Monday, September 5, 2011

Acer Iconia Tab A100 Review.

This may be the best 7" Tablet available right now!

I picked up my 8GB Acer Iconia Tab A100 7-inch Tablet on the first day they were available at my local Walmart. Well packaged, and at that time for sale at $328 with an included $50 Walmart Gift Card.  Still haven't spent that gift card, but I am really enjoying the tablet. Far more portable that any of the 10" tablets I've tried. It came with Android Honeycomb 3.2 installed, and a few custom apps from Acer in addition to the typical android apps normally included with Honeycomb.
Inside the box was an Acer AC Power Supply for charging it up, a USB cable for syncing it with your PC, a large folded Getting Started Guide, and a shrink-wrapped assortment of warranties and safety disclaimers. No headphones were included.  You can download the User Guide in PDF format HERE.

Hardware:  The A100 comes with a micro HDMI output, micro USB port, docking port, 2mp front and 5mp rear cameras, LED flash with the rear camera, a headphone jack, microphone, microSD and SIM card slots, stereo speakers, external volume rocker, and a screen rotation lock slider. It also works with the A500 Docking Station with Remote sold for it's larger brother the Acer A500 Iconia Tab.
Display: The capacitive multitouch screen shows 1024 x 600 Pixels with 262K color support. Better than most 7" tablets I've seen. The screen is almost too sensitive using a stylus.  My favorite capacitive stylus is read too quickly half the time, detected as a tap instead of the beginning of a slide or swipe. Using my fingers the screen accuracy is nearly perfect though.  Movies and photos look great. View angles aren't wide. There is some color shift when off-center, but the view is fine for personal use.

Apps:  The A100 came with the android market app, and as such has access to the entire collection available there.  You can also side-load apps from 3rd part sources, and install the Amazon AppStore app easily. I haven't come across any apps that won't run on the A100.   It is not a phone though, so don't expect apps made to use phone-specific hardware to work.  I'm enjoying the Planner app that was pre-installed. The Angry Birds game collection plays great.  Graphics are smooth, even in levels that have bogged down some of the other devices I've tested. 

Battery life is the most disappointing feature of this tablet, although mine does live up to the 5 hours estimated by Acer.  With a battery only half the size of what comes in most 10.1" tablets I'm not surprised duration on a charge isn't longer.  I'll suggest turning wifi and the screen off between uses, and that should get you through 8 hours of off and on use.

Android 3.2 comes pre-installed on the A100 and is a significant improvement over earlier versions.  It includes a compatibility zoom mode that gives users a new way to view fixed-sized apps on larger devices.  Small phone apps are easily enlarged to fill the screen.   These graphics capabilities are a big step for App makers and will mean updated apps are more likely to run on any android device no matter the screen size.

Build:  My A100 is solidly built, with no creaking or flexing of the body. All edges are rounded over and it is easy to hold.  Like most tablets the glass front and plastic body are fingerprint magnets.  I suggest keeping a microfiber cleaning cloth handy. This tablet doesn't look much different than any of my other 7" tablets until you turn it on, at which point the high-res capacitive screen show off.

Media:  I had no trouble playing assorted MP4, WMV, and AVI video files. MOV and FLV files wouldn't play with the stock player, but played fine using the Mobiplayer app downloadable from the Android Market.  The video apps weren't the best at stretching videos to fill the screen, but all videos played with no dropped frames.   MP3, WMA (and WMA lossless), FLAC, WAV, and AAC audio files all played fine using the Google Music app. I couldn't find an OGG file to test. Sound quality from the built-in speakers is tinny.  Not bad for spoken audio, but missing any low end for music. Audio through my nicest over-ear headphones (Sennheiser HD-595) was static-free and generally delightful.

Conclusions:  This tablet is a keeper. Yes, they could have used a better screen. Yes, it would benefit from a larger battery (assuming one would fit inside).  Everything else considered and the Acer Iconia A100 stands out as the best 7" android tablet I've tried so far.  Screen response is fluid. Web browsing is quick and complete, with the browser having no obvious trouble rendering FLASH on web sites.  My A100 had no trouble multitasking between my email, the web browser, a game of Angry Birds, and the Astro File Manager (downloaded from the Market).  At $328 it is fairly priced against the less-capable NOOK Color eBook Tablet and the thinner HTC Flyer .  Those are the only other 7"  tablets I've seen with 1024 x 600 screens.  Watch the ads, because if Walmart was able to offer a $50 gift card with one then there is some room in the price for nice sale-price reductions. I'll say it again: This tablet is a keeper!

Comments and Questions welcomed!

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  1. Thanks for an excellent review!

    One thing I find confusing is that MobileTechReview states unequivocally that there are TWO 1530 mAh LiIon batteries inside the A100, for 3060 mAh capacity (which is still low).

    Do the two batteries not show up in the System Info page?

  2. Thanks, Jeff. There are two battery cells in the A100. Specs at list the A100 battery as 1530 mAh, but 11.3Wh. 11.3Wh is half what most 10" tablets carry. The roughly 5 hours of continual use I get from my A100 agrees with their listed estimates. To get that in comparison to the A500 with a 6520mAh battery the A100 would need two cells at 1530 each for 3060mAh. The bottom of the A100's box does indeed state "1530mAh x 2".

  3. thnx for the great review! probably gonna get one myself on tuesday! question:Does the logitech keyboard you reviewed work with this?

  4. @Shadow: Yes, the logitech keyboard works great with the A100. They make a great couple.


  5. I also got this, and I am pleased with it for the most part. I find the screen has difficulty detecting the difference between a tap and a swipe - just as you mentioned with the stylus - but with my fingers. You said you had no problems with any apps, but I still haven't gotten the Kindle app to work, and now the pre-loaded Acer ApinAp (Social - eReading - Games - Multimedia) crashes on start. Now that it's been a couple weeks since your review, have you noticed any of these problems too, or is it just mine?

  6. Evil,

    I'm having better luck with a different stylus, but my finger has always worked fine. The Kindle app was updated and works fine now on mine. I'm not using their grouping apps so can't relate is they aren't working for you.

    In all, the A100 still is my go-to tablet. I take it with me to work, and use it to stay in contact as well as keep myself entertained when otherwise bored.

    It may not be for everyone, so if you're not happy then take it back. The new Sony tablet S is a treat, and may be right up your alley.


  7. Too many problems with the wifi for me, returned it.

  8. No WiFi problems with mine. Sometimes there are lemons in a batch though, and taking it back is the best thing to do.


  9. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)