Within the sea of new tablets float a handful of Windows 7 models, poking there heads out from the briny waves. One such example is the Acer Iconia W500. Can it keep afloat while under the constant barrage of Android and iPad waters, or will it be dragged under? Let's find out.
The Acer Iconia W500 is in several ways much like better-known tablets such as the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It has a 10.1in screen, comes with a wedge of internal flash memory and is primarily controlled using the capacitive touchscreen.
The great big, gaping difference between this tablet and an Android-powered alternative is that it runs Windows 7, as suggested by the physical Windows button on its front. In order to mitigate for the truth that Windows isn't designed for use with a touchscreen, Acer has produced a dedicated keyboard dock for the Acer Iconia W500 that adds a full-size 'board and a rubber nipple mouse cursor controller, complete with the standard mouse buttons.
This dock also adds two USB slots and an Ethernet port, but all the basic physical connectivity options you should want are included on the tablet itself. There are two full-size USB ports, HDMI output, 3.5mm headphone jack, SD card slot and SIM slot. Bucking the tablet trend, the miniature equivalents aren't used here. Like a McDonalds's fan with no self control, the Iconia W500 opts for super size every time, with full-size SD card and HDMI connectors on-board.
This dedication to the full fat option helps to make sure the Acer Iconia W500 is ready for most eventualities without the need for many extra adapters or cables. However, it doesn't help make it a slender contender. At 16mm thick and weighing 970g it is chunkier and heavier than most non-Windows alternatives. Try using it one-handed for any length of time and you'll either develop forearms of steel or RSI. Even with two hands involved, it feels much heavier than the original iPad - which is already significantly heavier than the current iPad 2.
All that puppy fat isn't there without reason though. As well as the extra connectivity, the Acer Iconia W500 offers 2GB of RAM and an AMD C-50, which packs-in an AMD 6250 graphics card on top of Tegra 2-beating CPU performance. Of course, Windows 7 needs this extra power, being a "full" OS rather than an evolution of a simpler smartphone OS like Android Honeycomb.
As necessary a compromise as the extra bulk and weight of the Iconia W500 may be, it would put us off thinking of the W500 as any more portable than a netbook or ultra-portable laptop. It's just a bit too heavy for comfort, especially when its all-plastic outer construction doesn't leave you feeling as if you're grasping hold of a truly desirable piece of kit. It's hard to fall in love with, so having it by your side never felt to us like an imperative.
Thanks to Laptops Direct for supplying our review sample.