Apple's iPad was the first tablet to offer screen resolution at Full HD or higher (2048 x 1536 pixels, to be precise). Asus and Acer have since followed suit with Full HD Android tablets—the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 and now the Acer Iconia Tab A700. But if this "new" tablet looks rather familiar, that's because it's essentially an Acer Iconia Tab A510 loaded with a "Full HD" IPS screen with 1920 x 1200 pixels.
The A700 has the same casing and components as the A510, with a 1.3 GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor, 1 GB of RAM and a 32 GB internal memory. There's a rear-facing 5-Megapixel camera for photos and video, as well as a 2-Megapixel webcam on the front.
Connections are the same too, with a micro-USB port for file transfer and charging (using a specific charger, however!), a micro-HDMI out and a microSD card slot for boosting storage capacities. Connectivity is covered by Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1.
The OS here is Android 4.0.4, and the battery is the same monster 9,800 mAh model that did great things in the Iconia Tab A510.
The tablet has a rubber finish on the back, covered with little pin-prick dimples. And while the design isn't particularly innovative, it's unfussy and looks serious. Plus, there's a good-quality cover for the microSD card slot and a smattering of physical buttons that don't look like they'll be dropping off anytime soon. So, all in all, the Iconia Tab A700 has a very good-quality finish.
Acer has taken real care designing and building its tablet casing, proving that the firm is only too capable of moving towards serious, high-end devices.
For more information about how this tablet handles, take a look at our full review of the Iconia Tab A510.
Since its arrival in the tablet market, Acer has used either MVA or PVA screen panels. Here, Acer has quietly switched to IPS, the same type of LCD technology used in the iPad and the Asus Transformer Pad range. In theory, this should deliver decent contrast, well-balanced colours and wide viewing angles.
In practice, the Iconia Tab A700 does actually have a pretty good average contrast ratio, with 1100:1 at the standard brightness setting. And at the maximum brightness setting (a decent 337 cd/m²), contrast barely drops, as we measured an average of 967:1. That's actually slightly higher than the latest iPad.
Acer seems to be paying greater attention to colour fidelity these days. Blacks and greys are reproduced well and only the primary colours get a little crazy—but not too much. All this makes for an average Delta E of 5.4 (Delta E measures the difference between perfect colours and those displayed onscreen. It should be under 3 for colours to be considered accurate).
Colour temperature remains stable over the whole spectrum. And, at 5066 kelvins, it isn't that high. Finally, the 22 ms ghosting time is about average for an IPS screen. Acer doesn't seem to include any motion compensation technology in this tablet.
In the end, the IPS screen in the Iconia Tab A700 is actually quite similar to the one seen in the Asus Transformer Pad TF700. In terms of overall screen quality both tablets have similar pros and cons, except that the Iconia Tab screen unfortunately has tighter viewing angles. Contrast therefore soon starts to drop when you view the screen from the side.
So how about that new high-def screen? When viewing web pages, text looks perfectly fine (see below), and the benefits of the boosted definition are soon apparent. However, many images are still displayed in a resolution designed for a maximum definition of 1280 x 800 pixels. The screenshot below illustrates this well.
Here, we've zoomed in as far as the Iconia's web browser would let us to highlight the problem. It's caused by the way websites interpret the A700 as a kind of confusing hybrid product—it's a mobile device but has the screen definition of a computer monitor. This is currently a problem in the new Apple iPad too. As more Full HD mobile devices arrive on the market, websites will be forced to adopt a new higher-resolution format for mobile visitors. However, that could make for some pretty heavyweight web pages!
Acer hasn't taken too many risks with Android, as the only notable addition to Google's OS is Acer's "Ring", a menu that can be accessed at any moment via a little circle icon at the bottom of the screen. This brings up all your latest multimedia activity in a handy carousel-type menu.
The Ring is attractive and it works well, but we're not sure it really offers anything that can't already be done. The Full HD screen makes app icons look sharper—especially the contours— and using the OS becomes a real treat. It's hard to switch back to a lower-def tablet once you've tasted this.
A few interesting new additions have appeared since Acer's latest update—also available for the Iconia Tab A510. Separate apps are now available for video playback, photos and music, as Acer has chopped up the three functions formerly rolled into one in its Clear.fi app. The graphic environment is generally nicer here than with the standard Google Android equivalents.
