Acer’s Iconia Tab A500 Joins the Honeycomb Party

The year of the tablet continues, and every major manufacturer—and many smaller parties as well—are keen to get their cut of the pie. As their entrant into the tablet market, Acer is announcing their Iconia Tab A500. We posted a short overview of the Iconia-6120 Dual-Screen notebook a few weeks ago, and it’s weird to have devices that are so wildly different in the same product family, but the Iconia Tab is a far more traditional device.

Google selected NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 platform as the target hardware for Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), so it’s little surprise that Acer will use Tegra 2 (specifically the Tegra 250 variant) as the core of the A500. Perhaps more importantly, the A500 uses a 10.1” display with a 1280x800 resolution, so it will be similar in size and form factor to the Motorola Xoom. It’s actually a bit heavier (1.69 lbs. vs. 1.61 lbs) and fractionally thicker (.52” vs. .51”) than the Xoom, but since we’re dealing with tablets rather than smartphones it’s unlikely anyone will notice. What they will notice is differences in styling; the A500 has a brushed aluminum casing that looks quite nice in the photos we’ve seen.

Other aspects of the device are pretty standard. Tegra 2 starts with a dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU and pairs that with NVIDIA’s ULP GeForce graphics and 1GB of RAM. There are front- (2MP) and rear-facing (5MP) cameras, an HDMI port for viewing content on an external display (1080p supported), 802.11bgn WiFi, 16GB flash memory on the initial device (with 32GB versions planned for the future), and a micro-SD expansion slot capable of accepting up to 32GB micro-SD cards. The tablet comes with two 3260mAh Li-polymer batteries rated for up to eight hours of casual gaming or HD video playback and 10 hours of WiFi Internet browsing. Another piece of hardware is the six-axis motion-sensing gyro, which can be useful for games (and detecting orientation of the tablet). Finally, there’s a built-in GPS, and Bluetooth support allows the A500 to connect to a variety of peripherals.

One of the key elements of any tablet is the display, and here’s where things are a bit fuzzy right now: Acer’s press release states that the LCD “provides an 80-degree wide viewing angle to ensure an optimal viewing experience”. Hopefully that means it’s an IPS (or similar technology) panel, so that you’re getting true 80 degrees off-center viewing in both vertical and horizontal directions. More likely (being the cynic that I am), it’s a TN panel with “160-degree” horizontal and vertical viewing angles—except we all know that the way viewing angles are rated is often far from ideal, as one only has to look at a typical TN laptop panel to know that it can’t be used from above or below. When we can get an actual unit for testing, we’ll provide full details on the display.

On the software side of things, Acer has all the usual Android 3.0 accoutrements, but they’re including a few extras. Given the Tegra 2 platform, it’s nice to see a couple of games thrown into the mix for free: Need for Speed: Shift and Let’s Golf come pre-installed—I’m a lot more interested in the former than the latter. Adobe’s Flash is also supported, but it doesn’t come pre-installed, which is easy enough to rectify. Given that Google has expressed an interest in standardizing the Android experience and avoiding fragmentation, there’s not a lot of unusual software added on the A500. Acer includes their LumiRead and Google Books apps for enjoying eBooks, Zinio for full-color digital magazines, and a trial version of Docs to Go for office documents. Naturally, users all get full access to the Android Marketplace for installing additional applications. The A500 also includes clear.fi for digital media sharing, so it can communicate over your wireless network with any other DLNA-compliant devices to share multimedia content.

While the above items aren’t necessarily major improvements over competing tablets, one aspect of the A500 is sure to turn a few heads: the device is slated to go on sale at Best Buy starting at just $450. That puts it nearly $150 cheaper than the base model Motorola Xoom, albeit with 16GB instead of 32GB of integrated storage. The Iconia Tab A500 will be available for pre-order at Best Buy starting April 14 and available in stores and online starting April 24.

Besides the core unit, Acer also has a variety of peripherals planned. First on the list is a full-sized dedicated Bluetooth keyboard ($70 MSRP). There’s also a dock/charging station with IR remote and connections for external speakers/headphones ($80 MSRP), which can hold the tablet in two different tilt positions. Last is a protective case that allows access to the connectors and ports ($40 MSRP); it also lets you prop the tablet in two positions for hands-free viewing of movies or other content.

