The Acer Iconia A100 is one of just a few 7in tablets to use Android Honeycomb, the version of Google's OS designed specifically for tablets. Most devices of this size to date have made do with the smartphone-oriented Android 2.x, such as the HTC Flyer and original Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Tailored for larger screens, Honeycomb squeezes more information onto each screen than ye olde Android, and uses a different notification system. Instead of dragging down a bar from the top of the screen, here the notifications bar is always present at the bottom. Apps can dim it, if programmed to do so, but there's no way to get rid of it entirely (save hacking the A100 to bits (with software, not a saw)).
On a 10in screen, this barely seems like a sacrifice, but on the smaller 7in display of the A100 it becomes more noticeable. It's like not being able to hide the Start Menu bar in Windows - ever. This isn't a trick of the eye either, as the tablet's 1024x600 pixel display offers less total room than the 1280x800 pixel displays of tablets like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. The display can start to feel a little hemmed-in when held in landscape orientation.
What the Acer Iconia A100 doesn't lack, though, is power. With a dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor and 1GB of RAM on-board, it matches several more expensive tablets including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Motorola Xoom. We subjected the Acer to the AnTuTu benchmark test, and it came out with a score of 4991. This is slightly higher than the Motorola Xoom's Android 3.0 score.
In real-use terms, this means the Acer Iconia A100 will blaze through the Tegra 2 games slowly shuffling into the Android Market, such as Galaxy on Fire 2 and Dungeon Defenders. Although small, this tablet is no less powerful than the big boys.
Tegra 2-optimised games are the best-looking Android titles available
Overall performance is still subject to the niggles that are a big part of living with the still-young Android Honeycomb. Using third-party apps, crashes are frequent, and the autorotate function seemed slower than in other Android Honeycomb tabs. The Android Market refuses to be viewed in portrait mode at all too, which is irritating when it's arguably the better view to use with a device this size.
Bugs aside, the A100 is quick and mostly responsive. The touchscreen not a patch on the top panels out there, and was only able to sense four touch points at once - others can manage more than double this number. However, most annoying glitches we experienced were attributed to software, rather than hardware, problems.
The browsing experience here is good. Download the Flash update from the Android Market, and you have a very fully-featured little browser, complete with multi-touch gestures and full Flash 10.3 content. It's spoiled slightly by the screen, but more on that later.
Android Honeycomb remains a work-in-progress effort, and we found that doubly apparent in the 7in form factor of the Iconia A100. To its credit, though, it uses the very latest version of Honeycomb, 3.2. Its primary addition is the compatibility zoom mode, which uses pixel doubling to make apps designed for smartphones display more-or-less as intended.