• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

Tablets are the latest must-have – sure, they can’t do what a laptop PC can, but nevertheless they offer all kinds of games and video options, as well as a choice from thousands of apps.


Android’s tablet-optimised Honeycomb has only been seen on one tablet so far – the Motorola Xoom – this is its second outing, on the Acer Iconia Tab A500. While the likes of the HTC Flyer and Samsung Galaxy Tab had to make do with smartphone software, the Tab has a proper OS adapted to make the most of the large display.




So, first let’s look at the hardware. The Tab A500 is a real eye-catcher, with its metal edges and black bevelled screen. That screen measure 10.1 inches – the same as the Xoom, and a tad bigger than the iPad. The device is also heavier than the Xoom – in fact too weighty to carry for long, and it means it’s not a first choice for reading ebooks. We’d suggest you get a Kindle if that’s what you’re after. It seems even heavier now that we’ve experienced the iPad. Sure, there is an app called Lumiread but it can’t compete with iBooks, instead it just takes you to the web to read.


The display offers a 1,280x800 resolution (that’s the same as the Motorola’s’) and offers high contrast, as well as being clear and bright (except when you’re outside, when it’s pretty hard to read).


Push the button


You won’t find many buttons on this tablet – you’ll see there’s an orientation lock and volume rocker on the right (which is a rather odd place when you consider that the device has been designed to use mostly in landscape mode). Of course you can hold it in portrait mode if you wish – and the accelerometers will quickly switch the view for you – but the aspect ration is actually fully widescreen, which means it’s excellent for viewing movies. And if you want to watch video on a big screen, Acer has included a mini HDMI port so that you can connect it to a TV.


If you’re familiar with Android on smartphones, you’d know that we’d be about to tell you where the usual four buttons are – those for home, search, back and menu. But because the Tab uses Honeycomb, things have been pared down and some of those button are now virtual ones that pop up on the bottom of the screen. Look in the bottom left corner for the back and home key, as well as a recent screens button. Oddly though, the search button has disappeared – instead you have to go to settings, which you achieve by tapping on the clock, then Wi-Fi status point and then settings - very clunky and unnecessary.

The Settings screen offers sub-menus on the right and sections on the left – just like the iPad.


 Battery life


We’ve come to expect good battery life from tablets as they have big batteries – and while the iPad 2 and BlackBerry PlayBook can offer up a good 10 hours of use, you won’t get that from the Tab, but you should get a good day out of it on normal use. Remember that it will take a couple of hours to get a full charge back, though.


Because the batteries are so much bigger on tablets than phones, they usually have their own connectors, rather than the microUSB ports on mobile phones. The port on the Tab is small and round and it has its own charger that fits into it. 

Clocking on

While we think of it, we wonder what it is about clocks and Google? HTC’s devices have a good choice of usable clocks but we were less than enamoured with Honeycomb’s unattractive offering. Acer has a retro one that is slightly more appealing but not by much. Oddly, when we dragged the Acer widget shortcut on to the display, we got a different clock to the one we were shown.


 Snappers and storage


The Tab A500 has a pair of snappers on offer – the one on the back with a five-megapixel sensor. They’re really there for gaming apps and Augmented Reality, which is a good thing because like its rivals, the Tab A500 just isn’t made to be held like a camera – although the image quality was actually all right.


The Tab A500 has 32GB of RAM onboard, just like the Motorola Xoom, but if you’re on a budget, the good news is that a cheaper model with 16GB is set to be launched soon.




Sweet treats


One of the other good things about the device is its keyboard. Swiftkey is the best on offer and there is a Honeycomb version, which we really like. There is a standard keyboard too, which is okay – and if you’re planning to do a lot of inputting we suggest you get a separate keyboard.

The Tab A500 has some of Acer’s own apps included, but none of them are that great – there’s the reader we previously mentioned, plus a social aggregator called SocialJogger – which didn’t wow us – plus a few more.

Of course the problem is that no tablets can compete with the iPad when it comes to dedicated apps – while Android market is full of smartphone apps, those for tablets have yet to catch up in the number stakes. And if you use the smartphone versions they’re often disappointing because they are made for small displays and stay that way on the tablet – surrounded by lots of black space. Nor do they always work as well as they do on a phone.

If you’re browsing the net, Honeycomb offers an app that provides simple tabbed browsing (which the iPad doesn’t yet do) – making surfing the net simpler. We found the web pages loaded up speedily, and zooming in and out using pinch to zoom was pretty quick too.

Our conclusion


All in all, we think the Acer Iconia Tab A500 has plenty to offer, and will improve as the Honeycomb apps offering improves. We would have liked to see a longer battery life, and a slightly less weighty device, but they’re not huge issues, especially if you’re keen on the A500’s design.


There aren’t that many Android tablets with big displays out there – and at the moment, it’s the differences in hardware that help to differentiate between the Android devices. Acer has come up with a decently styled offering with a gentle reworking of the operating system that is very appealing.








Operating system:



WLAN, A2DP, Wi-Fi, USB, Bluetooth

Announced date:

February 2011

What's in the Box:




International launch date:

June 2011

Battery life when playing multimedia:



1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual Core processor, Tegra 2 chipset

FM Radio Description:


Internal memory:

16/32GB storage

Memory Card Slot:



Email, MMS

Internet Browser:


E-mail client:

Attachments, Push email






Yes and downloadable

Data speed:








Display size:

10.1 inches



Audio recording:



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