab button, so I often found myself accidentally opening tabs when I wanted to close them.

Other than that, the browser worked perfectly, including Adobe Flash 10.3. 

DSCN0406

Also, I had some problems with certain applications displaying properly on the smaller 7-inch display. For example, the Android Market would only work in landscape mode and Unblockme displayed at a pixelated 800 x 480.

Despite the aforementioned flaws, in general the tablet worked well. I enjoyed reading books, browsing the web, and watching movies, all things that 7-inch tablets are good for. As long as the bugs don't make themselves too apparent, the device can be enjoyable to use.

Battery Life

Regrettably, you will not be able to enjoy this tablet for very long. Acer claims about 5 hours of battery life maximum, and in my testing this was pretty much true. It is not a stellar amount by any means, and just using it on and off in the morning will likely leave you looking for a charger in the early afternoon.

The reason for this is that Acer included only a 1,520 mAh battery, which is measly compared to the much larger cells in competing tablets. The A100 will get you through an evening of browsing or book reading, but don't expect to make long vigils without bringing along the power cable. 

Performance

When actually doing things like playing games or switching applications, the Tegra 2 was snappy and fast. Unfortunately, there was also a lot of lag when doing common tasks, like switching screen orientation, opening the app drawer, and sometimes when scrolling through lists.

I attribute most of this to Android 3.2 being unfinished, but whether the problem stems from hardware or software, it did cause some frustration when using the tablet.

Conclusion

The Acer Iconia Tab A100 does have its charms: things like Honeycomb 3.2, a relatively good camera, and a snappy Tegra 2 processor. However, it really still has too many flaws for me to recommend it to the general consumer.

Between the weak battery life, mediocre hardware, and the numerous small flaws of Honeycomb, the tablet is really not practical for everyday use. Newer 7-inch tablets will be coming out this holiday season, and they will fix most if not all of the flaws of the A100.

Of course, the same could be said about many devices, and then no one would ever buy anything. So, if you are a geek and want to take an early look at Honeycomb on a 7-inch screen, the A100 will serve you well. Just be prepared for a couple bumps along the way.

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Aaron Orquia

Aaron Orquia is an associate editor at Pocketables. He has been using Android and Linux since he bought his first computer years ago, and his interest in technology, software, and tweaking both to work just right has only grown stronger since then. His current gadgets include a OnePlus One, a Pebble smartwatch, and an Acer C720 Chromebook.

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