Hands-on with the Acer Iconia Tab A100: First 7-inch Honeycomb tablet

Hands-on with the Acer Iconia Tab A100: First 7-inch Honeycomb tablet

Summary: Google proclaimed Honeycomb the official version of Android for tablets, and until now it has been unavailable in a 7-inch form. The Acer Iconia Tab A100 brings the sweet goodness to the small slate.

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The new Acer Iconia Tab A100 is not the first 7-inch tablet in the U.S., that honor goes to the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The Galaxy Tab was followed by other models, among them the HTC Flyer. All of those tablets shipped with either Android Froyo (2.2) or Gingerbread (2.3), so the Acer A100 is the first 7-incher shipping with the latest version of Honeycomb (3.2). The A100 has lots of ports for such a small tablet, and running Honeycomb makes it compatible with apps optimized for the tablet format.


Image Gallery: Acer Iconia Tab A100 Tablet, the first 7-inch Honeycomb tablet. See it compared to the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Tab 10.1 Image Gallery: Charge Image Gallery: Charge
Hardware

Specs as reviewed:

  • OS: Android 3.2 Honeycomb
  • CPU: NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core mobile processor (1.0GHz)
  • Display: 7” Multi-Touch Capacitive-Touch Display, 1024 x 600 resolution, 16:10 aspect ratio, NVIDIA GeForce Graphics
  • Memory: 8GB eMMC storage (16GB available), MicroSD up to 32GB
  • Cameras: 5MP rear-facing camera with auto focus with single LED flash; 2MP front-facing camera
  • Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n Wireless (802.11n 2.4GHz only), Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
  • Ports: Micro USB 2.0 port, Micro-HDMI out (support for 1080p and dual-display), 3.5mm combo jack, DC-in jack for AC adapter, docking station port
  • Battery: 1530 mAh Li-polymer battery with up to five hours of battery life X 2
  • Measurements: 7.68(w) x 4.6(d) x 0.50(h)-inches
  • Weight: 0.92 pounds
  • MSRP of $329.99 (8GB model at Walmart only)

Acer has constructed the A100 out of black plastic designed to keep the weight down, and put an attractive back imprinted with a nice design and the Acer logo. The tablet has a 7-inch display running at 1024x600 with a small bezel around the screen. It is clear from the Acer packaging and the position of the Home button that the normal screen orientation is portrait.

The A100 has a Home button that is touch sensitive, a rarity on Honeycomb tablets. There is a 2MP front camera for video chatting and a 5MP camera with flash on the back. Taking a tour around the A100, on the top (home button on bottom) finds the power button with blue LED indicator inside, and the 3.5mm headphone jack. On the right side is the screen rotation lock switch, volume up/down buttons and a door. Under this door is the 3G SIM card slot for models so configured, and a microSD slot for expanding user memory up to 32GB. Moving to the bottom of the A100 (under the home button) is a reset pinhole, stereo speakers, HDMI, microUSB, proprietary dock jack, and the power jack. This power jack is a single pin proprietary model.

The Acer A100 feels light and comfortable in the hand in either orientations. The screen can rotate to any of the four orientations, and the lock allows stopping auto-rotation when convenient. The Home button on the front of the tablet is a smooth circle with a home icon inside, and lights up as a notification received indicator. This button is not active when the device is in standby so it cannot wake up the device.

The 5MP camera is nothing fancy but has taken decent pictures in my testing. The shutter lag is not as noticeable as on other tablets and the flash works as expected. The A100 can record video or stills using either camera via a toggle switch in the camera app.

Software

Acer is proudly pointing out the A100 is the first 7-inch tablet in North America running Honeycomb. The tablet ships with Android 3.2, the most current (and stable) version of Honeycomb. Acer has done a good job keeping the installation a stock Android version, and it runs as expected. Honeycomb runs fine on the lower resolution (1024x600) of the 7-inch screen compared to the bigger tablets on the market.

There are a few apps preinstalled to add value to the buyer, including a Planner app that aggregates PIM functions into one information screen. There is also an app for facilitating using the DNLA feature for wireless streaming to other devices with the capability.

