The biggest disappointment of the Acer Iconia A100 is its screen. It’s a device that sells for £300 from most retailers, but its screen isn’t all that much better than what you’d find in a no-name ultra-budget tab like the Storage Options miScroll.
The pixel density is more than acceptable – at 1024×600 pixels its 170dpi gives a perfectly sharp image, slightly more so than most 10.1in tablets. However, viewing angles are poor, making the image all-but disappear when the screen is tilted the wrong way.
Contrast shift makes people look like aliens
This effect is particularly infuriating when you’re watching video, but it’s pronounced enough to be noticeable when using apps and browsing the web too. The original iPad set the tablet standard with its IPS screen (offering near-perfect viewing angles) in 2010, and the Acer Iconia A100 falls way below that mark.
Look at it straight-on and the screen looks just dandy. Just don’t move your head
It’s not the perfect portable video player, then, but isn’t devoid of video skills. The A100 uses NemoPlayer app as its standard video player. It’s basic, offering no control beyond pausing and flicking through videos using the timeline, but it can play more videos than some rivals. It will take on Divx files, but can’t handle MKVs, and stutters through HD-quality content – even 720p videos. This limited support is above-average though, as codec compatibility is a glaring problem with the majority of Android tabs.
If you want a device to watch a few downloaded movies on while on-the-move, waiting for the Archos G9 80 may be a better bet. The A100’s glossy-finish screen is highly reflective, demanding maximum screen brightness for anything approaching a decent outdoor experience during daytime.
From a full charge you’ll get just over four hours of video playback. In a budget tablet, this would be more than acceptable, but at £300, the A100 isn’t all that much cheaper than the Motorola Xoom (available from £329.99) and Eee Pad Transformer (available from £329.00). Both last for just under 10 hours.
A feature that is technically above the average is the camera. The Iconia A100 has two of them, in fact. There’s a 5-megapixel sensor on the back, accompanied by an LED flash, plus a user-facing 2-megapixel snapper for video calling. Shots produced with the main 5-megapixel unit do not impress though. There’s a slightly milky quality to the output resulting in muted-looking colours, and chromatic aberration abounds. For fun shots, or casual Facebook snaps, it’ll do the job – just don’t ask for too much more.
Initially, the Acer Iconia A100 seems like a sound proposition. It’s smaller and cheaper than the top 10in tablets, an attractive idea for those after a device to use on the commute as well as at home. However, it’s unfortunately beset by issues that have held us back from recommending much cheaper tablets in the past – most importantly, the screen’s rubbish.
Unfortunately, we’re yet to see a killer 7in tablet emerge to recommend in its place. The BlackBerry Playbook lacks apps, the HTC Flyer is significantly more expensive and the Time2Touch tab suffers from similar screen issues. We’ll be back soon so see if the Archos G9 80 can possibly fill that slot, but for now we can only suggest you spend a little more (and it is a little these days) and opt for a top tab like an Asus Eee Pad Transformer or first-gen iPad.
On paper the Acer Iconia A100 sounds great. It’s a sub-£300 Android Honeycomb tablet using the still fairly rare 7in form factor that has all the power of the top tabs in town. But a few serious problems blow its chances. The display quality is poor, battery life is half of what an iPad achieves and the design inspires indifference rather than desire.
Score in detail
Battery Life 6