Acer has two families of Iconia Tab tablets: the business-oriented W series running Windows 7 (see the W500) and the more consumer-focused A series running Android. We looked at the Iconia Tab A500 last year and found it well built but not particularly exciting. Now, as an Olympic partner, Acer has come up with several Olympic-branded devices, among them the quad-core Iconia Tab A510.
The Iconia Tab A510 is a reasonably smart-looking tablet. Its general design mirrors that of many other tablets with a primarily black front, rounded corners, silver edges and a sliver backplate. The slightly stippled back helps with grip, although we prefer a more rubbery finish. The Olympic branding is subtle with just the familiar rings on the back — in black rather than full colour. The box is more heavily branded than the tablet itself.
The 10.1in. Iconia Tab A510 is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor, and features (understated) Olympic branding on the back
This isn't the thinnest or lightest of tablets, measuring 260mm wide by 175mm deep by 10.95mm thick and weighing 675g. Although its quad-core rival, the Asus Transformer Pad TF300T, has similar vital statistics (263mm by 180.8mm by 9.9mm and 635g), the Iconia Tab A510 lacks visual panache (and keyboard dock) of the Asus tablet.
There are ports or connectors on all four edges. On the bottom is the Micro-USB port for charging and PC connection; we found that the Iconia Tab A510 would not charge via our usual Micro-USB cable, and had to use the provided cable. The charge cable is hardwired to its AC adapter and is a bulky item to carry if you go travelling. Acer provides a Micro-USB-to-USB converter, with which we could access content stored on a USB stick.
On the top long edge there's a volume rocker and lock button, the latter disabling screen auto rotation. We wish all tablets had easy access to this feature, either in hardware or software.
Along the short right edge you'll find a Micro-HDMI connector and a rather long hinged flap concealing microSIM and microSD card slots. The former was blanked out on our review sample, the latter accessible.
On the short left edge is the power button with an inset charge light, and a headset jack. There are twin speakers on the bottom edge of the chassis, and these deliver quite good sound quality at a fair volume.
The 10.1in. screen is slightly disappointing. Indoors it's bright, with reasonable viewing angles — although colours wash out as you stray from the head-on position. The resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels matches that of the Asus Transformer Pad, but is well behind the 2,048 by 1,536 pixels that Apple crams into the latest iPad's 9.7in. screen. Outdoors the Iconia Tab A510's IPS TFT panel copes less well in bright sunlight. This isn't a disaster, but the screen is such an important aspect of any tablet that we really want perfection from it — and we don't get that here.
The Iconia Tab A510 is powered by a 1.3GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, supported by 1GB of RAM. There is 32GB of internal storage, which can be augmented with microSD cards and external devices such as USB sticks if you use the provided converter cable.
The operating system Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), and Acer has augmented this in a couple of rather neat, unobtrusive ways. You can configure four application shortcuts for the lock screen and four which appear on the 'ring'. The ring is quite an interesting idea, offering a sort of 'widgets plus' system that can be called up at any time by tapping a circle icon in the middle of the bottom screen panel.
Acer's 'ring' is a 'super-widget' giving easy access to various apps and controls
Once you've activated the ring you can access the four apps via shortcut buttons and get to the Google Search tool via a further shortcut. There's also a volume control around the outer rim of the ring on its left, and a carousel of web bookmarks on the ring's right. It's quite an intuitive, clever system that helped us navigate the tablet quickly and easily.
Acer has further augmented Android with a number of useful apps. Astro File Manager came in handy when working with files stored on external media (USB stick or microSD card). Clear.fi is Acer's DLNA app for sharing pictures, video and sound with other devices in Wi-Fi range.
Acer has also preloaded the very useful Evernote, along with LumiRead, an e-reader that links you in to two online book stores — Feedbooks and epubBooks. Professional users will be pleased to see Polaris Office, which allows you to edit and create Word-, Excel- and PowerPoint-compatible documents. The Iconia Tab A510's on-screen keyboard is responsive and large enough to use for serious typing. Acer Print, a utility for sending content direct to Wi-Fi enabled printers, also comes in useful on occasion.
One of the key attractions of the Iconia Tab A510 is its bundling of Eurosport and free streaming of Olympic action as part of a trial. Unfortunately this wasn't set up on our review sample, so we can't evaluate it. We did verify that streaming works fine via the BBC iPlayer, however.
The Iconia Tab 510 has two cameras: the main 5-megapixel rear camera, which lacks a flash, can shoot 1080p video, while the front-facing 1-megapixel camera shoots 720p video.
Performance & battery life
We've no complaints about the responsiveness of the Iconia Tab A510. The quad-core Tegra 3 processor does a good job, and the touchscreen responds fluidly. The screen is large enough that tapping out emails and even longer documents using the on-sceren keyboard is no problem, and we find Polaris Office handles quite a lot of text generation needs well — drafting documents and getting ideas down. Coupled with Evernote, the productivity functions are fair if your requirements are simple.
The Iconia Tab 510's non-removable 9,800mAh battery is quoted as offering 14.5 hours of movie playback at 720p and 12 hours of web browsing over Wi-Fi. What you get in practice, of course, depends on your particular usage pattern. From a fully charged battery at the start of the day we found our typical mix of web browsing, streaming, mobile email, some document creation and a touch of gameplay was well within the battery's daily range. Charging is a slow process, though, so we tended to charge overnight to ensure a full-capacity device each morning.
The Acer Iconia Tab A510 isn't the best-built tablet currently available, nor is it the slimmest or the most attractive. Its screen can be bettered, and the main camera isn't great. On the plus side, the quad-core processor speeds things along, the bundling of Evernote and Polaris Office is useful, while battery life is above-average. As a tablet, it's comparable to the Asus Transformer Pad, but the latter just wins thanks to its keyboard dock.