Review Acer Iconia Tab A100 Tab
Little brother. Acer's tablet family has a new, little member. The Iconia Tab A100 offers you a 7 inch touchscreen and can be taken along everywhere thanks to its compact build. The Honeycomb tablet (Android 3.2) is price-tagged at 299€ in the wifi-only version and 399€ in the wifi + 3G version.
Acer extends the Iconia range with the A100 – a tablet with a 7 inch screen. Thus, Acer now also has a smaller tablet in its range. Until now, Acer only offered the A500 (10 inch with Android 3.0) and the W500 (Windows 7). As the letter in the product name (A100) already indicates, Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) is used in this device. Alike the 10 inch model (A500), the A100 is based on Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor, which can process with a maximum clock rate of 1000 MHz.
An 8 GB SSD memory, GPS receiver and wireless LAN belong to the basic equipment. The capacitive screen in the Iconia Tab A100 has a resolution of 1024x600 pixels.
Like many other tablets, the Acer Iconia Tab A100 has been completely made of black plastic with exception of the screen. The four corners are slightly beveled and give the tablet a distinct design. The A100 is comfortable to hold with its dimensions of 195 x 13.1 x 117mm (7.7" x 0.5" x 4.6") and a weight of 450g (0.99 lbs). It can even be stowed in the jacket or pants pocket in contrast to the Iconia Tab A500. You always needed a bag for the tablet if you wanted to use it on the go due to its bigger size (260 x 13 x 177mm / 10.2" x 0.5" x 6.9").
Acer has left a lot of room beside the 7 inch screen for holding the tablet. A Home button is located on the right and a webcam on the left in this area.
Acer didn't do a good job in the choice of materials because you can see every fingerprint not only on the screen, but also on the black plastic. A polishing cloth should be a part of your basic equipment for on the go. Acer regrettably doesn't include one.
As appropriate for a tablet, the Iconia A100 also has a few interfaces to offer. However, Acer hasn't made any changes compared to the 10 inch devices. Thus, the A100 also has a microUSB port for connecting the tablet to the PC and transferring data. Special drivers aren't needed for Window computers (Vista/Win7). Moreover, the A100 has a mini HDMI port for connecting external flat screens or compatible monitors with a resolution of 720p.
There is a socket over which the A100 can be connected to the power adapter for charging the battery. Besides that, the Iconia Tab has a 40 pin socket on its right. This interface enables you to connect the tablet to an optionally available docking station. It costs about 70€.
A headphone out is found on the left, and Acer has placed a volume rocker as well as special slider on the top (landscape mode). The screen orientation can be locked with this slider. It works for both positions (landscape / portrait). This particularly comes in handy in games and apps that use the tablet's orientation for inputs.
We found an implied SIM card slot underneath a cover (can't be used in this model) and a microSD card slot.
The Acer Iconia Tab A100 has both wireless LAN (b/g/n standards) and Bluetooth 2.1. You would have to opt for the Iconia Tab A100's 3G model for more mobility. It has a 3G/UMTS compatible modem and supports GSM, 3G and HSPA in the frequency ranges 850, 900, 1800 and 1900.
WLAN access happens either automatically or manually. It's even easier with additional apps from the AppStore. For example, Wifi Connect enables you to locate hotspots in your vicinity easily and use it with the Acer tablet (and other Android devices). The Acer Iconia Tab A100 doesn't make any exceptions here. The login works without any additional apps in both free access and secured WLANs without problems. The connection first broke off when we left the range of reception.
A GPS receiver is also built into the A100 so that the tablet can also be used as a navigation system. The GPS data can be used with Google Maps or Latitude among others. There is no dedicated navigation software installed on the Acer A100.
Receiving GPS data was always possible and the accuracy of localization was consistent with the terrestrial site. Google Maps' route calculation offers everything that navigation devices have to offer.
The scope of delivery includes the matching power adapter, a USB data cable and documentation for the device besides the tablet. Acer has wrapped everything up in a stylish box. They have included a few manuals (DIN A7/8 format) for reading – but not the matching magnifying glass to read the extremely small script.
