The Acer Iconia W500 features a dual-core 1GHz AMD C-50 processor, 2GB of RAM and Radeon HD 6250 graphics – built into its processor. This graphics chip in particular tops most netbook and tablet alternatives, letting you playback 1080p video and play some less demanding games. Even ultra-high quality 42MBit MKV files, equivalent to the highest quality Blu-ray content, pose no problem for the Acer Iconia W500.
The screen quality is decent, with excellent viewing angles and a very bright and colourful display. There’s a slight granularity to the image that makes individual pixels more visible than they should be, which is surprising when the resolution of this tablet is at the top end of what’s currently available for under a £1000. This effect is particularly visible in areas of lighter block colour, appearing as an on-screen texturing.
There’s also some slight colour shift when the screen is angled back, making the image appear slightly green-tinted. We do stress that, these blemishes aside, the W500’s display is great. It’s a pity the tablet is so heavy or it would make an excellent on-the-go video player.
Actually there’s another problem when it comes to video. From a full charge the battery managed to hold out for just four hours, three minutes playing SD video at 50 per-cent screen brightness. While this isn’t appalling, you can expect to get the best part of double that on an Android tablet or iPad. Thanks to the good display, you can keep the brightness at a modest level and still enjoy watching video, which should help eek the most out of the battery. However, find yourself outside in the sunlight and you’ll struggle both for brightness and because of reflections.
To test out the tablet’s gaming cred, we fired-up ingenious physics-based platformer Trine, from developer Frozenbyte. At high-end settings, using the native 1280×800 resolution, with all light effects and anisotropic filtering on, the Acer W500 managed between 15 and 20 fps – playable while not hugely smooth. Reverting to low-end settings, the frame rate increased to 30-50 fps. We also benchmarked the tablet using Trackmania Nations. At medium settings, using 720p resolution, it managed 17.3fps. It’s not a gaming powerhouse, but the W500 can hold its own against the netbook crowd, and will suffice for older or casual titles.
However, the classic question of “what’s it for?” is glaringly present in this case. Its plastic construction, chunky frame and relatively heavy weight stop it from being as attractive a commute partner as an Android tablet or iPad and its flawed keyboard add-on means it’s not a great replacement for a netbook. There’s still a lot to like about the Acer Iconia W500 – it has a good screen and offers even greater flexibility than an Android tablet, but for £500 the wealth of other options out there stop it from becoming a serious contender.
The Acer Iconia W500 is a device that does the tablet cause no good. The keyboard dock is clumsily implemented but without it, using Windows 7 becomes a chore. After a few more passes from Acer’s design bods it could have been closer to a winner, but as is it’s too bulky to beat rival Android tablets and not convenient enough to worry ultra-portable laptops.
Score in detail
Battery Life 6