A slew of hardware makers that didn’t start out as online bookstores—including Acer, Samsung, and Toshiba—debuted 7-inch Android Honeycomb tablets just in time for Amazon’s Kindle Fire to steal their thunder. The apparent goal: to discover if anyone is actually interested in 7-inch tablets. Acer’s Iconia Tab A100 serves as our guinea pig for this form factor.
Like most Honeycomb tablets to date, the Iconia A100 is based on Nvidia’s 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2 processor, coupled with GeForce graphics and 1GB RAM. The multitouch LCD retains the 16:9 aspect ratio that other Android tablets use, but in WXGA HD resolution (1024x600). The Iconia A100’s display exhibits excellent black levels and pleasantly accurate color and detail, but it’s not nearly as lusciously detailed and vibrant as the Asus Eee Pad Slider.
With its ample CPU and graphics power, the Iconia A100 measures up to other top-performing slates in terms of screen swipes and redraws. We did, however, detect an ever-so-slight latency in its touch-screen responsiveness as compared to other tablets. Processor-hungry games such as Pinball HD and Sprinkle looked great on the Iconia A100, and gameplay didn’t suffer at all from the smaller screen.
Measuring 7.7x4.6x0.5 inches and weighing 14.5 ounces, the Acer A100 isn't the sleekest 7-inch tablet, but in some ways it's preferable to a 10-inch tablet.
In fact, we preferred the smaller form factor for gaming because it’s easier to hold and touch any area on the screen. This size also beats 10-inch tablets for reading e-books, for thumb typing (in both portrait and landscape modes), and for freaking people out by holding it up to your ear and pretending it’s a phone. We’ve seen sleeker slates, though; the A100 feels a tad bulky, and Samsung and Toshiba have sexier models on offer.
The Iconia A100’s 2-megapixel front-facing webcam and 5-megapixel rear camera (with autofocus, zoom, and LED flash) don’t produce stunning photos: The images we captured exhibited considerable noise and color distortion, as is common with tablet cams. We did appreciate its camera options, including Honeycomb’s standard Movie Studio video-editing app, and the 720p camcorder mode’s time-lapse options (although you must place the tablet on a stand to make proper use of it). Connect the tablet to an HDTV or video projector using its Micro HDMI port, and you can play movies and slideshows on the big screen.
Acer is stingy with memory, equipping the Iconia A100 with just 8GB of storage, so we were happy to see that it has a microSD slot capable of supporting memory cards with up to 32GB of capacity. You can also shuttle files to and from a PC via the Micro USB port or by using Acer Sync, a PC app for managing contacts, calendars, photos, and videos. Acer’s Media Server can stream media to any UPnP device on your network.
One thing the Iconia A100’s Micro USB port cannot do is charge the tablet’s battery; you must use the provided AC adapter for this. This limitation considerably hampers its portability, and Acer has informed us its next 7-inch tablet won’t have this problem. Charging the tablet from 0 to 100 percent takes only about two hours, but the fairly skimpy 1530mAh battery is smaller than what you’ll find in many smartphones. As such, an evening Netflix binge at full brightness consumed a full battery charge in about four hours.
Supreme portability and superior e-book-reading and thumb-typing experiences render the 7-inch form factor a viable proposition. While whiz-bang features and a low price ($200) will steer some toward the Kindle Fire, that upstart relies on a severely limited and customized flavor of Android. The Iconia A100 doesn’t have the hottest looks or tip-toppiest features, but it’s less expensive than most.
Android 3.2 (Honeycomb)
1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2
8GB (supports microSD cards up to 32GB)
2MP front, 5MP rear (with autofocus and LED flash)
IEEE 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1
Acer Iconia Tab A100
High-performance CPU and GPU; hardware screen-lock switch; Micro HDMI out.
No power-charging over USB; small 1530mAh battery; lackluster photo image quality.