Review: Acer Iconia Tab A510

Our score: 4/5
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May 11, 2012 3:11 PM
 
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Published: May 11, 2012 3:10 PM
By Romain Thuret
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
The Iconia Tab A510 is Acer's first tablet with a Tegra 3 processor. Let's face it, the A510 was conceived as a replacement of the Iconia Tab A500, which the company stopped manufacturing a few months ago. Incidentally, it was also the first Android tablet we were really thrilled about. The A510 is a mid-range tablet that will hopefully keep us occupied until the release of the "HD" version with 1920 x 1200 resolution, dubbed the Iconia Tab A700.

acer tab a510


Along with the 1.3 GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor, it's got 1 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 and a 9800 mAh XXL battery. The lower-end Iconia Tab A200, in comparison, has a 3200 mAh storage cell.

The A510 has a wealth of connectivity: a 3.5 mm headphone jack, a micro-USB port just under the screen, a micro-HDMI port and a cover-protected microSD card slot (for up to 32 GB of additional storage). It also features a 5-Megapixel photo/video sensor on the back and a 2-Megapixel sensor on the front. The capacitive touchscreen uses PVA technology and has 1280 x 800 resolution.

iconia a510 homescreen

Handling & Design

With almost the exact same weight as the latest Apple iPad (680 grammes), the Iconia Tab A510 has excellent finishing and a sober look. The soft-touch back has tiny protruding dots that give it better traction in your hand, and one of the two silver-coloured sides has a well-cut and hardly-noticeable microSD slot cover. With the A510, Acer has created a tablet of the most respectable of designs.

iconia a510


As is often the case these days, you can find traces of an upcoming 3G model in the form of a 3G module-shaped space next to the microSD slot (due to mass production, economies of scale, etc.). One feature you find on all Acer tablets, and the A510 is no exception, is a button for manually blocking the screen rotation function.

You may also have noticed that, interestingly enough for the higher-priced model in the series, Acer has omitted the USB 2.0 port found on the Iconia Tab A200. Instead there's a micro-USB/USB adapter that you'll basically have to carry on you at all times just in case you want to plug in a USB key, external hard drive or memory card reader. It would have been simpler to just stick with the USB 2.0 port. They're more practical and economical for the user. Besides, there's plenty of space for one, so thin dimensions are no excuse here.

iconia a510 ports


Let's take a moment to salute the design team for coming up the "brilliant" idea of always placing the speakers on the lower back side of the tablet (right where they get covered up every time you put the tablet on your lap).

iconia a510 hp


Note that while the tablet charges like most via mini-USB, you also need the special charger to feed the colossal battery, as well as a longer-than-average micro-USB connector.

Screen

With the PVA panel, the Iconia Tab A510 should in theory have an excellent display. And after the average contrast of 1500:1 that we observed on the A200, we were expecting similar results here. Alas! The Iconia Tab A510 maxes out at an average of 970:1. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, that's no disaster—it's just about the same as the last two iPads. More importantly, the A510 has a brightness of 340 cd/m², which makes it very easy to read both indoors and outdoors. Unfortunately the slightly over-glossy screen makes for reflections galore.
 
When it comes to colour accuracy and homogeneous rendering, the A510 does a royal faceplant. The average delta E is 10.7 (for accurate tones you want a figure at least as low as 3). In other words, the colours are all over the place. And the temperature is nearly 11,000 K—that's shivering cold in the lighter tones. So it would be hard to recommend this tablet for anyone who edits a lot of photos or simply likes to look at images from their SLR under optimal conditions.

The Iconia Tab A510 has a ghosting time of 23 ms. That's almost what you find on today's IPS panels (iPadTransformer Pad Prime, etc.) and it beats the A200 (33 ms). Acer used the same technique to improve the fluidity of its graphics as it did last year with the A500, which consists of inserting one black image for every three ordinary images. This creates a sense of continuity and helps prevent choppy playback.

Interface & Navigation

As we mentioned in our A200 review, Acer's current vision of Android for tablets consists of a slight, nearly anecdotal revision of the Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.3) visual style. The most noticeable addition is the "Ring", a circle-shaped menu with icons and thumbnails on it that helps you easily visualise and access your favourite features (bookmarked web pages, music, videos, etc.). You decide what content you want displayed on the Ring and you can bring it up on top of any page you're viewing (except video games) by simply tapping the green icon at the bottom of the screen. It runs smoothly and it's fun to use.

iconia a510 ring


And the operating system works just as well. As we already observed with the Asus Transformer Pad Prime, Tegra 3 + 1 GB of RAM = an Ice Cream Sandwich that runs so smoothly, you'll wish you'd brought a napkin. When flipping from one desktop to another it flows quickly and without hiccups, multitasking works in the blink of an eye, and having multiple windows open doesn't slow the tablet down a jot.

