The big tablet battleground has moved away from the 10-inch market, with manufacturers far more interested in creating smaller devices. At 7.9-inches, Acer’s remodeled Iconia A1 tablet is one such tablet, aiming to go up against the Nexus 7, Asus Fonepad and Galaxy Note 8.0. It’s Acer’s chance to have a device crowned king of the low-cost Android tablets.
Of course, its size draws inevitable comparisons to the iPad mini, but with prices starting at €159, it’s clear the similarities with Apple’s best-selling tablet end at the screen dimensions.
Going toe to toe with the Google Nexus 7 and the FonePad, the Acer Iconia A1 boasts a quad Core 1.2GHz processor, which keeps things nice and smooth. You can flip and navigate the OS with ease, and it lends to a buttery smooth experience, as you’d expect with a device running Jelly Bean 4.2.2.
Acer has opted for a stock Android UI, and has resisted the temptation to tamper with the OS. The company has a patchy track record with its own interfaces, and the Acer Iconia A1 is blissfully free from whizzy overlays and customisations.
There’s nothing ground breaking with the cameras either, and Acer has opted for a 5 megapixel rear-facing snapper which can capture 1080p video at 30fps.
Acer’s boasting a 7-hour battery life, which would be impressive for such a budget device, which we will fully test when the tablet comes out at the end of May.
The first thing you notice when picking up the Iconia A1 for the first time is the 4:3 aspect ratio, which gives it a squat feel, when compared to the 16:9 screen of the Nexus. Returning to 4:3 gives it a slightly dated look, and we’re not certain of the benefit, as it’s less beneficial for movie watching and web browsing.
From the front, you’d be hard-pressed identifying the Acer from any other small-form budget tablet, and there’s nothing here to differentiate it from the hordes of competing tablets. It’s visually bland, bordering on white label. The white rear clearly follows Acer’s current styling – including a plasticky finish that borders on feeling cheap.
There’s a substantial bulk for such a diminutive device and a quick check of the comparative spec sheets shows the Iconia A1 is 70g heavier than the equivalent-sized Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 at 410g. It doesn’t feel awkward to hold however, and at 11.1 mm thick, it’s extremely portable.
The screen is also an average affair, with the 1,024 x 768 resolution hardly troubling the big-boys. The display was crisp and pleasant to look at, but it’s clearly budget panel and things weren’t particularly sharp.
The Iconia A1-810 (WiFi) version will be available end of May at a starting price of €169 which is pretty good – depending on how it converts to other currencies. We think it’s a pretty decent device – nothing special, but exactly what you’re looking for out of a cheap Android tablet. That said, it’s hard to recommend it over the Nexus 7 – stay tuned for a full review soon.
By James Stables, TechRadar