There's no doubt about it - 2011 will be the year of the tablet. Judging from Apple's first salvo with the Apple iPad 2 and its high demand, it's clear that tablets have become the flavor of the year. But surely, its competitors aren't going to let the Cupertino-based company dominate the scene any further. Acer has decided to crash the party, presenting the Acer Iconia Tab A500 as the company's first Google Android 3.0 tablet. And mind you, this is a far cry from what other Android tablets have to offer over a year ago.
The Tab A500, like many other upcoming Honeycomb (the dessert namesake for Android 3.0) tablets, will be powered by NVIDIA's dual-core Tegra 2 1GHz processor and sports a 10.1-inch display.
To understand how the Tab A500 functions, we'll be taking a quick tour of its exterior. If you're looking at the pure aesthetics, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 gets the thumbs up from us for using a brushed aluminum casing. Its side and front profile consists of a 10.1-inch display surrounded by a black bezel. Thanks to Android 3.0's redesigned user interface, physical buttons are conspicuously missing from the front and takes its place as part of the user interface as virtual shortcuts.
The cool metal finish also signifies how much heavier the Tab A500 is at 730g, thus placing it at a distinct disadvantage for one-handed operations. This is especially prominent when we put it up against the iPad 2, which weighs at least 100g less. The weight is evenly distributed when we held the Tab A500 with both hands. Holding it for prolonged periods, however, can still get quite tiring.
What came off as a comfort in the most literal sense is the Tab A500's rounded edges. Unlike the iPad 2's newly designed, sharper edges, the Tab A500 is relatively more comfortable to grip.
While its front might be clear of any physical buttons, the Tab A500's sides and crown houses a variety of buttons and ports. Starting from the top, we have the volume button. Interestingly, this button is contextual in nature according to your tablet's orientation. This made perfect sense to us as we switched between the landscape and portrait orientation and adjusted the volume up and down without confusion.
The Tab A500 takes a cue from Apple with an orientation lock situated beside the volume button. In short, you won't have to tap through too many settings to keep your screen orientation firmly locked in position. Next to the lock, we found a spot protected by a plastic cover. Underneath it, we spotted a microSD card slot. What is more interesting, is a sealed up slot, which indicates a possible 3G version of the Tab A500.
Useful as they are, we were disappointed at how flushed the volume buttons were. This is unfortunately repeated on its power button located at the left. The 3.5mm audio port is positioned right below the power button, with a mini-HDMI port finding a cozy spot at the bottom left.
We now direct your attention to the right, which is where you'll find the microUSB port for data transfers. A full-sized USB port is also included, giving you the option to plug in an external HDD for extra storage or a USB keyboard to ease your typing experience on the Tab A500. The Tab A500 opts to use a power jack as a charging option. We can't help but wonder why there's a need for this, given how it has a docking connector that is similarly designed to charge the tablet.
In contrast, tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and both the iPad and iPad 2 opt for a 30-pin connector as the same charging point, doing away with unnecessary ports and keeping the slate clean.