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  • Calabros - Friday, April 08, 2011 - link

    yes, its the year of copy cats Reply
  • morphologia - Friday, April 08, 2011 - link

    Because of course, the iPad was the first ever tablet, right?

    Wrong.

    The tablet is nearly a decade old by now, not that anyone remembers. It's just that it caught on this time around and is thus the popular product for manufacturers...it's called market-building, not copycat syndrome.
    Reply
  • Stuka87 - Friday, April 08, 2011 - link

    The tablet form factor may be a decade old, but up until the iPad, nearly all of them ran Windows. Which is a horrible OS for a tablet. The iPad was arguably the first tablet to be enjoyable to use.

    But the op didn't mention the iPad at all. He was comparing it to the Xoom.
    Reply
  • Azethoth - Friday, April 08, 2011 - link

    Interesting numerology subtext: it usually takes about 10-20 years for a new idea to percolate and then make it into the mainstream as an actual solution people will pay money for. I say numerology because like most statistics there are exceptions, and at this point Google is not finding me the original thesis for this stat easily anymore anyway.

    So let us agree to reward the original inventor with a time limited patent in which to make it rich off her idea and then let the masses compete in the economic frenzy when the idea hits mainstream.

    So for phones/tablets:
    Idea: Lets give this to the "DynaBook" by Alan Kay in 1970 +/- a couple of years. Even then he was imagining a full screen lcd multi touch display with virtual keyboard, books, music and many more things on it. Aww, so sad patents only last a little while.

    First attempts:
    Lets make this the Apple Newton and other wannabe new techs from the early 90's. (Palm is basically the only one that did anything commercial at that stage and as a former user of palm devices they were rather lame)

    Bingo: Apple wins the Bingo round. Now that the markets are real we can give yearly kudos to the phone & tablet market leaders who will tend to be "copy-cats". I am an iOS guy because I adopt early, but my money is on Android to take and maintain the lead in both markets and basically dominate this form factor the way MS dominated the PC level.
    Reply
  • bplewis24 - Friday, April 08, 2011 - link

    Good post. Reply
  • lunarx3dfx - Sunday, May 01, 2011 - link

    This kills me. People keep calling honeycomb and webOS copy cats. I don't get it. Last I checked their interfaces are far removed from iOS, and in my opinion they are far more functional. Plus, if you really want to see a copycat, look no further than iOS.

    The iOS homescreen is nothing but icons. People have covered their desktops with icons for years, and for years it has been an atrocity. Apple does it and it's "revolutionary."
    Reply
  • spambonk - Friday, April 08, 2011 - link

    Picard used tablets in Star Trek the Next Generation in the eighties, so hardly new. And it doesn't matter what software was running on a tablet or how well it sold, or how "enjoyable" the Ipad was - it wasn't the first.

    And Steve arrogant jerk Jobs was the one who said this would be the year of the copycats, so obviously everybody si going to assume that is what the op was talking about when its a android bashing thread.
    Reply
  • AnnihilatorX - Saturday, April 09, 2011 - link

    Windows tablets are more oriented to work rather than casual usage models, and frankly I will take a Windows tablet over iPad for work purposes.

    In market currently, many Windows based tablets are over twice the price of so called casual tablets, and netbooks. The windows ones have performance comparable to more powerful laptops, but not as lightweight, these are the conventional tablets.

    Just because they are not popular does not mean they are not successful. They are inherently more useful than downsized tablet PCs. The market is pretty small for them due to price, they are luxury items. I remember buying my Fujitsu ST5112 for close to 1800USD, worth its pennies in weight.
    Reply
  • Zan Lynx - Monday, April 11, 2011 - link

    Windows tablets always sucked for work because of their horrible battery life.

    I remember using one. It was lucky to get 5 hours of use from it. That means if you started using it in the morning at work you were afraid to take it with you to a lunch meeting because it'd become useless half-way through.

    The iPad is the first tablet I've ever seen with a really useful battery life.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Monday, April 11, 2011 - link

    Acer 1820ptz, 7.5 hour battery life
    HP 2740p and models before, over 8 hours
    Latitude XT2, with slice, over 6.
    HP TC4400, with super extended battery, over 12 hours.

    They are out there.
    Reply

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