Acer grants a 12 month manufacturer warranty that can be extended through various packages: A bring in service for a period of 3 years, including a 12 month travelers insurance, which adds up to an extra charge of 79€. Besides that, Acer offers a 36 month bring in service for 99€ (Advantage) with an accident insurance and international travelers insurance - both insurances for a full 3 years.
A virtual QWERTY keyboard is faded in should text input be necessary. It covers about half of the visible screen. The preinstalled keyboard doesn't support swipe inputs. The omission of swipe support can be remedied by downloading a special app from the AppStore – if need be.
The Acer Iconia Tab A100's screen partly responds very sluggish so that typos are made while typing. Voice entry, which recognizes speech well, helps in this case. All words and even whole sentences as well as Internet addresses were identified correctly in the test.
Eight sensors work in the Iconia Tab A100 and can be used for the most various applications. The tablet's exact location is detected via the GPS receiver and can thus be used in various apps, such as navigation. Three directions (X, Y and Z axis orientation) are detected by the motion sensor (gyroscope). The built-in webcam determines the lighting conditions.
It is possible to adjust the screen brightness automatically with this sensor. Other sensors are used to determine the magnetic field, acceleration and battery state (charge level, temperature). The sound level can also be determined via the built-in microphone.
Acer has placed a 2 MP webcam on the screen's outer right. The placement is very impractical because the camera lens is quickly covered by a hand, when the device is held in the left hand.
There is a digicam with a resolution of 5 MP on the Iconia Tab A100's flipside. The camera also has a flash function besides digital zoom. Not only pictures, but video sequences can also be made with the digicam. The quality of the picture is rather mediocre though, and colors are slightly misrepresented. Nevertheless, the pictures are satisfactory for snapshots made on a Sunday walk.
The pictures and videos are stored on the internal memory that only has a capacity of 8 GBs in this model. One picture needs about 2 MBs. In return, a 10 second video sequence needs ~7 MBs. Projected onto a three minute video sequence, that would be 105 MBs and 30 minutes add up to about 1 GB. The flash can be used as a continuous light source in video mode. However, the light "gnaws" at battery life.
Acer uses a capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1024x600 pixels. This is a lot less than in the Iconia A500 (1280x800). The touchscreen can reproduce 16.7 million colors at a pixel density of 166 dpi. The screen's surface is glossy, typical for this device category. Reflections of the surroundings are seen on the screen in almost every position and almost all lighting conditions. The reflections only cease in dimmed rooms or at night.
The screen's content can be displayed on an external monitor via the laterally positioned HDMI port (720p = 1280x720 pixels).
The graphics card embedded in the Tegra 2 chip is responsible for graphic calculations.
The Iconia Tab A100's colors look very vivid. Our measurements revealed a maximum brightness of 227 cd/m2. The brightness clearly decreases toward the upper left corner (30 cd/m2). The screen's illumination is 83%. This screen's average is 205.8 cd/m2.
We measured a black value of 0.33 Candela per square meter. The measurement in the screen's center showed a contrast ratio of 688:1.
Because our colorimeter doesn't support Android, we could not execute our standard color gamut measurement.
The Iconia Tab A100's glossy 7 inch screen not only reflects a lot of its surroundings indoors. We could see more of our environment than of the displayed content during outdoor use. This effect was also perceived in shade and increased to such an extent in direct sunlight that the content wasn't visible at all in the end. Looking at websites, videos or simply reading emails become a torment. Apart from the legibility, the contrast and colors also suffer in bright ambient light conditions. They faded even faster than was the case indoors.
The Iconia A500 already struggled with this problem.
The LC screen's content was only well visible in an optimal viewing angle on the Acer tablet. The colors and contrasts were still all game in lateral viewing angles. When we increased the viewing angle (+ / - in every direction), the content could only be seen to an extent as of 45 degrees. Details as well as colors inverted (+ degrees) or over-illuminated (- degrees), whereby an evident difference between plus and minus angles were visible. The picture inverted well after a minus of 45 degrees in a tilted state. The content remained visible far beyond 45 degrees when the tablet was tilted toward the front. The otherwise usual fading effect first turned up at an tilt angle of 60 degrees.
