Acer's Iconia A500 has a brushed aluminium back, curved bottom and top edges, and flat sides. It's a rather heavy device that tips the scales at 730g and it can take some getting used to the extra weight. On the upside, the Acer Iconia A500 feels sturdy and well built.
The Toshiba Tablet looks and feels much thicker than most other devices on the market, and at 15mm thick it's a significantly bulkier device than the Iconia A500. The back cover has a rubberised feel and its textured design makes the Tablet comfortable to hold. It also feels slip resistant and is not particularly prone to scratches.
At 771g, we were expecting the Toshiba Tablet (AT100) to be a little unwieldy to hold, but the reality is far from that. It actually feels lighter than the Iconia A500, despite the specifications sheet suggesting it is far heavier. Combined with the grippy rear cover, the Toshiba Tablet is comfortable to hold with one or both hands.
The Toshiba Tablet also has removable back covers. Toshiba stocks a range of replaceable back covers (in silver, blue, green, raspberry, and lavender colours) for $29.95 each.
The Acer Iconia A500 and Toshiba Tablet share virtually identical software, and they also have very similar, capacitive touchscreen displays. Both tablets have a screen that is 10.1in in size, with a resolution of 1280x800.
The Iconia A500's display produces vibrant colour and crisp text indoors, but its glossy surface makes it very tough to see in direct sunlight, and its viewing angles aren't great. Importantly, the Iconia A500's display is responsive to touch.
Despite listing an IPS (In Plane Switching) panel as the screen technology of choice — the same technology used on the iPad 2 — the Toshiba Tablet's screen exhibits poor viewing angles, is not as bright as the Iconia A500 and is also tough to see in sunlight. We found the automatic brightness setting almost useless in most environments, and generally had to up the brightness to around 85-90 per cent to achieve the best views. The Toshiba Tablet's screen also appears to display an annoying yellow tinge, and suffers from ghosting issues, though Toshiba says that the Android 3.1 software update will include new hardware graphic drivers which may fix these issues.
The Toshiba Tablet's screen appears to display an annoying yellow tinge, and also suffers from ghosting issues. Toshiba says that the Android 3.1 software update will include new hardware graphic drivers which may fix these issues.
Internals and cameras
The Acer Iconia A500 and the Toshiba Tablet have similar internals. Both tablets are powered by a 1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, both have a hefty 1GB of RAM and both have at least 16GB of internal memory, though Acer also sells a 32GB model.
If you're looking for a tablet to store a hefty amount of digital media on, then the Toshiba Tablet's full sized SD card may be a critical factor to consider — the Toshiba Tablet can support SD cards of up to 128GB in size — much more than the current 32GB limit of the microSD card slot in the Acer Iconia A500.
The Acer Iconia A500 and the Toshiba Tablet both have a 5-megapixel rear camera for photographs and video, and a 2-megapixel front camera for video calls. However, the Iconia A500 can record 720p HD video, whereas the Toshiba Tablet only records standard definition footage. We don't think many tablet owners will purchase one of these devices based solely on its video recording quality, but this is a feature worth considering regardless.
Both the Acer Iconia A500 and the Toshiba Tablet include a full USB port for transferring and storing files. This means you can plug in a USB thumb drive to quickly access your files. The Iconia A500 doesn't come preloaded with a file manager but a free download of one from the Android Market makes it easy to access files on the USB port. Toshiba bundles its file manager software as a standard feature. Even more convenient is the fact that you can plug in a USB keyboard into both devices and use it for text input.
Along with a USB port, the Iconia A500 has a micro-HDMI out port, so it can be plugged directly into a high-definition television with the right cable. There is no such worries for owners of the Toshiba Tablet — it is the only Android "Honeycomb" tablet sold in Australia that features a full sized HDMI port. This means you can connect the Toshiba Tablet to a high definition television or projector using a regular HDMI cable.
The Toshiba Tablet is the only Android "Honeycomb" tablet sold in Australia that features a full sized HDMI port. It also has a full sized USB port, and a full sized SD card slot.
Both the Acer Iconia A500 and the Toshiba Tablet are Wi-Fi only devices, though both companies are expected to release Wi-Fi + 3G variants of each model at a later, unannounced date.
Acer promises 10 hours of video playback on the Iconia A500 while Toshiba quotes a more realistic 7-8 hours. The Iconia A500 charges via a regular micro-USB connection. Disappointingly, the Toshiba Tablet does not charge through its mini-USB connection, though the upside is that the included power adapter can charge the device much faster that a USB connection can. The Toshiba Tablet's battery can be charged to 90 per cent of its capacity in just one hour.
The Toshiba Tablet also has one feature that no other Android tablet currently boasts — a removable and replaceable battery. A switch on the left side of the tablet unlocks the rear cover and you simply pull it off to remove. Toshiba sells an additional 6-cell battery for $79.95.
Pricing and availability
The Acer Iconia A500 is available now starting at $579 for the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi model, and $678 for the 32GB Wi-Fi model, and is sold through major Australian retail outlets including Harvey Norman. Wi-Fi + 3G variants will be offered at a later date but pricing for these models has yet to be confirmed.
The Toshiba Tablet (AT100) is available now through major Australia retailers, and will set you back $579 for the one and only 16GB model. Wi-Fi + 3G variants are expected to be released at a later date but this is yet to be officially confirmed.