The Acer Iconia Tab A100 isn't the first 7-inch tablet by any stretch, but it is the first to run Google's Android Honeycomb software. This sub one-pound gadget is also easy on the wallet. With a price of $349 for the 16GB version ($329 for 8GB), the Tab A100 costs $150 less than competing 7-inchers like the HTC Flyer and BlackBerry PlayBook. Read on to find out if Acer brings enough to the table to act on that impulse-buy price.
WHAT WE LIKE
Compact design with home button
Measuring 7.6 x 4.5 x 0.5 inches and weighing a scant 0.92 pounds, the A100 is about the same size and weight as the original Samsung Galaxy Tab and the HTC Flyer. It shares the same aesthetic touches as its larger sibling, the Acer Iconia Tab A500; the long ends taper in slightly at the corner.
The front face of the A100 is surrounded by glossy black plastic. When held in portrait mode, a 2-megapixel camera sits above the screen, while a backlit, touch-sensitive Home sits underneath the display. Yes, Android Honeycomb has a software Home button, but we like having a dedicated Home key.
The back of the tablet is a dark gray plastic with Acer's logo in the middle, and a 5-MP camera with flash on top. Acer's Iconia Tab A500 has a more premium brushed aluminum back, but that tablet starts at $399.
First 7-incher with Honeycomb
The Iconia Tab A100 is the first 7-inch tablet to feature Android OS 3.2, otherwise known as Honeycomb. Unlike the HTC Flyer or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Tab A100 doesn't have really have a skin that rides on top of Honeycomb, such as Sense or TouchWiz. What Acer does include are several sub-interfaces: eReading, Game Zone, Multimedia, and Social, where apps that relate to those activities can be grouped.
Good software bundle
Acer saw fit to load the Tab A100 with a number of handy apps and utilities. Clear.fi, which is also available on Acer notebooks and desktops, lets users stream multimedia content wirelessly via DLNA.
Other apps include NemoPlayer (for playing multimedia), Aupeo Internet radio, Docs to Go and Social Jogger, which combines Twitter and Facebook into one interface, so you can keep tabs on both social networks at the same time.
Solid Dolby audio
The Iconia Tab A100's speakers are on the tinny side, but they kicked out plenty of volume for a tablet this size. You'll definitely want to use the Dolby Mobile control panel when using headphones. Turned on, the harmonies and bass line in Toto's "Africa" sounded much richer and fuller, and we could make out the squeaks between individual guitar plucks in Rodrigo y Gabriela's "Amuleta." We also liked that we could easily adjust treble and bass. If you want to delve deeper, select one of several presets, including jazz and rock.
WHAT WE DON'T LIKE
Mediocre battery life
Acer says that the Iconia Tab A100's 1530 mAh Li-polymer battery should last up to five hours during Internet browsing with Wi-Fi, up to four hours during web-streamed video and up to 4.5 hours during 720p video playback. While the Laptop Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi) didn't fully run, the A100 was down to 26 percent after 4 hours and 3 minutes. Extrapolating that, we get an estimated runtime of 5 hours and 28 minutes. That's longer than what Acer claims, but still more than an hour less than the tablet average (6:44).
So-so camera quality
The rear-facing 5-MP camera on the Iconia Tab A100 recorded mediocre video. A clip we took indoors looked somewhat grainy and had muted colors. An outdoor clip was a little sharper, but colors remained dull.
Still images were slightly better, but only with ample light. The reds, whites and blues of the American flag glowed, but only when the flag was bathed in sunlight.
With the Iconia Tab A100, Acer offers one of the best tablet values on the market. For $349, this device combines snappy dual-core performance with the full Honeycomb experience in a lightweight design. We just wish the A100 lasted longer on a charge. Some may prefer the HTC Flyer for its Sense software and note-taking capability, but that tablet doesn't yet support Android Honeycomb.