The tablet PC market went into overdrive in 2011 with no fewer than 10 different manufacturers introducing new tablets, including the Apple iPad 2.0, the Motorola Xoom, the BlackBerry PlayBook and the Samsung Galaxy, to name just a few. With 28.7 million iPads sold to date, Apple still far outsells all other products combined, but Taiwanese manufacturer Acer made an ambitious entry into the field this year, as well, introducing not one -- but four -- different tablet product lines that give buyers a choice between two different operating systems and two very different user experiences [source: Carr].
The Acer Iconia brand encompasses the 7-inch Acer Iconia Tab A100 (available in an 8 GB or 16 GB model), the 10-inch Iconia Tab A500 (available with 16 or 32 GB), and the 10-inch Iconia Tab W500 model (16 GB). The A series tablets are powered by the Android Honeycomb operating system (more on that in a moment), while the W500 runs Windows 7 [source: Acer].
The Iconia-6120, while it shares the Iconia name, is an entirely different animal. With dual 14-inch touch screens (it's hinged like a laptop, with the option to display a full virtual keyboard on the lower screen) and a $1,200 price tag, the 6120 offers the touch-screen capabilities of a tablet but competes with notebooks and laptops in terms of its size and productivity [source: Hiner]. For the purposes of this article, we'll focus on the Iconia Tab A series and Iconia Tab W series models, whose prices and capabilities are more in line with the rest of the tablet PC market.
Has Acer been successful in its quest to grab a share of the tablet space? What, if anything, differentiates Iconia tablets from the rest of the competition? For that matter, what differentiates one Iconia tablet from another? To find out, let's take a closer look at the features and specs of the Acer Iconia models.
Acer Iconia Features and Specs
Acer announced the launch of its Iconia tablets in November 2010, but the first models didn't hit the shelves until April 2011, when the Iconia Tab A500 and Tab W500 arrived on the scene.
The Android-powered Iconia Tab A500 is priced at around $450 for the 16 GB model or $500 for the 32 GB model. Both feature the tablet-specific Android Honeycomb operating system with an nVidia Tegra 250 dual core mobile processor and 1 GB of DDR2 SDRAM. Like the W500, the A500 has a 10.1-inch LED touch screen with a 1280 x 800 screen resolution [source: Acer].
The long-awaited Iconia Tab A100 made its debut in August 2011. The Android-based A100 is powered by the same Honeycomb operating system as its big brother the A500, but with a price tag of $330 for the 8 GB model or $350 for a 16 GB version, the A100 offers many of the same features as the A500 at a lower cost. Like the A500, the Iconia Tab A100 is built around an nVidia Tegra 250 dual core mobile processor with 1 GB of DDR2 SDRAM. The 7-inch screen has a resolution of 1024 x 600, and the tablet measures just a half inch tall and weighs .92 pounds.
While the company has not released exact sales numbers, Acer reportedly shipped approximately 2.5 million Iconia Tabs in 2011 [source: Carr]. Those numbers compare favorably to the Samsung Galaxy (2 million units shipped) and the BlackBerry PlayBook (just 500,000 shipped), but since the actual number sold is estimated to be only 10 to 15 percent of the number shipped, the Iconia tablet has a long way to go if it hopes to catch the market-leading iPad [source: Carr]. Fortunately for Acer, the Iconia tablet has a lot to offer for a fairly reasonable price. Let's look at the more of the features, accessories and applications available for Acer Iconia tablets.
Acer Iconia Accessories
As sales of tablet PCs begin to chip away at sales of laptops and ever-dwindling desktop computers (remember those?), users are looking to do more than just check e-mail or watch videos on their new several-hundred-dollar toys. Acer acknowledges this trend by positioning its Iconia tablets as ideal for multitasking and pairing with accessories designed for gaming, working or viewing content.
Any of the Iconia tablets can be paired with a docking station that lets users adjust volume and play, pause or stop media via remote control. The tablets are also compatible with a full wireless keyboard, which is infinitely easier to use than a touch screen for composing documents and long e-mails. The Iconia tablet has a microSD card slot for reading memory cards and USB ports that make it easy to access flash drives, USB card readers and portable hard drives. Acer claims that the battery will last for eight hours of gaming or movie watching, or up to 10 hours of basic Web browsing over Wi-Fi [source: Perenson].
