Acer Iconia Tablet Review: The Transformer Prime's Chubby Cousin

Acer isn't exactly the first name that pops into your head when it comes to top-tier tablets, but the company's trying to change that with the Iconia A510. Does it hit the sweet spot between performance and price?

Giz AU editor's note: Acer has confirmed that this tablet will drop in Australia around mid-May. Local pricing will be announced in due course.

What Is It?

The Iconia A510 is a 10.1-inch tablet that sports Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) with a little extra bit of skinning from Acer, with Nvidia's 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor providing the muscle.

Who's it For?

People who want a high-performance Android tablet for less money.

Design

From the front, the A510 looks like every other Android tablet. From the side, though, you can see that it's thicker than the Transformer Prime or the iPad. It has a microHDMI out, microUSB out and nice pair of Dolby speakers. The back is rubberised and emblazoned with the Olympic logo, which will be super relevant later this year, but it could seem weird after the Olympics are over.

Using It

In general, it's very fast, but there are some bugs here and there that you don't see in top-tier tablets. The audio sounds solid. Its guts are built for gaming, but the bulkier frame does get heavy after a little while.

The Best Part

The 9800mAh Li-polymer battery gives the A510 tons of life. I was able to watch two full-length movies, do a good amount of gaming and lots of internet meandering all on a single charge -- with juice to spare.

Tragic Flaw

The screen is very much ho-hum. It's the same screen that's been on most Android tablets for over a year now, and at this point that's just not good enough. Not as bright as the Transformer Prime, and not as high-res as the new iPad.

This Is Weird...

Acer put a little bit of its own twist on Ice Cream Sandwich by adding the Acer Ring (pictured). It's basically a customisable shortcut launcher that you can pop up from anywhere in the UI. It's pretty, but you'll almost certainly never use it.

Test Notes

  • Battery life is the bee's knees. Got over 10 hours with medium usage.
  • Most apps worked flawlessly, and then there would suddenly be a buggy one (like in Shadowgun THD). Maybe that was Shadowgun's fault, but it happened too often for the Iconia not to share some of the blame.
  • The optional protective case is actually very nice. It won't automatically turn the screen off like the iPad's does, but it's thin and grippy.
  • At 698g, this thing is ain't light. The Tranformer Prime is 585g and the new iPad is 653. What makes it feel heavier, though, is the thickness -- it's 10.9mm. It just makes it feel blockier, and it's less fun to hold on the train.
  • It comes with a little micro USB-to-USB female adaptor so you can plug in a jump drive or even a USB keyboard or mouse. Maybe handy?
  • The sound it produces is pretty good. Definitely better than the Transformer Prime. At least the speakers are on different sides.

Should You Buy It?

Eh, it's a pretty good tablet, but at $US450, it's not good enough. Acer put a great processor in here, but the screen is extremely underwhelming, and the bulk just makes it feel older than it is. Bring it down to $US300 or $US350, and yeah, it'd be a pretty good buy, but you can get the Transformer Prime for just $US50 more. It's worth the difference.

Acer Iconia A510 Specs

• Network: Wi-Fi only • OS: Android 4.0 • CPU: 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor • Screen: 10.1-inch 1280x800 pixel TFT LCD • RAM: 1GB • Storage: 32GB + up to 32GB microSD • Price: $US450