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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  • BishopZA - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    A fine review, but you failed to mention the biggest advantage the Iconia A500 holds over other Honeycomb tablets: An Integrated USB Port and Micro-SD card slot. Reply
  • wsandman - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    I agree with you! The USB port and Micro SD card capability more the balance the scale for this device. The gripes about workmanship were not even apparent to me when I bought my A500. I believe that at $449 the A500 is very competitive with similar devices on the market when you balance ALL attributes. Also, once again an article that wanders from the topic of reviewing the worthiness of the device and ventures into a rant against the family of devices the unit falls under. In short, I like my A500 and have no regrets about its purchase. Reply
  • cknobman - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    I completely understand your wanting to defend the Acer as you purchased it but a a potential buyer of a table (as I dont own one yet) I feel the reviewer did a great job and pointed out exactly what is wrong with this tablet.

    I passed on purchasing this device for the very reasons pointed out in this article and I had made my mind up of this a few weeks ago after playing with one first hand in a Best Buy store.

    The low overall build quality coupled with a mediocre screen, average performance SOC, and immaturity of the Android platform kept be from buying this especially at the $449 price point.

    I agree with the review at a $379 price point which is where I might bite into the table experience.

    Until more powerful hardware comes out and Android matures a little more I would never consider spending $400+ on a tablet especially when I can get so much more capabilities from a similar powered laptop.

    My 4.3' EVO smartphone fills the gap of latpop-tablet without me having to spend extra money.
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    Just a heads up, the screen is better than you give it credit for. By the numbers, it's brilliant, and even without advanced screen technologies, it looks decent in day-to-day use. Maybe not as good as the iPad, but still good. Reply
  • peterfares - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    You think the screen on the Acer is good? It looks like a crap PenTile display, though I don't think it even is. It had that fuzzy look that PenTile screens have. Reply
  • Rhitick - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - link

    The screen on the Acer is excellent. I have one in the store, along with a Playbook, iPad 1/2, and a Viewpad (we rent tablets to people looking to try them). I am absolutely in love with the Iconia. The pics don't do it justice. We will be getting the Transformer in soon and I can't wait to try them back to back, but the USB port and MicroSD nail it for me. Reply
  • mdshullaw - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    I am a video technician of over 40 years now, and run my own business. I can tell you without any doubt the display on the A500 is superb. The contrast is the best I have seen on a tablet, and the brightness can blind you, so what is the point of having more brightness than you can use. This is why the brightness comparison of these devices is pointless and not an indication of the screens quality. The designers of the supporting hardware set limits to the brightness range for each brand and model. Having messed around with all the tablets extensively, I ended up buying the Acer A500., With an excellent display, partially metal case, full size USB, a fast processor and excellent graphics, it was an easy choice to make. Reply
  • micksh - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    Most tablets have microSD slot except Galaxy Tab and LG Optimus.
    Galaxy Tab has USB OTG with $20 adapter. Eee Pad has it on keyboard and Eee Pad surely has microSD.
    Motorola Xoom has USB host. It may not be enabled in US yet on Xoom but it's there in Europe, as well as microSD support.
    Reply
  • Pokey-O - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - link

    BishopZA - I completely agree. I bought the A500 and the eeTransformer, expecting to sell/return one.
    I expected to love the Transformer, it was the one I was excited about (and I did like it, ended up keeping it for the family), but I've found myself using the A500 constantly, the key difference? the USB port. I can plug my thumb drive in, I can charge my phone off one power point (when travelling). The Transformer has the USB and the micro-SD, but it's on the dock, not the tablet, which is really surprisingly frustrating, I don't want to HAVE to have the dock with me at all times... otherwise it's a notebook!

    Incidentally, Just a few other points I'd note from the above article:
    - Jarred/Vivek I agree the build quality is marginally worse than the Asus, but (and it's a little thing) the rounded edges of the A500 are more comfortable to hold than the eeTransformer's sharper ones
    - and with regard to tablets generally, they're mobile devices, they're not good for typing on a table, but when you're sitting on a bus/plane/taxi there's nothing easier to type on that the tablets, setting up a net/notebook is troublesome.
    - lastly on the typing, one thing i like about both the Asus and the Acer is that the narrower screen means you can hold it like you would hold (or would have held, back in the day) a blackberry and type with your thumbs are at really quite fast speeds. I've not owned an ipad, but when I've borrowed them I've found them a little too wide to type in this way comfortably.

    As someone who commutes I wouldn't be without my A500 now...
    Reply
  • jjj - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    Can you please stop saying "plain-Jane LCD panel",there is no such thing and you sound like Engadget . Reply

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