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You are here: Cloud Devices Acer Iconia Tab A500 Reviewed - Battery, Applications, Media, Closing Thoughts

Acer Iconia Tab A500 Reviewed - Battery, Applications, Media, Closing Thoughts

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Battery

I didn't run formal battery rundown tests on the A500. One of the benefits from reviewing after the guys that get product sent to them is that I can just point you to their data.

Review Battery Life (h:m)
Engadget 6:55
Laptop Mag 7:00
thisismynext 6:37
Battery life

The table above says this is a 6-7 hour tablet, not a 10.

One thing I noticed is that the tablet would keep waking up from sleep, which chewed through the battery significantly overnight, with 20 - 30% power loss. I didn't have anything auto-updating and GPS was turned off, but I did add a few apps. So there could have been something in my configuration causing the problem.

Applications

I've included two screenshots in the gallery showing the apps installed on the A500. (Note that I installed arcMedia and MoboPlayer for reasons I'll explain shortly.) On the plus side is Docs To Go, which made it possible for me to view just about anything that came in attached to my email, something that the iPad fails miserably at. I didn't do any document creation with it.

Acer also threw in a few games, Hero of Sparta, Lets Golf, Need For Speed Shift, TegraZone Games, and Top HD Games, which I didn't even open. The other Acer-installed apps are:

  • LumiRead - simple e-book reader
  • SocialJogger - Twitter and Facebook status update browser
  • nemoPlayer - Photo, video and music player
  • clear.fi - appears to be a UPnP AV / DLNA media player
  • MusicA - music identification app trying to be Shazam
  • Media Server - turns the A500 into a UPnP / DLNA server
  • Photo Browser 3D - Photo viewer
  • AUPEO! - Internet radio streamer

Acer also added Books, Games, eReading and Social icons, which open hokey bookshelf-like views that seem only to serve as places where similar apps are grouped.

With all these extra apps thrown in, you'd think Acer could have included a simple file browser, but they didn't. So I installed Lysesoft's AndExplorer, which gave me access to internal files and those on the microSD card I inserted.

In the course of trying to play my test video files, I tried clear.fi and NemoPlayer, which I'll report on next.

Media

The Tegra 2 chipset provides hardware acceleration of most major video codecs, including MPEG2 and H.264. But chipset support and actual video quality are two different things.

I started out installing Flash 10.2, but upgraded to 10.3 before I ran my tests. One of the alleged advantages Android tablets have over the iPad is that they play Flash content in addition to the HTML 5 that the iPad supports. So I hit some of my usual sites to see how this worked.

  • NY Times [HTML5]- video played nice and clear, launched into a full screen window
  • ABC.com [Flash] - Castle episode was clear, but had low frame rate that made it unwatchable
  • Netflix - threw "not supported" message
  • Hulu - threw "not supported" message
  • CBS.com [Flash] - Late Late show monologue @ CBS.com somewhat pixelated at normal and full screen. Frame rate was a bit slow, but watchable.
    Interesting note: without flash installed, m.cbs.com gave me the option of playing content with the video players I had installed, which worked!
  • NBC.com [?] - Attempt to watch a 30 Rock episode at NBC.com threw: "Sorry, the content you are trying to access is not currently available on this device". @#$%!. I was able to watch clips and other promotional content as I was at cbs.com via m.nbc.com.
  • Fox.com [Flash] - Glee episode played clearly, but with low frame rate. Watchable, though. .

I assembled a group of test files onto a micro SD card for media testing to check how "HD" the A500 was. Trying to open any of these files using clear.fi, nemoPlayer or just clicking on them to see which handler would kick in didn't work. So, as noted earlier I downloaded arcMedia and MoboPlayer as Matt had tried for the Transformer review.

arcMedia barfed on all the files, but MoboPlayer was able to play them all. So the observations below are based on MoboPlayer.

  • AVI from Canon digicam [640x480 MJPEG 30 fps]- Played, but color was streaky and not correct
  • MOV "720p" Apple movie trailer [H264 MPEG4 1280x544 24 fps]- played fine. No detectable frame drops
  • MOV "1080p" Apple movie trailer [H264 MPEG4 1920x816 24 fps] - ok for scenes without fast motion. But when motion (and bitrate) picked up, audio and video got way out of sync
  • 720p MOV from Canon SD780 IS digicam [H264 MPEG4 1280x720 30fps] - audio played fine, but video was in slow-mo.

The audio tests were pretty much a non-event. I tried both a 128kbps MP3 ripped CD file and non-DRM'd iTunes m4a file, both of which played fine with the stock Android Music app.

I use Pandora regularly, so that was also on my audio test checklist. Things have improved since my nasty run-in with the Xoom. When I was directed to download the app upon hitting the website, it installed and ran just fine.

I should note that audio quality was better than I've heard on most other tablets. Apparently the Dolby mobile feature actually helps!

JPG images on the card and my Picasa web account looked fine on the standard Android Gallery app.

I shot a bit of outdoor video using the Tab's rear camera. It records to 3GP format using an H264 MPEG4 codec at 1280x720 and 30 fps (29.862557 to be exact, according to VLC player's codec details window). This seems to be the only video format that the Tab can play using either the Camera app, clear.fi or nemoPlayer.

I also tried the rear camera for still photos. A closeup example taken without flash is below, where you can see the lack of depth of field. Other samples with and without flash are in the gallery.

Closeup photo example

These all looked fine to me, and would do in a pinch if you didn't mind holding a 10" tablet up to your face for awhile. Who is going to use a tablet for taking photos and videos anyway? I didn't try the front camera for video conferencing or anything else. Google Talk comes installed if you want to try, though.

Closing Thoughts

Honeycomb may have doomed the Xoom, but it's turned around from a liability to an asset and should be on your Android tablet checklist. Unless you want to fool around with generic cheapies, there is no reason to settle for Android 2.X on a tablet anymore.

The main thing the A500 Iconia Tab has going for it is price—$50 less than the $500 price point that non-Apple tablet makers are still trying to cling to. But a 10" class Android Honeycomb tablet with decent screen, good sound and good selection of I/O ports shouldn't cost as much as a 16 GB Wi-Fi only iPad. Because Android tablets still can't match the iPad in ease of use

If market share is what Android tablet makers want, then they'll need to be less expensive. $450 is a good start, but the ASUS Transformer's $400 is even better. The $350 price point being kicked around for Amazon's upcoming beastie is much more like it, though.

In the battle between the A500 and ASUS Transformer, the edge goes to the Transformer. That's not because the Transformer is a better tablet. It's strictly because it's $50 cheaper.




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