Two more of Acer's additions to the ICS interface are the now-common Media Server and Clear.fi, which turn the tablet into a veritable content sharing machine. We might add that Clear.fi is very user-friendly and accessible, thanks to a very understandable system of icons for managing multimedia sources. The A510 also comes with Polaris Office for viewing and editing documents (text, spreadsheets, etc.).

However, we should mention that we had more trouble connecting via Wi-Fi than on other tablets like the new iPad 3G and Archos 101 G9 Turbo. It's far from catastrophic, but in places where the others had great connections the A510 often had one less bar of Wi-Fi. But once connected we never lost the signal.

Multimedia

According to our BrowserMark results, web browsing runs fast on the A510, nearly as fast as the Transformer Pad Prime and the new iPad. And you can tell while you're using it. As with all tablets that have PVA/MVA/IPS panels with 1280 x 800 resolution, when you're holding the device in landscape mode small text comes out clean and fairly well defined. In portrait mode you have to zoom in to see certain texts clearly. The zoom function is fast, precise and only slightly jumpy.

iconia a510 web


Out-of-the-box, all multimedia playback on the A510 is handled by Android 4 ICS. This is different from tablets by other companies such as Archos or Samsung that provide their own, more extensive media players. If you need support for more file formats, especially video formats, we suggest downloading a third-party player such as DicePlayer, MoboPlayer or MX Player.

Naturally, with the Tegra 3 processor the Iconia Tab has no problem whatsoever decoding videos in 1080p resolution.

iconia a510 video


The TegraZone app allows you to download every video game designed specifically for the Nvidia processor—games such as Shadowgun THD, Fruit Ninja THD, Samurai Warrior THD and Riptide HD. The A510 performs to perfection with video games. It's just as enjoyable a gaming experience as the Transformer Pad Prime. The raw tests we performed even showed a slight overall advantage in the A510's graphics.

But also note that contrary to the Transformer Pad Prime the micro-HDMI output on the A510 does not display 3D video games and movies on external devices such as a TV (for side-by-side viewing).

If you can ignore the ridiculous location of the speakers, the sound isn't bad. The volume is reasonable, both through the speakers and through headphones. The headphone signal is precise with little hissing and very present dynamics. Acer did its job well; your ears will be grateful.

The 5-Megapixel camera produces images with a high tendency towards red, and sharpness is definitely not one of its strong points. In low lighting the camera is still usable, although in a last-resort kind of way, and there isn't excessive noise in the picture. To see for yourself, check out the Iconia Tab A510 in our Photo Face-Off.

Battery Life


This is one of the tablet's biggest selling points. Acer advertises a theoretical battery life of 18 hours. Is it even possible to have such a monstrous battery life with a 9800 mAh battery? Yes, it is! ...Well, almost. While playing video continuously with the Wi-Fi turned on, the Iconia Tab A510 lasts for 13 hrs 30 min. That's long enough to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy—the extended versions—without ever having to plug the thing in. Any travellers out there will be in seventh heaven. With the Wi-Fi turned off and the brightness set to 1/3, you can even get just over 14 hours of use out of the A510.

This makes the Acer Iconia Tab A510 the tablet with the longest battery life on the market. (The Asus Transformer Pad Prime can last longer, but only when the keyboard/battery dock is attached.)

With more varied usage—a little e-mail, a bit of Internet and a proper round of video gaming—the A510 still lasts more than 12 hrs 40 min. That's 2½ to 3 hours longer than the newest Apple iPad and the Asus Transformer Pad Prime when the keyboard/battery isn't plugged in. And it takes 4 hours to 4 hrs 20 min to charge back up. That may sound long, but it's actually faster than the new iPad. To charge up to 70% it takes the Iconia Tab A510 only 3 hours.
4/5 Acer Iconia Tab A510 DigitalVersus 2012-05-11 16:10:00

Pros

  • Satisfactory contrast, good brightness
  • Runs smoothly and is generally responsive
  • Monstrous battery life
  • Tegra 3 excellent with video games
  • Great finishing
  • The Acer "Ring"
  • Fast web browsing

Cons

  • Colour accuracy is all over the place
  • No dedicated media player
  • Camera needs revision
  • No USB port (micro-USB/USB adapter included)
  • Wi-Fi sometimes has difficulty connecting
  • Speaker location

Conclusion

There was a lot of build up to the Iconia Tab A510... and it was worth it. With all our talk about the extraordinary battery life, let's not forget the excellent Tegra 3 processor, which makes Android 4 run like a Swiss watch. Acer's additions to the interface are equally commendable. Both the device and operating system have what it takes to rival the iPad 2 (despite a few technical and ergonomic snags), for the same price.

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