You know when a product category is hot. Think of the onslaught of smartphones once the big guys paved the way. Bam! Suddenly everyone – from your kid to your grandmother – had one. The category of 7-8” tablets seems to be the category of the moment. Plenty of good reasons exist too: they’re easy enough to stash in a bag or hold in your hand or even tuck in a big pocket, smaller screen means smaller price which of course puts less hesitation in the mind when letting kids use and abuse it. But with such a hot category the quest becomes how to differentiate the product.
Acer made headlines in the last year putting a new spin on the laptop/tablet debate with their Iconia W7 and A5. Need a touchscreen laptop? You’ve got it. Need the portability of a tablet? Flip the screen around on the W7 and lay it down or detach it from the A5 and go on your merry way. Next up for Acer? Joining that fast growing category of 7-8” tablets which we here at Coolest Gadgets got a chance to preview. Launching in the next month, the Acer Iconia A1 should successfully vault them into the midst of the small tablet race with a 8GB version expected at $169 and 16GB version at $199. Affordability will certainly be the first point that will make the A1 stand out.
Like many other competitors, the A1 will run Android Jelly Bean 4.2 and offer a quad core processor. Jelly Bean enables the owner to create multiple users for one device – each being able to customize their tablet experience. No worries about the kids accessing your private “assets” when they want to play Candy Crush. The quad core also gave a speedy experience. The microSD slot will expand another 32GB so you can take your movies and music with you too.
Design-wise the A1 offers a healthy 7.9” screen and .43” (11.1mm) profile. One of those points of differentiation for Acer will be the 4:3 1024×768 XGA display. Some of you may consider a non 16:9 aspect ratio a deal breaker. OK, if video is your primary purpose for a small tablet we get it. But after playing with the unit we were pleasantly surprised at the 4:3 browsing, reading and gaming experience. Of course the physical drawback is that going with a larger 4:3 screen in a 7-8” tablet means a wider unit (145.7mm) versus say the Nexus 7 (16:9 and 120mm wide). So get ready to stretch your hand out to hold the unit. Another physical features worth a mention are a mini-HDMI port so you can plug in to your big screen.And as you would expect the A1 comes with cameras on either side including 5MP, 1080p capable version on the back.
The actual user experience definitely gives a few more points of differentiation. With our on-the-go society, instant access to your top apps becomes a necessity. Acer’s Touch Wakeup function will enable direct passage to the app of your choosing from a locked screen by either double thumb touch or five finger twisting motion. Personally this would be a great feature to always have your email literally at your fingertips. Like with competing units, the navigation buttons are always present on-screen, taking up a little space but always readily available. Video screen quality was adequate, giving a decent picture and handling motion fairly well. The 170 degree viewing angle via the IPS screen was definitely a big plus. Touch responsiveness certainly wasn’t that of a unit twice the price. But was competitive with other units in the price range.
After sitting down with the Acer Iconia A1 we definitely think it can hold its own within its category…7-8” tablets at an everyday price point. Sure you won’t get the speed and visual impact of a full sized iPad or GalaxyNote. But then again this is a tablet meant for the masses. For those that need a unit on-the-go and have interest in sharing the device with other users take a look at the A1 when it launches in June. It will get you the mobility the masses are seeking in a small tablet at an affordable price.