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Aug 26, 2011
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Hey, what do we have here? It's the Acer Iconia Tab A500! This is actually the first Honeycomb tablet to arrive here in the Philippines this year and we've previously had our short date with it. Well, that was the teaser and this right here is the main course, so to speak. So, without further ado, let's see what Acer's offering into the tablet wars has to, er, offer by way of performance and overall package.

Looks

The Iconia Tab A500 edges out most of the competition, at least in pricing as it sells for P21,900 for the 16GB WiFi model (and P23,892 for the 32GB version). That asking price will get you Android Honeycomb housed in a rather hefty alpine silver/brushed aluminum casing - a real looker that, based on our little social experimentation, almost always earns curious stares from those who are in the market for their first tablet. No complaints there.

Physicals

On the left side is a very discreet chrome-tinged power button, a microHDMI port and a 3.5mm headphone jack while the right side houses the power input slot and the microUSB and standard USB ports. On the top portion you'll see the volume controls, an orientation lock toggle switch and a microSD card slot. Ending the physical tour, we take a peek at the bottom side where there is an additional port for the docking add-on that acts as a separate charging station and offers external speakers. Unfortunately, that isn't part of the review unit so we weren't able to test it out.

But with low price and big size come some minor trade-offs. What we’ve noticed is that holding the Iconia Tab A500 upright with two hands gets tiring after some time. Not surprising as it tips the scales at 730g. Not a good thing if you're pinning after a tablet you can lug around with ease. Switching positions is a must if you want to avoid getting cramps. Maybe you need to keep in mind that exercise is good for the heart while using the Iconia Tab A500 in less than ideal conditions.

Operation

Being Honeycomb-powered, the Iconia Tab A500 doesn’t stray much from devices such as the Galaxy Tab 10.1 with regards to the interface, the way you close apps with the Android App Killer, the way you log on to Google Market and Google Latitude, widgets, personalization and the overall smoothness of operation. And those who spend much of their time awake online will agree with us that the web browsing experience is quite similar to what laptops and desktops offer (minus the physical keyboard and mouse, of course) thanks, in part, to the display's size. Wi-Fi connectivity speed is standard though if you're looking for 3G connectivity better look away since it isn't offered here.

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Another observation: the accelerometer at most times reacts with about a two-millisecond delay when you switch the tablet’s orientation. A very slight lag is similarly encountered when opening and closing apps. Not sure if this is a thing for which Honeycomb has something do with because the NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core chip and 1GB RAM combo should take care of this issue. Don't get us wrong, this is no biggie as the operation tends to be seamless overall. And oh, the integrated Ultra Low Power GeForce graphics does work well when viewing photos and watching videos as the device renders and streams images and clips with nary a hitch.

Imaging

The 10.1-inch, 800 x 1280 display gets a thumbs-up from us as it brings crisp texts and colors and good contrasts. It doesn't have IPS (in-plane switching) technology so we're also pleasantly surprised that it delivers good viewing angles. The same cannot be said for the Iconia Tab A500's shooting capabilities though. The main (rear) 5-megapixel camera tends to have difficulty focusing on objects which makes for blurry images though it does capture decent macro photos with ample lighting. The device is capable of recording 720p video but the fact that the camera has a hard time focusing also results in sub-par footage. However, this shouldn't be high on your list of concerns since taking photos and vids with a 10-inch metallic slab isn't really the norm.

Speakers 

You know what we like best about the Acer Iconia A500? The Dolby Mobile-enhanced sound experience. With speakers on both sides, sharing your music via the default Android music player or the NemoPlayer to a roomful of people is a real pleasure. We don’t expect a low, subwoofer-like quality to come out of something this thin, and the Iconia doesn’t have that, but a full sound that’s more than enough to kick-start a small house party is very much welcome. Fortunately, listening doesn’t require you to carry it around at all times - you can leave this tablet in one corner and it will do the job for you. Kudos for the speakers.

Power department

As for the power department, we're a bit disappointed. Tablets are supposed to be mobile gadgets offering portability for on-the-go computing, browsing and multimedia experience, right? That's why a long-lasting battery is a must. Sadly, in our experience, the Iconia Tab A500 can only muster 6.5 hours of juice. That's still quite a lot but compared to other tablets that can go 2-3 hours more on a single charge, we're still wanting for more.

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Verdict

All things considered, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 is still a solid piece of hardware. Sure, it comes with a few kinks in its armor that may be turn-offs for potential users but it does offer the full Honeycomb Nvidia Tegra 2 experience in a good-lookin' package that's relatively cheaper than the competition. So, for those looking for an Android tablet with all the bells and whistles you'd expect from similar devices these days while wanting to save a few thousands more, then this baby could actually be a good buy.

Check the gallery below for photos

Click here to view the Acer Iconia Tab A500 in the Buyer's Guide

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WORDS BY Neps Firmalan
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