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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  • Aikouka - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    You can change the control method for Real Racing HD. There are actually quite a few different options ranging from "we pretty much drive for you" to "good luck controlling everything on a tablet" :P. Reply
  • VivekGowri - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    Yeah, basically. Reply
  • stevessvt - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    I purchased the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 last weekend, hoping to love it as much as I do my HTC Thunderbolt. The 2 main programs I wanted most for it are Netflix, and Yahoo chat. Neither one is available for it. I found eack ones APK's on line, but they still wouldnt work. I brought it back and bought an iPad 2, even if they dont make a specific app for it, at least the iPhone specific apps work just fine. Shame, really, the GT 10.1 is a beautiful machine. Reply
  • berrykerry789 - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    I wanna win :) Reply
  • shabby - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    Budget not found in a $449 honeycomb tablet, now this $349 archos 10" tablet sounds interesting...

    http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/23/archos-intros-8...
    Reply
  • Confusador - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    I've been waiting for this review, even though I'd already decided to wait for Kal-EL, so it's nice to see that it was not lost. I do have to echo what others have said that it's nice to see the included USB port, despite the otherwise lacking hardware. Now that Android has USB host mode, I can only hope that others will start to do the same. Reply
  • Randomblame - Saturday, June 25, 2011 - link

    We will not see amazing android games until some actual game studios start developing for the platform and I fear that won't happen. They like stability, slow progress. Until the mobile/tablet market starts to slow down I think we're in a wait and see game. Direct x 7/8 era games werent that bad remember everquest? Ultima online? with bluetooth peripherials tablets can have buttons and controls but honestly we just need games that kick ass! Pocket empires is one I am incredibly addicted to despite it's ridiculously buggy crappy controls and interface. Once you figure it out it's fun and you can get past the nes style top down boring graphics. Because it's got something deeper game play! We need an epic game that gives us a reason to buy a new tablet every 6 months... Reply
  • vision33r - Sunday, June 26, 2011 - link

    Because all the big studios are busy in iOS land. New high quality iPad games comes out every week in the App Store. For example, Castle Attack HD for iPad was FREE last few days. It's a high quality tower defense game.

    For the past few years I have not found more than a dozen games on the Android market that is of high quality. Way too many low quality and poorly optimized games.

    Can't blame the devs, fragmentation hurts software development and a lot of android users are just cheapskates and drive all the quality developers away.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Sunday, June 26, 2011 - link

    What "big studios" would that be ?

    What for Win8, and then you'll see some real development happening.
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Sunday, June 26, 2011 - link

    this looks like its about the same LCD as the xoom?

    i tried that one out in the store, and the ipad and the LG pad (forgot the name) beat the pants off of it in view angles.
    even in the store's controlled lighting, i found the xoom hard to see and i had to tilt it around a lot until i found a sweet spot to view.
    for someone without great eyesight (me), it's really essential to have a great screen.
    these devices are basically big screens, so it should be the best part.
    Reply

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