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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  • VTArbyP - Sunday, June 26, 2011 - link

    As usual, it takes me a while to figure out for myself why something becomes a hot. My iPod Touch was a revelation in comparison to the Palm Pilot it replaced. Who knew an MP3 player would become what it is!

    My view is that tablets are the fulfillment of the promise of a "paperless" society. The User Interface works; much better than any before it. The batteries last long enough, and color / video / 3d abilities give it scope for growth far beyond paper or even e-ink readers. If you read the end of this article, you see that the tablet works best in place of paper, books, web browsing and such. You simply don't need to print much with a tablet around - much more so than with its smaller forebears. Add back a stylus and hand written notes can be easily added. Meanwhile, Asus has the pseudo-netbook NAILED in the eee pad transformer. All the pieces, size, UI and apps, are here for tablets to save the trees and go far, far beyond printing!

    When you think of a tablet in this light, you can guess at the future. Tablets will add i/o: 1) to use them as an extra display for your "bigger iron" be it a PC or a game console. 2) to transfer any and all info (work / play / whatever you are doing) to and from PCs / Smart Phones and the Cloud. You may have noticed that display ports have disappeared from new Macs, Thunderbolt will do all data transfer including video. I'd stake good money that the iPad 3 will have Thunderbolt and use it in the way I described.

    I haven't even touched on the convertible smart phone / tablets out there or coming soon! Beware though, it's not that one "smart item" will replace what went before, rather that all of them will work together for a complete solution.

    Frankly I find this vision of the future almost scary. I'm just glad that I can see a world with little use for paper coming beforehand.
    Reply
  • VTArbyP - Sunday, June 26, 2011 - link

    Over edited post, sorry folks! Line 1:"becomes a hot." ought to be "becomes Hot." 2nd paragraph: "Add back a stylus and handwritten notes are easy." should replace the "Add back a stylus and hand written notes can be easily added." sentence. Reply
  • ex2bot - Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - link

    (A relatively minor point:)

    Jarred gives his overall take on tablets without ever using the leading tablet and its superior (in size and scope) software library?

    In my experience with the iPad 1, I don't use my laptop nearly as much as I used to. Mine is a bit of a special case in that I'm not able to sit at a desk for more than a couple hours due to a disability. The iPad lets me surf the web, read books and magazines (Zinio and Kindle!), play games, and do anything else that doesn't requre lots of typing while lying down. I'm sure the Android tablets have the similar advantages.

    I do agree about the gaming being limited. Games tend to need real buttons.

    Ex2bot
    Reply
  • henryvol - Monday, October 10, 2011 - link

    Oct. 6, 2011 After about a week of using my new Acer Iconia A500 the unit developed an issue where the battery would not charge. This was an intermitent trouble whereby at times the unit would charge the battery for a few seconds or maybe a couple of minutes before stopping the recharging process. I used multiple power adapters with the same results from each. I performed a factory reset and a hard reset on the unit but, the resets did not correct the issue.

    I contacted Acer Support and sent the unit in for repair. I received the A500 back from the repair facility 8 days later still with the battery charging issue. They returned it to me without repairing or correcting the issue.

    I contacted Acer Support this morning and again returned the A500 for repair.

    After searching some of the Acer A500 forums, I found that other users were experiencing the same issues with their A500 tablets. If the power adapter is connected the battery status indicator indicates 'Discharging' but, the battery percentage stays the same. When the power adapter is removed, the battery percentage indicator begins to decline. When the power adapter is connected, the A500 battery does not charge.

    Based on my experiences with this product and the Acer Repair Service, I would not purchase an Acer Iconia A500 again and I would not reccomend this product. Acer Service/Support has not offered to replace my defective A500.
    Reply
  • khernau - Friday, March 09, 2012 - link

    That looks great! I would love to get something like this. I have an old laptop, but it's not working right now. I need to see about getting some acer repair parts for it. Hopefully it can be fixed!

    http://www.acerparts.ca
    Reply

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