The Android Market comes on the A100 and all of the apps are accessible including tablet-only apps requiring Honeycomb. I was wondering how these apps designed for higher resolution screens would work on 7-inch tablets running Honeycomb, and the answer is it is a mixed bag.

Also: CNET: Acer Iconia Tab A100

Acer Iconia Tab A100: How 8GB could be enough for a tablet

A couple apps that I use heavily on both Honeycomb and earlier tablets will not run on the A100. These are Plume, my favorite Twitter app, and the Kindle app. Both of these apps are written to install on both Honeycomb and earlier versions of Android. They present a different display and user interface depending on if it is a "tablet" running Honeycomb or a "phone" running an earlier version. The installation of them on the A100 with the tablet OS seems to conflict with the lower "non-tablet" resolution of the display (as determined by Google), and the signal that Honeycomb means a tablet; while the apps run OK it is impossible to use them. There is no way to access the settings and in some cases other key functions, rendering the two apps unusable. Google needs to figure this out with Honeycomb now supporting 7-inch displays, and offer an update pretty soon.

Impressions

While I have enjoyed the 7-inch form factor of my Galaxy Tab for a long time, I wasn't sure how I would find the A100 as I am not a fan of the Honeycomb interface. I am surprised that I like this tablet, and enjoy using it. The form factor is easy to handle, and the build quality (while plastic) is very solid. The starting price of $329 (at Walmart only) makes this tablet a good value in my view, and Acer may have a hit on its hands.

The only corner that Acer cut on this budget tablet is with the battery, as they quote 5 hours of life using Wi-Fi. This is accurate in my experience, and is due to a relatively small 1530 mAh battery. According to Acer the A100 has two of these small batteries which work together to supply the quoted battery life. The Samsung Galaxy Tab in comparison can easily run over 12 hours on a charge due to its 4000 mAh battery.

During my testing the performance of the A100 has been good as expected. The Nvidia Tegra 2 processor moves things along nicely, and is actually a bit zippier than Honeycomb tablets with bigger screens as the lower resolution display of the A100 is less tasking on the Tegra.

Acer sent its protective leather case along with the A100, and it is a nice case for $29.99. It is a portfolio style case the protects the tablet while keeping it accessible. It also can be used as a stand for the tablet with multiple viewing angles possible.

Related:

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Samsung, Tablets

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Talkback

33 comments
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  • Message has been deleted.

    owlnet
    • RE: Hands-on with the Acer Iconia Tab A100: First 7-inch Honeycomb tablet

      @owlnet How about showing some proof instead of just rabid fanboy influenced rage... No proof = Delusional or speculative at best.
      slickjim
    • FUD

      @owlnet
      FUD
      fifidonkor@...
  • Good withstanding price / battery

    Does not look like a bad tablet at all.

    Personal feeling, it would make a much better impact at $299, especially at Walmart.

    The 5 hr battery would be a killer. For an ultra portable device, I would expect >5 hrs of battery life.

    Outside of that, I would be interested in how it runs on a day to day basis. Do the same issues that seem to keep plaguing the 10.1 inch models also appear in the 7 inch version?

    nice. ;)
    rhonin
    • RE: Hands-on with the Acer Iconia Tab A100: First 7-inch Honeycomb tablet

      @rhonin
      just wait until the holidays and I bet you will see that price!
      pikeman666
  • Circling the sweet spot

    This is getting close. The size is good, the ports are good, the price is not far off the mark. Put a 10 hour battery in the thing and price it at $299 and it would probably fly off the shelves. 5 hours is simply not going to cut it.
    ArtInvent
  • RE: Hands-on with the Acer Iconia Tab A100: First 7-inch Honeycomb tablet

    Looks nice, but I may hold onto my Samsung NP-1Q UMPC running XP Tablet Edition just a bit longer. What about Apple's now infamous tablet patent? If it sells well it might end up squashed by a narrow minded judge.
    jilindi@...
  • It's short battery life is a deal breaker... no sale.

