Review Price £99.00
Think the Google Nexus 7 is cheap? Think again. The Acer Iconia B1 costs just £99, making it one of the cheapest 7-inch Android tablets not made by a name no-one has ever heard of. There are compromises a-plenty involved, but it's tough to argue with that price.
Pootling happily along the cheap and cheerful highway, the Acer Iconia B1 is a lightweight plastic-bodied tablet. At 320g it's lighter than almost all its rivals, although it's clearly a less well-made device than something like the Google Nexus 7. There's a slight hollow ring to the tablet, although it doesn't have that cellar door creakiness that some budget tablets are afflicted with.
The Acer Iconia B1's 8GB of internal storage is about as little as you'll get from a big-name tablet, but on the rear of the B1's back is a flap that covers a microSD slot. With microSD cards available for pennies, cutting down internal memory to the minimum was a good choice.
There are just two other connections on the tablet – a 3.5mm headphone jack up top and a microUSB charger socket on the bottom. In the screen bezel you'll find the basic video chat camera, although there's no camera sensor on the rear. So far, so standard.
We've often accused Acer's tablet of being dull, and it's good to see a bit of colour added to the kid-friendly Acer Iconia B1. Although mostly black, there's a line of blue that runs around the edge of the tablet. There are no plans to introduce other trim colours at present.
Another turn up for the books is the Iconia B1's rejection of any custom UI. Acer usually bungs a few Acer tweaks into its Android tabs, but here the vanilla version of Android Jelly Bean is used. No bloat, no fiddling with visuals. This is a fully Google-certified tablet too, meaning you get access to Google's roster of apps and the official Gogole Play app store. This is the cheapest certified tablet we've seen.
From a brief play with the Acer Iconia B1, performance seemed acceptable. The tablet uses a 1.2GHz dual-core Mediatek processor. It's not a particularly popular or powerful chipset, but is more than capable of handling Android basics like email, browsing and casual games like Angry Birds – but don't expect Tegra 3-grade games to run all that smoothly.
The Acer Iconia B1 is significantly less powerful than the Google Nexus 7, then, but the real compromise in the tablet's hardware is its screen. It's seven inches across and 1,024 x 600 pixels in resolution. That's a good deal less sharp than the sub-£200 tablets from Google, Amazon and Amazon.
What's more destructive than limited screen resolution is the fairly poor display quality. The Acer Iconia B1 uses a TN-type panel, which suffers severely from contrast shift. Move the tablet the wrong way and the screen image becomes a shadowy mush. Colour reproduction is poor too, looking washed-out and lifeless.
In fairness to Acer, the Iconia B1 appears to function reasonably well, but the serious screen issues would be enough to make us recommend forking out that bit extra for a Google Nexus 7 if at all possible. The Iconia B1 also misses out on a few extra features, such as GPS.
Is £99 a low enough price to make you forget those screen woes? Drop us a comment with your view below.
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