Acer Iconia A500 tablet sports Android 3.0 Honeycomb

Computer maker Acer is launching its first Android tablet, the 10.1-inch Acer Iconia A500—and it’s aiming to appeal to consumers with a gaming- and entertainment-friendly design and a starting price tag lower than Apple’s now-iconic iPad: just $449.99 at Best Buy.

Acer Iconia A500 tablet

“Staying connected and entertained are firmly embedded as a part of our everyday lives—and the Acer Iconia Tab A500 does this and so much more in a performance-minded, sleek, and stylish design,” said Acer America’s VP of product marketing Sumit Agnihotry, in a statement. vice president of product marketing, Acer America.

Acer is positioning that A500 as a slim, lightweight tablet designed for entertainment and gaming—and it runs Google’s tablet-optimized Android 3.0 Honeycomb, offering more than just a smartphone scaled up to a tablet size. Powered by a 1 GHz Nvidia Tegra 250 processor, the Iconia A500 features a 10.1-inch touch display with a 1,280 by 800-pixel resolution so users can enjoy high-definition gaming and video entertainment—and an integrated HDMI output enables users to push high-def content to a nearby big screen. And it won’t weigh people down: the A500 comes in at just under 1.7 pounds, and measures just over a half inch thick.

The A500 sports forward- and rear-facing cameras (2 megapixel and 5 megapixels, respectively), so the tablet can be used to shoot high quality images and video and do high-def video chat. The A500 also sports 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth wireless networking, and an integrated GPS receiver. The A500 also sports two 3260 mAh Li-polymer batteries that Acer says can power up to eight hours of video playback and ten hours of Wi-Fi Web surfing. If there’s one place where the A500 skimps for some users, it might be storage: the A500 comes with 16 MB of flash storage, although a microSD card reader offers expandable removable storage. Acer says the tablet platform supports up to 32 MB of flash storage, so expect to see more capacity in future models. The A500 also supports Acer’s media sharing for connecting to DLNA-compliant media devices.

To emphasize entertainment capabilities, the Iconia A500 ships with two HD arcade games: Need for Speed: Shift and Let’s Golf. The A500 will happily run Adobe Flash content, although—in an interesting move—users will need to install Flash themselves.

Acer Iconia A500 Let's Golf

Online pre-orders for the A500 start April 8 exclusively at Best Buy in North America, with in-store pre-orders starting April 14. Customers should be able to set hands on the Iconia A500 in stores starting April 24. The A500 will carry a suggested price of $449.99, $50 less than Apple’s least-expensive iPad 2. Acer is also selling a selection of optional peripherals, including a $69.99 full-sized keyboard, a $79.99 dock with IR remote and external speaker jacks, and a $39.99 protective case that doubles as a stand. Acer is also offering an international power adapter taht can handle the UK and Europe as well as Central and South America for $29.99.

The Iconia A500 has some strong points going for it: a high-definition screen, HDMI output, Android 3.0 Honeycomb, and a lightweight design—and, perhaps more importantly, a price lower than Apple’s entry-level iPad. However, it lacks a 3G mobile broadband option, is comparatively light on storage, and so far Android 3.0 tablets have failed to light a fire under consumers, while Apple’s iPad 2 continues to be in short supply at retailers.

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