Acer has been diligently releasing, improving, and iterating its Android tablets for a year now. The Iconia Tab A700 is its fifth major crack at tablets and its diligence is visible in almost every detail of the design. This time, to better compete with the new iPad, Acer has added a Full HD display and bumped up the processing power, yet again. The question is, as always: Will it be enough?
Look & Feel
The A700 is almost identical in design to previous Acer tablets, which is good and bad. Thanks to a rubberized, textured coating and good button placement, it’s easy enough to use it, but it’s still heavier (23.5oz) and thicker (11mm) than a lot of tablets. It’s also heavier and thicker than the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity. Still, its the lightest and thinnest Acer tablet yet.
As we always say, 10.1-inch Android tablets are not our favorite size. It’s a bit too large to type on comfortably or to hold in landscape mode due to Android’s reliance on a widescreen design. Apple’s solo choice to use a screen with an aspect ratio of 4:3 was a smart one. Our favorite Android tablets are a bit smaller, clocking in with screens between 8 and 9 inches.
We’re being nitpicky, but we’re sad that Acer has removed the full-size USB port from the A700. The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity still has one, as have previous Iconia Tabs. This one has a modified Micro USB port instead. You can connect it up to your computer, but it requires its own proprietary charger (boo). Stereo speakers on the bottom of the tablet sound okay, but cannot compete with the iPad’s single speaker, even after you turn on built-in Dolby audio enhancements.
To compete with the new wave of Full HD devices, Acer has upgraded its 10.1-inch LCD screen to 1920 x 1200 pixels, which is as high as any Android tablet and almost as much as the third iPad’s Retina display. The effect is the same: Text and visuals on the tablet look crisp and clear. You don’t notice the bump in resolution all the time, but if you try to go back to a 1280 x 800 screen after using the Iconia Tab, it won’t be an easy transition. This screen is quite nice. We have no complaints except its size. We recommend you try out a 10.1-inch Android tablet before committing.
The Iconia Tab A700 runs on the almost newest version of Google’s OS: Android 4.0 (codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich). The interface is pretty straight-forward and sticks with the strengths of Google’s new OS, though Acer has made more changes than it has in the past, especially to the Android Status Bar, which expands out when you touch the clock in the lower right. The changes appear to be an improvement in design and functionality, allowing easier toggling of Bluetooth, GPS, Airplane mode, Sound, screen rotation, app syncing, Wi-Fi, notifications, and screen brightness, but they are a change nonetheless.
There are other changes. The lock screen lets you unlock straight into the Web browser, Gmail, Google Search, or photo gallery, which is nice (you can customize which apps appear). Another addition, which Acer calls the ‘Ring’, is accessible via a green dot on the task bar. Press it and a giant ring pops up with some hot links to apps, a volume control, and a coverflow view of recent Web pages you’ve visited. The links are all customizable and if you don’t like it, you can disable it. There are also a couple nice looking custom widgets you can put on your homescreens.
We don’t mind changes, but found the Iconia Tab’s animations and response time to be ever-so-slightly lower than competing devices like the Transformer Pad Infinity and Excite 7.7. At times, the A700 doesn’t feel as fast and responsive as it should.
There aren’t too many custom apps on the A700, but the few include a voice recorder, Evernote, and the Amazon Appstore (nice to have). Most of these apps don’t appear to be removable, which is a shame, though we’re used to a lot more bloatware.
Keep in mind that if you buy an Android tablet, you’re not going to get nearly the app selection or quality that you’ll find on the iPad. The iPad has hundreds of thousands of apps built specifically for it, but good Android tablet apps are still few and far between.
The A700 has a 1.3GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, 32GB of internal flash memory for storage, 1GB of RAM, a microSD slot for expanded storage, a front camera, a 5-megapixel rear camera, Bluetooth 2.1 (old version), a Micro USB port (doubles as proprietary charging port), and a headphone jack. Common features like GPS, a gyroscope, a digital compass, and an accelerometer are also built in.
For advanced geeks, the A700 achieved a Quadrant score of 3,590. For comparison, the A200 (running a dual-core Tegra 2) scored an 1,800. Samsung dual-core tablets have scored in the 2,000-2,500 range. The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, which is perhaps the nearest competitor to the A700 and also a Tegra 3 device, scored a 5040. The Toshiba Excite 7.7 (also Tegra 3) scored a 3,740.
Battery life has been decent, but not stunning. The Iconia Tab battery lasted between 7 and 8 hours for us, though performance will vary based on what you’re doing and what apps you have installed. Some reviews have mentioned a problem with overheating, and we can confirm that the A700 does get quite hot at times. It hasn’t burned us, but in some circumstances, it could prove uncomfortable to hold.
(Note: This is a Wi-Fi only device and cannot connect to 3G or 4G cellular networks. Your speeds will be determined by how fast the Internet is at your home or local Starbucks.)
The 5-megapixel rear camera on the A700 is an improvement over the non-existent camera on the A200. Though it had some trouble picking up light in dim areas, the quality of photos in most standard conditions were good. Our outdoor shots appear to have a pink tinge to them, which we’re guessing the A700 picked up from the bricks, but it wasn’t bad enough that most people would notice.
Overall, pictures and video have met the low standards set by most other tablets, though the iPad and Asus Transformer Pad Infinity appear to outperform the A700 in most circumstances, sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot.
Like the A510 and A200 before it, Acer has built another solid tablet, but only for those willing to sacrifice a bit on style, weight, and size. It runs Android 4.0 and has good processing power, but it’s heavier and bulkier than what we’re now seeing from most manufacturers and the interface feels a bit slow at times. It’s a solid tablet, but doesn’t stand out from the crowd. The $450 price point is cheaper than Asus and other manufacturers, but we don’t think it’s cheap enough to really help the A700 compete against the iPad juggernaut, especially considering previous Iconia Tabs have been as cheap as $300. The Acer Iconia Tab A700 would serve you fine as a tablet, but be sure to weigh all of your options and needs.
- Has a rear camera
- full-size USB port
- microSD support
- Runs Android 4.0
- Fast quad-core processor
- Overheating issues
- Interface feels laggy at times
- No full USB port
- Heavier and fatter than the iPad 3
- Android tablet apps lag behind iPad
- 10.1 inches is a bit too big