Settings shortcuts have thankfully been updated too. A tap on the bottom right of the screen now brings up brightness settings, notifications, connectivity settings (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Aeroplane mode, etc.). Here, Acer is bringing itself back in line with the competition, as this isn't a new feature in the tablet market. However, the update is well implemented, with a nice layout and a clear design.
So is the A700 just as responsive as the A510? Well, not necessarily. You can feel the tablet hang from time to time—sometimes when switching from one app to another, sometimes when moving between Android homescreens, and sometimes when launching the web browser. We have to admit we were slightly disappointed to see that Acer hadn't done a better job of optimising this new Iconia Tab to handle its new high-def screen. With all those extra pixels, you kind of have to wonder whether the processor used here is really up to the job. The Nvidia Tegra 3 can now be clocked at up to 1.6 GHz—why didn't Acer take advantage of that?
Another slight disappointment was the Wi-Fi. In our tests, the A700 didn't deliver the best wireless experience available on the market right now. Connectivity just seemed less effective in this tablet. We found we usually had one bar less than with other tablets when using the A700 at the same distance from our Wi-Fi router. Plus, connection speeds were around 20% lower!
Surfing the web is a real treat with the Full HD screen. However, browsing isn't quite as fast as with the Iconia Tab A510. It's nothing too serious, but it's noticeable. However, in both portrait and landscape modes, content is so much more pleasant and comfortable to view than with a lower-def tablet screen.
Whether using 1024 x 768 pixels and a 4:3 aspect ratio or 1280 x 800 pixels and a 16:10 aspect ratio, text looks crisp, and individual letters are sharp and distinctly defined.
Multimedia is catered for comprehensively in this tablet and Acer's home-grown Clear.fi apps should be sufficient to play most file formats, especially videos (DivX, DivX HD, MPEG-4, H.264, Xvid). If not, you can always download a third-party media player app for more exotic file formats (moboPlayer or DICE Player, for example).
Acer's media player apps aren't necessarily as effective as what Samsung and Archos haver to offer, but they still do more than most. HD videos are particularly well handled, even in 1080p (but please, not at more than 50 Mbps for the sake of the poor old 1.3 GHz Tegra 3 processor). That's certainly good news for a Full HD tablet!
Gaming obviously requires a fair bit of processing power, so while it's a major selling point for a Full HD tablet, it's also a major test for its processor. With Real Racing 2 HD, ShadowGun THD and Horn (using the Unreal Engine), we thought we'd be able to make this tablet sweat pretty hard. But while the Iconia Tab A700 sometimes struggles with introductions and in-game movies, once you get into the action everything runs fine. So with a Tegra 3 CPU and Nvidia's TegraZone games platform bursting with graphically rich games, the 1920 x 1200 pixel screen really comes into its own.
The rear-facing 5-Megapixel camera gives slightly sharper results than the camera in the Iconia Tab A510, and the red tinge has very nearly been removed. In the A700, the main problem is noise in low light, which is present in force. This camera is therefore good enough to use as a fallback solution in decent conditions, but it's not the kind of camera you'll want to make frequent use of.
With the same 9,800 mAh battery as the A700, the Iconia Tab A510 blew us away with its 13-hour battery life. Here—whether it's the new screen def causing problems or poor optimisation of the whole package—the A700 only gives 9 hrs 10 mins of video playback (Wi-Fi off). With Wi-Fi on, you can shave 35 minutes off that. For mixed use (e-mail, games, web browsing, video), you can expect the battery to last for around 9 hrs 35 mins. That's still an impressive result for this kind of product. In fact, it's up there with the best (Asus Transformer Pad series and the latest iPad).
The tablet takes just over 3 hrs to recharge, which seems quite long, but that's about average for a tablet in the current market.
- Plain but serious design / Good finish
- Screen quality is generally good, decent colours
- Full HD boosts sharpness and readability
- Battery life
- Viewing angles aren't as wide as with other IPS or AMOLED tablet screens
- Some hangs and slow-downs
- Processing power and general optimisation could be better
- Proprietary USB charger
- Wi-Fi connectivity
Should owners of the Iconia Tab A510 upgrade to this new version? We think not. But for anyone looking for a Full HD tablet with decent enough performances and a relatively stable OS, the Iconia Tab A700 could be a good option. The screen is certainly convincing and readability is very nice. On the whole, it's not as effective as the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700, but it's the only other Full HD Android tablet currently on the market. All in all, it just manages to scrape its way to a four-star review.