Gamers have given mostly positive reviews to the Acer Iconia for including an ultra-sensitive gyro meter, fast processor and high-resolution screen, all designed to run HD arcade games and complex online games with no compromised graphics or frustrating frozen screens.
One area where the Acer Iconia tablet (like other Android tablets) still falls short is the availability of apps. While Android smartphones are slowly but surely gaining on the dominant iPhone App Store, the Android Marketplace lists just 148 apps for tablets as of August 2011, as compared with more than 65,000 apps for the ubiquitous iPad. While the Android Marketplace app number is sure to grow, it's still viewed as a huge negative for many would-be buyers deciding between an iPad and just about anything else.
So what's the bottom line? While it's still early in the game, the Acer Iconia tablet, although not yet a household name, looks to be off to a decent start. The choice of sizes and operating systems means that there's an option for everyone, and reviewers have pegged every model in the Iconia line as good all-around tablets for media viewing, gaming and basic online pursuits, all at very reasonable prices.
- Acer. "Iconia TAB A Series." (August 19, 2011) http://us.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/series/iconia-tab-a
- Acer. "Iconia TAB W Series." (August 20, 2011) http://us.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/series/iconia-tab-w
- Best Tablet PC Reviews http://www.besttabletpcsreviews.com/
- Carr, Austin. "HP's Dead TouchPad Claims No. 2 Best-Selling Tablet Spot." Fast Company. Aug. 30, 2011. (Aug. 31, 2011) http://www.fastcompany.com/1777059/hp-discontinued-touchpad-will-be-the-worlds-second-best-selling-tablet?partner=gnews
- Hiner, Jason. "The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011." ZDNet. Feb. 3, 2011. (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/the-10-hottest-tablets-coming-in-2011/44415
- Inofuentes, Jason. "Acer Iconia Tab A100 Released: The First 7-Inch Honeycomb Tablet." AnandTech. Aug. 12, 2011. (Aug. 19, 2011) http://www.anandtech.com/show/4614/acer-iconia-tab-a100-released-the-first-7inch-honeycomb-tablet
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- Isaac, Mike. "Tablet Makers Hope Cheaper Means Better Sales." Wired.com. Aug. 9, 2011. (Aug. 20, 2011) http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/08/cheap-android-tablets/
- Isaac, Mike. "Two-in-One Tablets Sport New Looks to Lure Consumers." Wired.com. Aug. 1, 2011. (Aug. 20, 2011) http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/08/android-tablet-hybrid/all/1
- Jackson, Joab. "Acer Unveils Tablets to Run Windows, Android." PCWorld. Nov. 2010. (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/211494/acer_unveils_tablets_to_run_windows_android.html
- Perenson, Melissa. "Acer Iconia Tab A500: Android Tablet Impresses, But Still Misses its Mark." PC World. April 23, 2011. (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.pcworld.com/article/226153/acer_iconia_tab_a500_android_tablet_impresses_but_still_misses_its_mark.html
- Portnoy, Sean. "Acer Iconia Tab W500 tablet PC running Windows 7 available starting at $549.99." ZDNet. April 20, 2011. (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.zdnet.com/blog/computers/acer-iconia-tab-w500-tablet-pc-running-windows-7-available-starting-at-54999/5565
- Squidoo. "Acer Iconia-6120 14-inch Dual-Screen Touchbook." April 12, 2011. (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.squidoo.com/acer-iconia-6120-14-inch-dual-screen-touchbook
- Trout, Christopher. "Acer Iconia Tab A100 finally available in August for $300." Engadget.com. July 28, 2011. (Aug. 20, 2011) http://www.engadget.com/2011/07/28/acer-iconia-tab-a100-finally-available-in-august-for-300/
- Tweney, Dylan. "Windows Ill-suited to Touchscreens, New Tablets Show." Wired.com. Jan. 14, 2011. (Aug. 20, 2011) http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/01/windows-tablets/?pid=1245&viewall=true
- Wollman, Dana. "Acer Iconia Tab A100 review." Engadget.com. Aug. 12, 2011. (Aug. 20, 2011) http://www.engadget.com/2011/08/12/acer-iconia-tab-a100-review/