Cons: Dumb front facing camera/speaker placement. Screen picks up fingerprints like a mofo (common to all tablets, though). Expensive at $400. No 3G. Text doesn’t appear as soon as you type it. Sometimes the browser wouldn’t load pages properly, but when rotated to landscape things show up. Lack of App compatibility
Decision: Test for yourself
Ok, so this was my first venture into Android and tablet PCs. As I’m actually a game reviewer, I’m not really sure how to go about this review, but there will be minimum back story like I do with the games.
I’ve already outlined my thoughts on tablets and Android in another article, so onto the review!
It’s one sturdy bastard. Between the gorilla glass screen and the aluminum chassis, I’m pretty confident that nothing is going to damage it accidentally. It’s a very sturdy frame. People on forums complain that it’s heavy, weighing in at a little over a pound and a half, but I don’t really see a problem with it considering the materials used in its construction.
Button placement is well done. Other tablets, Asus EEE Pad Transformer in particular, decided to place the volume rocker switch right next to the power button, which can be sort of annoying if you’re not paying attention. The A500 doesn’t have that problem, as the power is on the top of the left side, while the rocker is on the left of the top side. No problems there.
Next up is the aspect lock. The A500 has a gyro built in that lets you switch between landscape and portrait views. Well, say you’re lying in bed on your side and you’re trying to look at something, but it keeps shifting views when you just want it to stay in landscape view. Well this switch disabled the gyro, allowing you to do that. I don’t know if it’s a common feature among tablets, but it’s a very good feature.
The SD card bay is in the middle of the top side and it’s covered up by a removable piece. Keeps the card safe and helps it blend in with the frame. It’s pretty convenient that they have an SD card slot considering the max space available is 32gb. The extra space could come in handy if you’re into pictures, video, etc.
Also, it has a single USB port built in. I didn’t have any need to mess with it, so there’s not much to say about it. I’d assume it’s 2.0.
As far as hardware goes, it’s rocking a Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset, operating 2 cores at 1ghz a piece, complimented by a gig of RAM. Those are some pretty decent specs considering it’s just a tablet running an OS that’s meant to be low-resource. It actually shows, too. Transitions between programs were very smooth, but there was a weird problem with the typing. It wouldn’t keep up with the keystrokes for some reason. Not a big deal, but it could get annoying.
Good review so far, but there are some problems with placement of a few things. First off is the front facing camera. It’s placed on the left side about ¾ of the way up. I don’t know why they felt the need to put it there considering anyone who’s using the tablet for video chats is going to be holding it in a landscape view, so in order for the camera to get a good picture of you, the tablet has to be held at an angle. There’s also no LED for flash or lighting, but that’s not really a problem. Anyway, they should have put it on the top middle, but that space was already taken by the microphone, which should have been moved to the bottom middle.
Another fairly significant design flaw comes from the speakers. Now, I thought the speakers were ok, and they were decently loud considering the size, but the thing that hurt sound quality the most is the fact that they were on the back of the chassis. What the fuck is that about? That’s like going to a concert, only instead of actually paying for a ticket, you sneak in, sit behind the stage, smoke weed, and try to steal the band’s equipment. Ok, so maybe it’s not exactly like that, but you get the idea. It’s a problem. Put the speakers on each of the front sides. It’s just common sense and it’s been done since laptops immemorial.
Next up on the problem list is the lack of what I consider to be key app support. I wanted this tablet to do just a few things. I have ADD and it’s getting significantly worse with time, so I wanted it to be able to hand-write or speech-stenograph notes, which it would organize for me, I wanted it to do Facebook and email, and I wanted it to do Netflix. Guess which one of those it wouldn’t do? If you said all of the above, you would be correct. Not only does the Facebook app not work, but you also can’t pull up the full version on any browser, even after setting the stock browser to emulate a desktop PC running windows. So to fix this, you have to use the site without chat, but open a new program that runs in the background to handle the chat part.
Next up is the Netflix thing. Now, I know they have Netflix for Android phones, so this is a problem lying with scaling up the 2.3 Gingerbread-made app to the 3.1 Honeycomb OS. The current version of Android is 3.2 Honeycomb, so I can’t help but wonder why Acer didn’t feel the need to stay current. I get that you have to wait for Acer to do the updates unless you root the tablet, but I don’t know why they didn’t think it was a priority. Google thought the exact same thing, apparently, so they got onto Acer’s case about it and forced them to crank out an update that was supposed to come out on August 25th. Well, as of right now it’s August 28th and I was still running 3.1 before I took it back to the store for a refund. Speculation was that the 3.2 update would have fixed the compatibility issues with both the Facebook and Netflix issues, because it’s supposed to scale up 2.x apps for use on tablets. Well, they ended up pushing it back until September 10th, and I didn’t have until September 10th to return it, and I’m not going to keep it on the notion that it might work then.
Finally, the writing/voice-steno issue. The only problem here is that all of the features haven’t been combined yet, but I expect that something like that will come along fairly soon. I will say that it does have voice commands and speech recognition, but it’s sort of hit-or-miss.
So, after all of the above is said and done, I still think it’s a damn good tablet. If they would just fix those few compatibility issues, it’s a keeper, and I believe that they will be fixed shortly. Basically, if you want to get the tablet, make sure it’s updated to 3.2 and it should be set to go. It has the hardware to do good things; it just needs the firmware to enable it. Also, make sure to take a look at some of the Nvidia Tegra Zone games. Galaxy on Fire 2 really showcases what the hardware can do. Lag free space flight sim with graphics better than PSP? Fuck yeah!