Parting Thoughts

I’ll just say this off the bat - I’m not very enthused by the Iconia A500. The design is a bit dated, and there are a lot of minor quality niggles. The panel gaps between the metal and the glass are a bit ridiculous, and there’s a lot of chassis flex for a device mostly made of metal. The display was pretty good, and features like the included HDMI port and full-size USB port were nice. But at the end of the day, I felt a lot better about the device hardware when I saw the Iconia in press release pictures than when I had one in my hands, and that’s never a good thing to say.

It’s not a bad device, but it goes a bit like this: if you had never seen another Android tablet, the A500 looks pretty decent. But put next to the Xoom, Transformer, and especially the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Iconia looks cheaply designed and even more cheaply made. Which is fine, actually - I feel that way about most Acer laptops, but the problem here then becomes price. At $379, it’s fantastic. $399 is a very fair price for it. At $449, it’s a less enthusing proposition. 

$50 more gets you a Galaxy Tab 10.1, a smaller and much thinner device that has significantly better hardware design, gets better battery life, and has a similarly good screen. The Samsung is probably the only tablet that on a design level can match up to the iPad 2, so in my mind it’s worth the extra $50 for the hardware alone.

And on the lower end, there’s the $399 Eee Transformer. The Transformer is solid, you get the same specs and better battery life, along with an IPS display for less money. You lose the aluminum chassis, but the plastic-bodied ASUS still feels more solid than the Iconia. In addition, you get the option of the laptop-style keyboard dock, which adds some versatility to the platform. 

MacMall’s $379 sale for the Iconia was a great price, and I think if Acer were to cut $50 off the Iconia’s MSRP, it’d be very competitive. Granted, I still like the ASUS better, but the Acer is much more compelling at that price than at the current $449 MSRP. 

But what the MacMall sale says to me is that there is still some price cutting that needs to happen with Android tablets in general. Anything above $499 simply won’t sell well, as Motorola saw with the Xoom, but I don’t think Android tablets can go head to head on price with the iPad and win. Not yet, at least, simply because the ecosystem isn’t there yet. I’m not asking for 100,000 apps, but more than 200 would be a start. I think if Google can get some developers to port apps over to Honeycomb, get some resolution-scaled apps to adjust to WVGA, qHD, WSVGA (all of the 7” Honeycomb tablets will be 1024x600), and WXGA, and really build up a decent ecosystem going into Ice Cream Sandwich later this year, they’ll be doing well. 

Google was in a similar situation with Android phones two years ago and turned it around completely, so I don’t doubt that they can do it, but still, for right now, the apps aren’t there. And honestly, given the new stuff around the corner - ICS/Android 4.0, Kal-El and other quad-core SoCs, etc. - there’s no reason to not wait. If you need something right this minute, I’d grab a Transformer - with the lower price and flexibility of the laptop dock, it just makes more sense. Otherwise, I’d wait, because the ICS/Kal-El combo is going to make for some pretty impressive tablets.

Jarred’s Take on Tablets
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  • theyard - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    Agree...but even Acer can't seem to figure that out. Saw this post on their mktg genius http://diglr.tumblr.com/ Reply
  • kmmatney - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    Agreed - Tablets are, for the most part, a luxury item. You buy them to quick browse the web, check email etc, while sitting on the couch or in bed. Exactly the things I'm doings with my phone, but with a much bigger screen. I was holding off buying one until iPad2 came out, but it looks like iPad3 is close enough to wait for - this is a luxury item for me - I can wait. Reply
  • bplewis24 - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    Exactly.

    A common misconception regarding Android is that you need to constantly kill tasks running in the background.

    I think it was actually pointed out here in a review that the underlying linux kernel manages memory and tasks on it's own and does not require the OS to do it itself. But consumers and reviewers alike often think that they have to kill background tasks as if they are running in full and eating up all of their RAM.
    Reply
  • ViLB - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    Great comment and you beat me to the punch. Its annoying to no end to read people complain that there isn't a dedicated task killer on android when they don't understand how Android works. Reading that in a Anandtech review is a bit of a letdown. Reply
  • ViLB - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    I test drove the A500 and didn't like it because of the build quality for many of the reasons stated here. I disagree with the usefulness of tablets thoughts or the lack thereof in the review. I'm a graphic artist and I've found my Xoom to be invaluable for creating quick sketches and some finished renders using Autodesks Sketchbook Mobile. Being able tto output psd files, jpegs, create layers etc is a godsend. I've been able to create small animations with my Xoom as well using Movie studio. Add this to the movie/music/reading/gaming functions, USB and Bluetooth m/KB support, apps like Documents to Go, ezPDFreader, Adobe PDF creator etc and there are tasks I perform on my tablet before I touch my laptop. Of course tablets arent a replacement for laptops and notebooks and won't be for a few years at least but depending on the user and their needs, tablets can be very important to workflow.

    To suggest, as a commentor has, that tablets are only good for document reading is ignorant at best.
    Reply
  • coolhardware - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    Dear Anand et al., could you guys start doing some additional video playback tests on the Android tablets and phones? Similar to the lists here about high-res MKV capabilities of various devices:
    http://www.jdhodges.com/2011/06/can-android-do-108...

    I think a lot of readers enjoy "alternative" video/container formats like MKV etc and it is nice to know which devices are capable of playing what... I would love to see your thorough review techniques applied to a topic like that! Thx.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    It looks warmer to me. A lot warmer. Reply
  • VivekGowri - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    Hmm, it yellows out at angle, but you may be right. Let me rerun the numbers and get back to you, but the difference isn't nearly as big as that picture would suggest - that was more to show the difference in viewing angle and how early discolouration starts in the Acer vs the IPS displays. Reply
  • crispbp04 - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    i am anxious to see what your thoughts are on the windows based iconia tab.

    While you're at it, get your hands on an MSI Windpad 110W and compare the two generations of brazos!
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    I've been running Android basically since the EVO came out last year, I know how it works. Just because I don't technically need to manage memory doesn't mean I don't want to manage the apps I have running in the background. It's a control thing, I think. There's a reason why ATK and other app killers are so popular on the Android Market...

    I know it's not a task manager, it's just that it really easily could be. It literally has everything it needs to be a task manager, except for the kill task button.
    Reply

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