    That short battery life is a deal breaker for a tablet -- the Project Manager in charge of the A100 should be fired for signing off on the battery life decision.

    A stated 5 hour battery life means about 3-4 hours or so in real world usage -- worthless.

    It is really a shame... it looks like a great 7 inch tablet otherwise.
    SbySW
    • RE: Hands-on with the Acer Iconia Tab A100: First 7-inch Honeycomb tablet

      @SbySW
      It's funny that as significant as battery life is, the only tablet with a swappable battery, the Toshiba Thrive, is rarely if ever mentioned in these hallowed halls. If a 5-hour battery is a deal breaker, then a tablet with essentially unlimited battery life should be the deal of the century, even if you ignore its full-sized USB and HDMI ports and full-sized SD card slot which holds up to 128GB.
      nfordtchrpub
      • RE: Hands-on with the Acer Iconia Tab A100: First 7-inch Honeycomb tablet

        @nfordtchrpub
        The problem is that the average user doesn't want to swap out a batter yto get more life out of their tablet - they want it built in! I know I wouldn't want to buy a battery worth $60+ just to get some more battery life. I want a tablet thats effiecient, with long battery life - not a power-sucking behemoth. Don't get me wrong, the Thrive is a good tablet - but in my opinion its a bit behind the curve. I got my ASUS Eee Pad Transformer for $499.99 with the keyboard dock, and bought two 16GB Class 10 MSD cards for $28.00. Total around $528 for 48GB of storage, a keyboard, 16 Hours of battery, two USB ports, HDMI out, IPS display, etc.

        Also, that SD card slot is pretty future-proof - but the tablet isn't. 128GB SD Cards are unheard of in the consumer market due to obscene prices at the moment, and when they're cheaper the tablet will be long out-of-date. It's more of a nice feature (which is quite nice to know it DOES support them) than a functionality thing.
        Walkop
  • RE: Hands-on with the Acer Iconia Tab A100: First 7-inch Honeycomb tablet

    I was waiting for this one, but the 5 hour battery life is a deal breaker. I don't want a 10" tablet. This Acer has all the features & performance I want otherwise. Still waiting.....
    tgschmidt
  • 5 Hour Battery Is a Ball and Chain

    The biggest appeal to tablets in my view is the battery life. Five hours doesn't cut it. You need enough battery life so that you are unlikely to run out between when you pull it off the charger in the morning until you plug it back in at night. Ten hours does that. Five hours means some days you might run out of juice without a recharge.

    I have a cheap, junky mini-tablet that I've used a fair amount, but I found it not terribly convenient. The reason was that the battery ran out too easily. It probably lasted around 4 hours on average. I haven't used it at all recently because the battery went bad. I also have a palmtop computing device with a similar display size (less than 5 inches). I carry it around with me everywhere because the battery lasts between 9 and 14 hours. I don't worry about running out of juice if I charged it during the night.
    CFWhitman
  • RE: Hands-on with the Acer Iconia Tab A100: First 7-inch Honeycomb tablet

    I have the 10 inch Acer A500 and have been waiting to see what the A100 had as it might meet my wife's needs better.

    She might be able to live with the 5 hour battery life, but the lack of the full size usb port and, I presume, the loss of the ability to plug in a usb drive would make this a non-starter compared to the A500. This is an unfortunate choice as I think the 7 inch form factor makes more sense than the 10 for many users.
    sbf95070
  • RE: Hands-on with the Acer Iconia Tab A100: First 7-inch Honeycomb tablet

    In the specs you say it comes with a 5 hour battery "X2". Does it come with a second battery that you can swap in ? That would mitigate the battery issue somewhat.
    AMS-Ray
    • RE: Hands-on with the Acer Iconia Tab A100: First 7-inch Honeycomb tablet

      @AMS-Ray Addressed in the article.
      JamesKendrick
  • Message has been deleted.

    brettze
  • Message has been deleted.

    brettze
  • Message has been deleted.

    brettze
  • Message has been deleted.

    brettze
  • Message has been deleted.

    brettze