Some of you may be aware that we recently attended an event held in London where Acer showcased their new 7.9″ Android Jelly Bean Iconia A1 tablet. After spending some time with the tablet, here’s our quick review on what we thought of the new upcoming low cost tablet.

Design

With prices starting from £149, Acer has launched the Iconia A1 up against rivals such as the Nexus 7, Asus Fonepad and Galaxy Note 8.0 with a highly competitive price tag. Yet for this money, at first glance, there is little compromise. While you do get quite hard, scratchy silver plastics along the sides and white cover round the back of the tablet, the Iconia A1 has an overall rigid construction that inspires confidence.

Unfortunately, the Iconia A1 is 10.5mm thick and 400g in weight, despite its small form factor, it feels heavy to hold and is not what we would describe as sleek. Certainly after using it with one hand for awhile, we really felt the weight of it and started to hold it with both hands which made it less noticeable.

On the left side of the Iconia, there are no slots or ports. On the right edge there’s a microSD memory card slot and a microHDMI video output. These, and the pinhole mic that sits between them, are laid out clearly but without much passion for design.

Features

The Acer Iconia A1 features LED-backlit IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, running on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, Quad-core 1.2 GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal memory.

The Iconia A1’s screen won’t be the best you’ve seen in similar devices. While you’ll be fine doing majority of daily tasks like internet browsing, social networking with twitter and facebook, colours don’t particularly stand out and could be more lively.

Acer has chosen to use an IPS display, the same type used on most high-end tablets. However, it’s a good deal less advanced than the best used by its Korean branded rivals. When off, or displaying dark images, there’s a greyish quality to the A1’s blacks. This likely means the different layers of the screen have not been merged together as some more premium devices would. The resolution of the Iconia A1s’ screen is also under-par at 1,024 x 768 pixel which is substantially less than what Apple nowadays refers to as retina on their latest devices. Having said that, the IPS does offer the advantage of having very good wide viewing angles compared to other similarly priced budget tablets.

We really liked the fact that Acer did not try to tamper with the stock Android Jelly Bean OS (4.2.2) as they have done in the past. This means combined with Quad-core 1.2 GHz CPU and 1GB of RAM, Acer has left it for the users’ discretion as to how they want to customise the Iconia A1 right from the start. Without any overlying custom UI, the tablet runs smoothly with very little lag while performing majority of tasks and less demanding games / apps. However, because Acer has opted to use a less powerful version of the PowerVR SGX 544 graphics chip (same but more powerful in the S4), signs of some strain does become apparent with high end, more demanding applications and games.

For a budget tablet, you also get a 5-megapixel camera on its rear, and a basic front facing VGA sensor, don’t expect much though as not even the rear camera has flash and boasts only a fixed focus lens.

For those who take their devices on daily commutes, The Acer Iconia A1 has a rather small 3,250mAh battery, which is low and translates to roughly seven hours play time, in comparison, the Nexus 7 has a 4,325mAh unit and the iPad mini a 4,490 mAh battery.

Conclusion

Comparisons will inevitably be made with the iPad mini and its 7.9″ Android rivals as highlighted above, and while Apple may win when it comes to design aesthetic and build quality, Acer have got them boxed in the corner when it comes to included features and expandability. The Acer Iconia A1’s screen isn’t great, it’s heavy compared to others and some of the most challenging games are a little too much for the MTK quad-core processor. However, Acer seems to be trying to make a tablet that can do it all, be it not the best at it, the Iconia A1 in a sense does everything in its own way at a very affordable price, if you’re on the look out for an entry level Android tablet that’s abit different at minimal cost the Iconia A1 should be a worthy candidate for your consideration.

 

Pros:

  • Afforable price tag
  • Excellent range of connectivity options
  • Models with 3G soon available
  • Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2
  • Great for productivity apps and some less demanding gaming apps

Cons:

  • Hard, uninspiring plastic touches
  • Heavier than comparable rivals
  • Spec may seem top-notch at first glance but much are of entry-level variant due to pricing, meaning compromises needs to be taken into consideration

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