So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Acer Iconia A1-810 Android tablet
The Acer Iconia A1-810 is a low-cost, 7.9in Android tablet that offers good value for money
- Reasonable performance
- Good value for money
- microSD card slot
- Below average screen
- Thick design
- No 3G or 4G model in Australia
The Acer Iconia A1-810 is a low-cost, 7.9in Android tablet that shares many similarities to the Apple iPad mini. There's a few compromises including a below average screen and a thick design, but the Iconia A1 performs reasonably well overall and provides good value for money.
Price$ 249.00 (AUD)
Google's Nexus 7 proved it was possible to produce a desirable Android tablet at a competitive price. Acer is aiming to do exactly that with the Iconia A1-810, a low-cost, 7.9in Android tablet that shares many similarities to the Apple iPad mini. There's a few compromises including a below average screen and a thick design, but the Iconia A1 performs reasonably well overall and provides good value for money.
A compact but thick tablet
The Iconia A1-810 is thicker and heavier than the iPad mini.
The Acer Iconia A1-810 will immediately be classified as a direct competitor to Apple's iPad mini because it has the same sized 7.9in screen. However, Acer's design is less appealing. The Iconia A1-810 is both thicker and heavier than the iPad mini and it's also larger in size, too. The difference comes down to the bezel surrounding the display which is significantly wider than the mini.
This thicker bezel makes for a wider and taller tablet overall and means the Iconia A1-810 isn't as comfortable to hold and use single-handedly as many competitors. The extra weight (410g) also contributes negatively here, so the A1 isn't always comfortable to hold.
The matte finish on the back isn't slippery and is easy to grip.
There are plenty of positive aspects of the Iconia A1-810's design, however. A right-mounted microSD card slot means users can expand the internal memory if they wish, something you can't do on any iPad. There's also a micro HDMI port on the same side that allows users to connect the A1-810 to a high definition TV. The ability to do so without the need for an extra adapter is always a plus.
Build quality is reasonable. The A1-810 is constructed almost entirely from plastic but the white, matte finish on the back isn't slippery to hold and is therefore easy to grip. The slightly curved edges are also a plus and don't dig into your palms. The top-mounted power/lock button and the volume rocker on the right side are also well positioned and provide good tactility. A standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro-USB port for charging are located at the bottom, oddly positioned towards the right side.
The Acer Iconia A1-810's screen is an LED-backlit IPS panel with a resolution of 1024x768, the same as the iPad mini. Although the display does a reasonable job for most tasks, the quality of the screen is less than stellar. Colours appear dull, viewing angles are mediocre, and the screen is almost unusable in direct sunlight.
These issues are magnified by the fact that there's also no ambient light sensor, so there's no automatic brightness option available. Even when set to the maximum brightness level, the Iconia A1-810's display isn't as bright as most alternatives we've reviewed.
A largely vanilla Android experience
The look and feel is very similar to using a Nexus 7.
One of the best features of the Acer Iconia A1-810 is the fact that it runs a fairly standard looking 4.2 Jelly Bean version of Google's Android operating system. Acer has made a few slight changes to the interface but the look and feel is very similar to using a Nexus 7.
There's five home screens for widgets and app shortcuts, the standard app drawer and the traditional Android notifications pull down. Swiping down from the top right of the screen opens Android's handy toggles which include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Airplane mode, brightness, screen timeout and auto rotate, along with a direct shortcut to the settings menu.
The five-finger gesture is a little awkward but we made regular use of the two-thumb gesture.
One function that you won't find on the stock version of Android is Acer's 'Touch WakeApp' feature. Pressing five fingers onto the screen when it is off unlocks the screen and opens an app of your choice, and tapping both thumbs on the screen will again unlock it and launch another app of your choice. The five-finger gesture is a little awkward but we made regular use of the two-thumb gesture. It can be set to open to the home screen or any app, though it will only work in portrait orientation and it does take a second or two to register which can be annoying.
The Acer Iconia A1-810 comes with some extra apps over what Google provides by default. These include Astro File Manager, the AcerCloud storage app, Zinio and Acer's Life Image, a photo journal app. WildTangent Games is also worth a look if you plan to regularly play games. However, other pre-loaded apps such as 7digital, Accuweather and McAfee Security add little to the overall package and should be quickly uninstalled.
Performance on the Iconia A1-810 is acceptable but not outstanding. The 1.2GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM is good enough for most basic tasks, but some graphically intense games, like Shadowgun and Dead Trigger, do struggle occasionally with frame rate lag and loading times. These games are definitely playable, provided you don't expect super fast performance.
Poor cameras, decent battery life
Both cameras are ordinary, particularly the rear snapper.
The Acer Iconia A1-810 has a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera that captures full HD 1080p video at 30fps, and a front facing VGA camera that handles video calls. Both cameras are ordinary, particularly the rear snapper. It captures photos that suffer from high levels of image noise, poor colour reproduction and a general lack of fine detail. It's also a fixed focus lens, so macro shots aren't possible.
The Acer is a Wi-Fi only tablet and although 3G and 4G models are available in overseas markets, Acer will not sell them in Australia. The model sold in Australia has 16GB of internal memory.
The built-in speaker produces very poor quality sound.
The Iconia A1-810's built-in speaker may be well positioned but it produces very poor quality sound. The speaker sits on the back of the tablet, so the sound is muffled when the device is sitting on a desk or table. Even when not covered, the volume is low at its highest setting, sound distorts at high levels and there's a clear lack of bass.
Acer claims the Iconia A1-810 has a "minimum seven hour battery life", though it lists up to 8.95 hours for streaming video on YouTube and up to 9.56 hours when watching a video from the 16GB of internal memory. We found the 4960mAh battery performed a little less than advertised. We managed around seven and a half hours of regular use, which is almost two hours less than we achieved on the iPad mini.
The Acer A1-810 is available now for $249 through Acer's online store and through selected Australian retailers.
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