We’ve been messing around with the Acer Iconia Tab 10.1 for a few weeks now and can report that it is a solid bargain Android tablet with a surprisingly good screen and speakers.  It does however have its faults which include a hefty enclosure with aluminum backing, a mediocre battery life and a sometimes shaky early build of Honeycomb.

For $450 and dropping however, this is a surprisingly good first effort from Acer.  Read on for more observations.

Forget what you know about Acer and their super cheap Netbooks.  This is a nice, though hefty, piece of hardware that is weighted down by both its beautiful glass front screen and aluminum rear panel.  The sides are plastic and contain a lot of ports, shown above.  This can be good or bad depending on your point of view.

available for $449 at Amazon or Best Buy

Battery life is pretty solid.  Expect about 7 or 8 hours of continuous usage and more than a few days of standby.    I never had a day where I started out with a reasonably-charged  A500 and needed to plug it in by night.  It was also able to make a full cross country flight which included a few hours of Gogo Internet as well as a full H.264 two hour movie.

There isn’t much diversity in the early Honeycomb tablets in terms of hardware.  Like all of the others, the Iconia A500 includes dual core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor which pumps out 1080P video without breaking a sweat.

The cameras were a mixed bag and about the quality of a midrange smartphone on both the front and back.  In dim lighting, there was certainly room for improvement but the front camera was certainly capable for video conferencing.

Software. I hate to say this, but Honeycomb still isn’t fully ready for primetime.  Google should probably have released this current build without access to the Android Market.

The A500 is every so slightly buggier than the XOOM, but I imagine software updates in the coming weeks and months will tighten up the ship.  That being said, apps I use the most: Browser, Gmail, Calendar, Youtube, Maps, Google Talk and Pulse worked reliably.  I’m pretty convinced that other apps that are currently unstable like Google Body or USAToday will improve.

Wrapup:

As far as Honeycomb tablets go, Acer’s Iconia A500 is a pretty compelling offer.  At $450, it is beaten only by the bulky ASUS Eee Pad and its price is bound to come down to a more realistic $400 over the coming months.  For that price, you get an impressive 1280×800 screen, solid Dolby stereo speakers,  and a rapidly improving OS.  Compared to the more expensive XOOM ($599 Wifi) or G-Slate ($529 w/ 2-year T-Mobile commitment), the Iconia is a bargain.  Amazon’s customers give it a 4+ star ratings and Best Buy’s commenters also give it impressive reviews.

 

It is available for $449 at Amazon or Best Buy

SPECS
Acer Iconia Tab A500
Retail Price: $450 (16GB)
OS: Android 3.0 ‘Honeycomb’
CPU: NVIDIA Tegra2 dual-core processor with GeForce (1Ghz)
Touchscreen: 10.1-inch capacitive (1280 x 800, 80 deg viewing angle)
Cameras: 5 MP rear, 2 MP front
Memory: 1GB RAM, 16GB internal
Connectivity: Mini HDMI, USB, MicroUSB, Bluetooth 2.1, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
Extras Gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, GPS

 

 

Standout reviews:

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