Android Honeycomb and Acer Iconia A500 review

Acer android honeycomb iconia review tablet technology

Acer Iconia A500 Android Honeycomb tabletI bought myself an Acer Iconia A500 Wi-Fi tablet 4 days ago which runs Android Honeycomb 3.0. Here’s the good, bad and the ugly of it so far.

As far as I can tell this is a vanilla install of Honeycomb with some pre-installed apps courtesy of Acer – some games, Acer clear.fi client and some other boring things.

The full specs are here, but the gist of my model is: 1Ghz Tegra 2 CPU, 16GB RAM, Wi-Fi, GPS, Full USB, micro USB, 10.1″ screen with 1280 x 800 resolution, HDMI out


Hardware

Hardware positives

  • The build quality of the Acer is great, I’m loving the brushed aluminium back.
  • The weight is OK, the same as an iPad 1.
  • Responsiveness of the screen is excellent
  • Battery life is also great – probably a solid 8 hours of heavy use before a recharge is needed. More than the 2 hours my laptop gives me anyway!
  • USB host connectivity works for a keyboard and FAT32 flash drives, but not for digital camera plugged directly in.
  • The performance is excellent, showcased by some games like Need for Speed and Air Attack. But even for browsing websites it makes my Windows 7 laptop appear sluggish.

Hardware negatives

  • The power charger is a proprietary adapter type that occupies 2 outlets because of it’s dumb sideways design. It’s also got a short cable.
  • The client USB port is micro USB, not mini USB, so I can’t reuse all the existing cables of that type. One is supplied in the box tho
  • Screen shows fingerprints really badly when the screen is off. Not noticeable when the screen is on though.
  • HDMI out requires a micro (or is it mini?) cable or adapter, so I haven’t been able to test this out yet on the big screen. Other users have reported that the screen is mirrored to the big screen just like the iPad
  • My Wi-Fi connection drops out semi-regularly – this could be software related. It just seems to have a weaker signal than some of my other devices on the same network. I do get dropouts on other devices though, so could be related to interference at my house, a crappy access point or all of the above.
  • This is the annoying power charger (photo taken with the 5MP camera on the Iconia): The power charger for the Iconia

Honeycomb

image

Honeycomb positives

  • It works out of the box, no need to tether to a PC with iTunes – the true post PC era Steve Jobs!
  • Flash – great for websites like iView, but crap for websites heavy with ads like smh.com.au
  • The status bar and notifications, including the groovy way to switch between apps.
  • Widgets of course
  • Text selection for cut, copy and paste works well.
  • Standard browser is great. Multi tab browsing works a treat.

Honeycomb negatives

  • Force closes – some apps just don’t run others FC in certain functions. For example, Facebook app FCs if I try to search for an event.
  • Small number of apps targeted specifically at Honeycomb. Most apps just go full screen and look OK. I’ve on,y seen one stay small and that is Battery Graph, its still functional though.
  • Still lots of little quirks and bugs to iron out. I won’t list them all but some odd behaviour with windows in the Market as an example.
  • The Market doesn’t really distinguish between apps written for Tablets versus those for phones like the iOS world which is a minor niggle.
  • No screenshot apps without root access which I don’t have yet?

Overall

Overall I’m thrilled with it and I have the patience to wait for some of the software things to be fixed. It works great for me as a replacement to a laptop sitting on the lounge browsing the web in front of the TV. Now if only I could get the recorded TV files from my Windows 7 HTPC to natively play on this device…

If you already use a lot of Google apps and services then you should consider a Honeycomb device over an iPad. The lack of tablet specific apps is probably the biggest drawback if you were considering a device like this versus an iPad. Time will correct this of course. And you might need to be a bit tolerant of the occasional app crash though!

Let me know if you’ve got this device and how you got on, or if you’re considering this or something similar and want to ask questions.