Taking a cue from Samsung, Acer has released this hybrid tablet/laptop. The Intel Atom Z2760-powered Iconia W510 has a 10.1-inch display with 1366 x 768 resolution that detaches from the keyboard to become a touchscreen tablet. In the keyboard is a second battery to help boost the battery life.
The Iconia W510 consists of two parts. The first is a 10.1-inch tablet. The design isn't bad, but the grey plastic lid doesn't quite match the white plastic front and glossy black contours of the screen.
The second part is a keyboard that clips onto the tablet, at which point the tablet becomes the display for what is now a laptop. And like any laptop, you can close the display/lid/tablet onto the keyboard when you aren't using it. To detach the tablet and keyboard, you just slide the white button on the left side of the hinge. Just make sure you don't disconnect them when you have a USB key plugged into the keyboard with files open.
To put the Iconia W510 in presentation mode, you can flip the keyboard upside down so that the keys face the surface of the table or desk it's sitting on, and the keyboard then essentially serves as a stand for the screen. The plastic on either side of the hinges juts out, allowing you to lay the keyboard down without having the keys touch the table, as shown above.
The keyboard isn't as comfortable to use as the Samsung Ativ Smart PC XE500T1C's, a competing tablet/laptop hybrid. I wouldn't call this a design error on Acer's part, more just a lack of space. In order to fit all the keys in width-wise, Acer had no choice but to make them smaller and squish them together. It should take some getting used to before you can type properly without making typos here and there.
We aren't thrilled about the touchpad. It's cramped and doesn't recognise any multi-touch commands like two-finger scrolling and zooming, or any Windows 8 gestures.
On the whole, this is a more practical machine to handle than the Samsung Ativ Smart PC. The 10.1-inch format is a more convenient size for a tablet and, combined with the excellent responsiveness, makes the Iconia W510 more convenient to use than the Surface RT or its Korean counterpart.
Acer has included some extra gestures, such as the five-finger double tap, which brings up the famous Ring menu. The Ring is a convenient tool, although it's slightly redundant with some of the Windows 8 features. It's a menu in carrousel form that takes you straight to multimedia content and settings (Wi-Fi, screen brightness, etc.).
The tablet has a micro-USB 3.0 port (micro-USB-to-USB adapter included), a microSD card reader, a mini-HDMI out and an audio out. The keyboard has one extra USB port. This is another area where the Ativ Smart PC holds the advantage, with one additional USB port and an audio in.
Heat readings with the components under stress.
Images captured using a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera.
The Iconia W510 runs on an Atom Z2760 processor (no fan) and 64 GB of flash memory. It's an entirely silent device, no matter what type of programme you run on it. But as though to compensate for the lack of noise, it heats up to nearly 38° C (100° F). This shouldn't be an issue for the health of the components, but the W510 certainly feels hot when using it as a tablet. The keyboard stays much cooler, never exceeding 29° C (84° F).
The display is pretty similar to the Ativ Smart PC's display. The 10.1-inch panel has an acceptable contrast ratio of 750:1, but the colours lack accuracy (Delta E = 9.1). Being an IPS panel, it offers wide viewing angles from every side, which especially comes in handy when using it as a tablet.
The 1366 x 768 resolution is enough to provide a reasonable amount of information onscreen, and letters and numbers are almost always easily legible. We did, however, notice a slight drop in sharpness in the menu titles, a problem that pops up again any time you use Windows Photo Viewer or Media Player Classic.
Another bizarre thing is that when you use the mini-HDMI-to-VGA adapter to hook it up to a Full HD monitor, the W510 struggles to deport the image and often misses its mark. Instead, you have a tone that plays to tell you it has detected the screen, then that it's lost it, then that's it's found it again, and so on, and so on. We tried doing it with the keyboard attached, without the keyboard attached, before rebooting, after rebooting... to no avail. We're still can't understand why Acer would take the effort to include an adapter in the box if it's unusable.
The headphone output is located on the upper part of the tablet, which isn't very practical because the headphone cable just ends up dangling in front of the screen half of the time. The sound quality out of the headphone output is satisfactory. The sound is accurately reproduced, but the volume doesn't quite cut it.
Green = good / Orange = tolerable / White = too heavily altered
Another bad idea is the location of the speakers, which are placed right where your hands end up covering them when using the W510 as a tablet. The volume isn't very loud in the first place, so that doesn't help matters. In short, this is not high quality audio, and the sound quickly saturates.
Surprise, surprise, the W510 gives a similar performance to the Ativ Smart PC, which has the same Atom Z2760 processor. The Iconia W510 will do for basic productivity and web browsing, but nothing more.
There is, however, a slight difference between this and the Samsung tablet/PC. The startup time here (17 seconds) is much closer to 'regular' Windows 8 devices and shutdown is almost instantaneous.
The GPU is no gamer's companion. Even lightweight games, such as the FIFA saga, are unplayable even at minimum detail level. The only games you'll get out of this machine are games like Angry Birds.
MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE
Here we are, finally, at the Iconia W510's biggest strength: its battery life. As a tablet it last 9 full hours of continuous video playback (with the Wi-Fi off, the screen brightness at 100 cd/m² and headphones plugged in). The keyboard has its own battery, and when it's plugged in the laptop last 18 hours. We have never seen a laptop with this long of a battery life! The tablet alone weighs 560 grammes, keeping it at a comfortable carry-around weight. And with the keyboard plugged in the total jumps to 1.255 kg—again, light enough to not be a burden in a backpack or handbag.
But since the keyboard's weight isn't evenly distributed, it's better off on a desktop than on your lap, where it has an annoying tendency to fall backwards.