As previously in its bigger brother (Iconia Tab A500), a Tegra 2 (ARM v7) from Nvidia works inside the Iconia Tab A100 with a maximum clock frequency of 1 GHz. In the Tegra 2 module, a so-called system-on-a-chip, a dual core ARM Cortex A9 CPU is united with a GeForce graphics (ULP GPU), a 1 GB RAM, the video processor and the sound card.
Currently, the successor – the world's first mobile quad core SoC, code named Kal-El – is still being worked on. Nvidia has announced its launch for this year.
The dual core CPU supports real multitasking. That means several applications can run simultaneously. The running apps can be opened via the task manager (third icon in the toolbar).
The Tegra 2 processor has a maximum clock rate of 1000 MHz. This clock is only implemented when the application requires it. The clock of 1000 was needed in graphic-intensive games ("Angry Birds Rio" or "GRave Defense") or when playing an H.264 file. We measured clock rates between 216 and 608 MHz in the other applications with the app "CPU Spy", whereas the tablet preferred 216 MHz.
In the benchmarks, the Iconia Tab is almost on a par with 10 inch tablets that we have tested at Notebookcheck.com in the last few weeks and months. The A100 surpassed all 7 inch devices in Browsermark and clearly left the tablets Dell Streak, HTC Flyer and Ziio Creative behind. Even the Asus Transformer (10.1 inch) was beaten by the Iconia Tab A100.
The A100 had to let almost all tested tablets overtake in the Linpack Pro test and achieved the second last place in the chart with 29951 points.
The 1789 points in the Quadrant benchmark (default) is only enough to put the Iconia Tab A100 in the last place. All previous tablets were a lot faster in this benchmark. Acer's Iconia Tab A500 achieved a score of 2087 here.
The A100 again lines up among the big tablets in Smartbench 2011. Merely the Streak 7" from Dell was faster in this benchmark compared to the 7" tablets. The 2388, respectively 2626 points in this benchmark is on the level of an LG Optimus V900.
In the test run of the Sunspider benchmark, Acer's test device again was among the better tablets (2234ms), clearly before all 7 inch tablets and only slightly behind the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v (8.9 inch). The Iconia Tab A500 with a 10.1 inch screen needed 1908 ms in this benchmark.
This tablet has an SSD module with a capacity of 8 GB as the hard disk. The A100's memory can only be expanded up to 40 GB via the microSD card reader (with a 32 GB card). Acer doesn't offer any alternative upgrades for the A100 model.
The Android 3.2 interface only shows minor differences when compared to the previous version. Acer hasn't made any special modifications here. We didn't notice any compatibility problems that may lead to a delayed launch of the A100 during the test.
A lot of apps are preinstalled on the Iconia Tab A100. Among them: Aupeo (Internet radio), clear.fi (a wifi based media server), Docs to Go (display app for PDF, Word, Excel and PowerPoint files), an email client (POP3, IMAP, Exchange), an eBook reader and various organizers.
There are also a few games installed on the Acer Iconia Tab A100. The AppStore access is linked to the Android market. A registered account is necessary for using the AppStore and for almost every other app (e.g.: Google Mail account).
With the installed YouTube app, you have direct access to a variety of short movies up to free trailers and series episodes. All of them worked, some even in high definition (HD).
HD movies can also be played with the installed video player - and that without recoding. When copying via the USB port, the Iconia tab indicates if a file that is to be transferred, is incompatible with the player via a system message. Alternative apps from the AppStore can remedy the WMV file incompatibility. The preinstalled video player has all basic functions, but crashed frequently in the test. The tablet also soon found its limits in fast forward.
Apart from a few exceptions, the games we installed all ran without problems, whereby even games with the suffix "HD" only used a part of the screen.
Many – even free – games can be installed via the installed AppStore. In TegraZone – a special store from Nvidia for tablets based on Tegra II – you can find optimized games for your Android device.
A few areas of the touchscreen responded only jerkily or sometimes not at all to finger inputs in a few games, such as "GRave Defense" where speed is required from both the gamer and the screen. We also noticed this effect in "Plants vs. Zombies".
This is unlikely a problem of the game, but sooner caused by the Iconia Tab A100's screen. These games run on other tablets without "contact fears".
