Competition is great isn’t it? As soon as Apple releases their iPad Mini and Google updates the Nexus 7, Acer brings out a more competitively priced 7.9″ tablet to compete in the rapidly growing 7″ tablet market.
Acer Iconia tablets have been around for a while, usually at the higher end of the market and they have a pricey Windows 8 model available currently too – but the A1 is aimed squarely at the iPad Mini & Nexus 7 with street pricing around the $180-$200 range. When you factor in the $29 Acer cash back offer available on selected models until the end of November it becomes even more competitive, especially against the iPad Mini WiFi 16Gb model which is around twice the price.
So, how does it stack up against the opposition? On paper, very well – in practice maybe not quite so well, but here’s my opinions in comparison with the 2012 Nexus 7 model I reviewed earlier in this post.
Firstly, build quality isn’t quite up to the same standard as the ($299) Nexus 7 and it doesn’t have the same slim design. It is a little heavier than many tablets of similar size and while it feels comfortable to hold in one hand after extended use it was easier to hold with two. The back is made from shiny white plastic with rounded corners but I personally prefer the Nexus non-slip back. Controls and headphone jack are well positioned. The A1 has a reasonable rear camera which actually performed quite well in low light and the front facing one is only VGA quality, but fine for Skype video calls.
The 7.9″ screen is not the now common 16:9 aspect ratio, but the older 4:3 style. For most uses, I found the screen to be good, with one exception – watching a widescreen movie means the top and bottom black bands are wider and more noticeable than on widescreen format screens and this detracts a little from the experience. For all other uses, it wasn’t a problem and of course, viewing digital photos taken in the standard 4:3 format means they are shown full screen which is one of the advantages of tablets with this format.
Out of the box, the Iconia runs Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) which is one version before the latest but I would expect that Acer will make 4.3 available at some stage to bring it up to the current version. There were some preinstalled apps included, a few of which can’t be uninstalled, like McAfee Mobile Security which I tried out. After giving McAfee my email address I was then informed I had to buy it for ‘continued protection’. No thanks, I use Lookout an excellent and free antivirus app on all my devices. You can disable the apps you don’t want to use and there is still plenty of free space – over 12Gb – to install whatever you prefer to use.
Performance I found to very snappy with apps loading quickly and web pages displaying promptly – again which was surprising considering some of the negative reviews I had read prior to trying it for myself. The tablet has a quad core processor which must contribute considerably to the performance. I haven’t tried many games on the device, and for the price I wouldn’t have expected it to be a ‘speed demon’ anyway, but for everyday tasks that most of us buy tablets for it is fine.
Two features that make this tablet stand out from the competition are the micro SD card slot so users can add more storage for videos or music and a micro HDMI port so it can be connected directly to an HD TV to watch videos from the device without needing a converter.
WiFi performance was fine and with the included GPS and Bluetooth this tablet could have more uses than many lower cost devices without these features. In summary then, this is a great tablet and at a very competitive price and I’m seriously considering replacing my aging 10″ tablet with one before the Acer cashback offer ends!