The Iconia A500 from Acer is a tablet running version 3.0 of Google's Android mobile platform. Android 3.0 — aka 'Honeycomb' — has a tweaked interface designed for use with tablets.
Previous versions of Android were designed for use with touchscreen-equipped smartphones.
The Acer Iconia A500 has a 10.1in capacitive touchscreen with a 1280x800 resolution, an HDMI output port and a full-sized USB port. It also has a microSD card slot, as well as 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. The tablet is powered by a 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor — the same used in the Galaxy Tab 10.1v — and 1GB RAM.
New UI features offered by Android 3.0 include an "action bar", a contextual option group displayed at the top of the screen, five customisable home screens with a big emphasis on widgets, a recent apps list for easier multitasking, a redesigned on-screen keyboard, a new browser and improved copy and paste.
The Acer Iconia A500's Web browser is slick, fast and displays Flash content, most of the time with minimal delay. It also supports tabbed Web browsing and the entire browsing experience is as close as you'll find to a full desktop or notebook computer. The on-screen keyboard is also spacious and comfortable to type on once you get used to its layout.
The overall out-of-the-box experience isn't as slick as it could be. The Iconia A500's browser automatically switches to mobile versions of many Web sites (including Facebook) and Flash video performance — a key advantage the device is claimed to hold over the iPad — is hit and miss. Sometimes, the browser would crash trying to load Flash-heavy sites, while other times it would load them almost perfectly. Browsing Twitter, for example, was also clunky at best.
A more pressing issue is the lack of third-party apps in the Android market that have been designed with a tablet in mind.
Acer claims the Iconia A500's battery is good for up to 10 hours, but we experienced much less during testing. Though the Iconia A500 often lasted over two days with moderate use, which is a fair result, listening to music and watching videos reduces battery life. We used the Iconia for an hour of video and music listening during our morning and afternoon commute, as well as playing a few games and doing some casual Web browsing and e-mailing, and managed about seven hours of use before the battery needed recharging.
The Acer Iconia A500 starts at $579 for the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi model, and $678 for the 32GB Wi-Fi model, but it will also be released in Wi-Fi + 3G variants at a later, unannounced date.