Since the Iconia Tab A100 has no fan, this tablet works absolutely silent.
We only measured slight temperature fluctuations on the tablet in idle mode. They were between 22.2 and 24.7 degrees Celsius (71.9F/76.5F) on the flipside of the device. We could even measure 25 degrees Celsius (77F) on the front. Acer's A100 gets a lot warmer during load. The measurable temperature partly rose to over 28.7 degrees Celsius (83.7F) on the entire flipside. This rate was surpassed with 29 degrees Celsius (84.2F). The hottest spot was in the center above the screen.
The small adapter only got a few degrees warmer than in idle mode during load.
The Iconia A100 has two little speakers located on the case's right (landscape mode) for sound output. The quality isn't very satisfactory because the sound isn't very convincing. Only a corresponding headphone would provide a considerably better sound quality. But that's not included in the scope of delivery.
The volume is controlled either directly on the tablet via the sound rocker or in the Android operating system's settings.
The power consumption is minimal during charging and 4.8 watts were also measured during load. In comparison to other tablets, the Acer tablet is in the midfield.
Our measurements also show that the power adapter hardly consumes any power when the tablet is turned off (0.3 watts). The adapter also hardly uses any power in standby mode either (0.1 watts).
|Off / Standby||0.3 / 0.1 Watt|
|Idle|| 2 / 3.2 / 3.5 Watt|
/ 4.8 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max: Voltcraft VC 940
The 6 cell lithium ion battery has a charge capacity of 11.3 Wh. The battery had to prove itself in various test scenarios because the Acer Iconia Tab A100 is a portable device that wants to be used without permanently being in AC mode.
In the first test scenario, surfing via WLAN, the display brightness was set so that the content on the screen was well visible (afternoon). Various websites were loaded alternately in the test. The battery lasted for 5 hours and 8 minutes.
An H.264 video was looped in maximum display brightness in the second scenario. All wireless modules were disabled at this time. We could measure a runtime of 292 minutes.
The tablet and its battery were put under load with games in the third test. The display brightness was set to maximum and wifi was enabled. The battery lasted for 3:45h in this scenario.
For the last test, the tablet didn't have much to do: all wireless modules and GPS were disabled and the display was set to minimum. In this idle mode, the battery lasted for exactly 8 hours and 10 minutes.
In comparison to the Iconia Tab A500, the little brother shows that it doesn't have anything to be ashamed of. The Iconia A100's battery lasted for 7 minutes more in load (3:45 vs. 3:38).
|Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)||8h 10min|
|WiFi Surfing||5h 08min|
|Load (maximum brightness)||3h 45min|
All good things are worth waiting for: Acer has done a good job on the Iconia Tab A100, with a few exceptions, and it merges seamlessly into the existing tablet family. The launch was postponed due to compatibility problems, but the result is impressive. The Iconia Tab A100 has everything that you can expect from a modern tablet. Merely the built-in hard disk could be a bit bigger. The device is only equipped with 8 GBs which is definitely too little in the long run.
Wireless LAN (b/g/n standard) and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR take care of mobility. Moreover, the Iconia Tab A100 has a GPS receiver and can thus be used with Google Maps among others. The tablet doesn't have dedicated navigation software installed on it, but it can be retrofitted via the Android market.
The used hardware, Nvidia's Tegra 2, has shown its high performance in other devices, such as the Iconia Tab A500. This system-on-a-chip solution also manages its tasks quite fast in the Iconia Tab A100.
The glossy 7 inch screen reflects a lot of the surroundings. Sometimes too much and the content can hardly be discerned in unfavorable lighting conditions. The capacitive touchscreen had the odd "dropout" and partly didn't respond like it should. The viewing angle stability also lagged a bit behind our expectations.
With 299€ (wifi-only), the Iconia tab A100 is on a quiet low price level. Similar devices, for example the Dell Streak 7", still cost 35€ more. In return, the Streak 7" has a 16 rather than 8 GB SSD hard disk, but it is based on Android 2.2 until now.
The current street price is only slightly below Acer's retail price. The Tab A100 costs about 100€ (399€) with wifi and 3G.