Acer Iconia A510 review
Acer’s Tegra 3-packing slate hits the market, but can it possibly face up to the might of the New iPad and the cost-effective Nexus 7?
While manufacturers such as Asus and Apple bluster around the tablet arena like they own it, companies such as Acer are quietly carving out a niche for themselves with a series of dependable and attractive products.
The Acer Iconia A510 is the latest in this range, and while it might lack the aesthetic appeal of the New iPad and Transformer Infinity, it conceals a surprising amount of raw power beneath its unassuming exterior.
If we’re brutally honest, the case design of the A510 is something of a disappointment. As the tablet sector becomes ever more crowded, firms like Acer really need to make their devices stand out, and the A510 - while not repulsive - is pretty plain. It’s not the kind of product you’d take a second look at if you spotted it on a shop shelf, and that could potentially be a massive issue in such a packed market.
The front of the A510 is just as you’d expect - a mass of black tempered glass surrounded by a bezel of silver plastic, which extends around to the rear of the tablet. The case is soft-touch material rather than metal, and features a speckled design which enhances grip.
Despite the large amount of plastic used here, the A510 never feels cheap or flimsy. One element which catches the eye is the official Olympic branding on the rear of the tablet. Of course, the London games are now fading into memory, but those iconic rings do lend a sense of subtle class to the device.
This is where the A510 becomes a little more impressive. The tablet is packing Nvidia’s famous Tegra 3 quad-core chipset, running at 1.3GHz and backed by 1GB of RAM. Just as we’ve seen in fellow Tegra 3 tablets like the Transformer Prime and Google Nexus 7, Nvidia’s silicon is strikingly powerful, offering silky-smooth performance and the bare minimum of lag.
There’s 32GB of onboard storage to play with here, which should be more than enough for casual users. For those who desire a little more space to play with, you can bolt-on storage via cheap and versatile microSD cards. HDMI-out capability is also on offer, and a standard micro USB port on the bottom edge of the A510 is responsible for basic data transfer and charging. You’ll need to use the bundled charger to juice-up the battery, though.
We’re almost tempted to ignore the cameras on all future tablets, but the fact that companies continue to include them on their products suggests that some people actually like using them.
In the A510’s case, the public embarrassment of taking a photo with a 10-inch piece of consumer electronics is amplified by the generally poor quality of the resultant snaps. The 5-megapixel snapper lacks an LED flash and takes hopelessly over-saturated images - although it is capable of recording video at 1080p resolution, which allows it to claw back some respectability.
The front-facing 1-megapixel camera is only good for video calling, and shouldn’t be considered for taking static photos.
With Ice Cream Sandwich on board, the A510 is armed with one of the latest versions of Android - although it’s not quite the freshest, as Jelly Bean is already available on some other tablets, such as the ‘Google Experience’ Motorola Xoom. Acer has introduced a few of its own unique UI elements to the A510, including the radial selection tool which it pioneered on its Liquid range of Android phones many moons ago.
On the whole, the performance of the UI is super-fast, thanks in no small part to the Tegra 3 chipset. Of course, with this being Android, there are still brief moments where the unbridled strength of the hardware fails to tally up with the inconsistent software.
Android’s penchant for multitasking and customisation means the overall experience isn’t as polished as that of iOS on the iPad. There are odd moments where the UI will stutter or your selections delayed by half second or so; such issues aren’t deal breakers and won’t be anything new to Android veterans, but it’s a real shame they continue to exist when there’s this much power involved.
Like so many 10-inch slates at there, the A510 has a 1280 x 800 resolution screen, which is placed firmly in the shade by the pin-sharp retina screen on the New iPad. The TFT panel also struggles to step out of the shadow created by its Android rivals, some of which are packing lush IPS screens these days.
Viewing angles are generally decent, but colours tend to look at little washed out - but only when compared directly to a tablet with a superior screen. Taken purely on its own merit, it’s unlikely that you’ll have too much to complain about with the A510’s display.
This is another area in which the A510 excels. The 9,800mAh battery inside the device offers over 10 hours of typical usage, although that figure naturally rises and falls depending on what you’re doing and how far you push the functionality of the tablet.
When you consider that some products on the market struggle to achieve even half of that time, it illustrates just how impressive the A510 is. This is definitely a tablet that won’t constantly be connected to a wall socket, and its robust stamina means you’ll be more inclined to take it out of the house with you on long trips.
Arguably the biggest selling point of the A510 - apart from its appealing but now outdated Olympic connection - is its Tegra 3 chipset. This allows it to offer world-beating performance when it comes to watching HD video, playing 3D games and surfing the web.
However, all the technological potency in the world doesn’t change the fact that Android can still stumble and fall from time to time; the A510 may be packing some fearsome chips, but don’t expect a ride as smooth as what you’d find on Apple’s products.
And that’s a fair comparison to make, because the A510 retails for around £400 - the same price as an entry-level New iPad. Apple’s world-beating slate offers a more satisfying user experience, but lacks the more advanced features of the Android OS.
Elsewhere on the market, there’s Asus’ line of Transformer Pads, which - for a slightly higher price tag - come with keyboard docks which effectively turn them into netbooks. It’s certainly worth considering your options before jumping in with the A510, but it remains a solid choice.
|UK Launch||Out Now|
|Screen Size||1280 x 800 TFT LCD, 10 inches|
|Designer Lens||5 megapixel (rear), 1 megapixel (front facing)|
|Camera Resolution||2592 x 1944 pixels|