Acer Iconia A1-830 review: A simple and stylish affordable tablet

Unlike high-end cases for slates like the Microsoft Surface 2, the Acer Iconia A1-830's cover doesn't wake the device or put it to sleep when it opens or closes, and positioning the case properly requires a small learning curve. For an budget slate, the Acer Crunch cover is an affordable way to protect your inexpensive investment without adding too much bulk.

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Viewing angles are great, but the screen resolution is so-so. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Hardware

The Acer Iconia A1-830 houses a 1.6GHz Intel Atom dual-core Z2560 processor, dual-core PowerVR SGX 544MP2 GPU, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal memory. It also features a G-Sensor, a gyroscope, GPS, and Bluetooth 3.0.

Performance

The latest tablet trends include sleek, thin design, and supersharp HD screens, and though the Acer Iconia A1-830 looks the high-end part, its low 1,024x768-pixel resolution screen doesn't hold up its end. HD video is watchable, and the wide 178-degree viewing angles are great in glare-less environments, but in comparison with the ultra HD screens of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX or Google Nexus 7, video quality is noticeably pixelated. To its credit, the A1-830 has a decently wide range of color and good contrast -- for a budget tablet.

Acer Iconia A1-830 Dell Venue 8 Google Nexus 7 (2013) Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7
Maximum brightness 362 cd/m2 356 cd/m2 570 cd/m2 430 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.35 cd/m2 .43 cd/m2 0.44 cd/m2 .37 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 1,034:1 828:1 1,295:1 1,162:1

Unfortunately for bookworms, small text tends to look pixelated. After long periods of reading, my eyes tired quickly -- in comparison to using the Kindle Fire HDX -- and I consistently found myself mulling Audible's free 14-day trial to avoid eyestrain, since the app was so kindly included...but I didn't.

The two speakers on the bottom of the tablet are small and don't play very loudly. The low volume didn't bother me during gaming, but I often found myself wishing they were louder when listening to music or watching video. The volume rocker functionality rotates according to which orientation the tablet is in, and the headphone jack location successfully keeps wires out of your way.

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HD video often looked pixelated, especially if streaming. Screenshot: Xiomara Blanco/CNET

As long as too many apps aren't open in the background, performance is swift, and surfing the Web is consistently smooth. Lagging and slow performance is common if attempting to multitask, or if many apps are running. This consequently affects touch screen's accuracy, which frustratingly lags when the A1-830 is running slow, but, otherwise is consistently responsive and accurate.

Simple mobile games run without a hitch. However, large games and apps take their sweet time to load, which is understandable considering the A1-830's specs. After they loaded, performance was smooth, but exiting previously opened apps was crucial to a seamless experience.

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Thin bezels make the 4:3 aspect ratio display bearable for movie watching. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

With a steady hand and good lighting, the Acer Iconia A1-830's 5-megapixel rear camera is impressively sharp. Unfortunately, like most budget tablets, the photo quality is grainy when seen at full resolution and colors often appear washed out. The 2-megapixel front-facing camera is a slight disappointment for selfie-fans; it overexposes photos in bright environments, and the face detection feature is critical for decent focus.

Anecdotally, the tablet lasted around seven hours on a full charge with casual use. Check back for battery life results when we're done testing in the CNET labs.

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Photos look decently sharp, yet a bit grainy and washed out. CNET/Xiomara Blanco

Conclusion

A budget tablet in a stylish package is a rare sight, and the Acer Iconia A1-830's simple specs, attractive design, and low starting price make it a great Android option for the budget-minded with expensive taste, or for the aesthetically-inclined bargain shopper. However, depending on your needs, the A1-830's basic-at-best performance may overshadow its cool look.

Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX offer better performance, but if their $229 starting price is more than you'd like to spend, the $179 Acer is an attractively sleek and affordable package for basic, everyday use. If you're a penny-pincher that doesn't want a tablet that looks like it was picked out of a bargain bin, the Acer Iconia A1-830 fits the unique niche of inexpensive, yet chic, slates.

What you'll pay

    Pricing is currently unavailable.

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    Where to Buy

    Acer Iconia A1-830

    Part Number: NT.L3WAA.001
    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. AU specs are unavailable.

    • Wireless Connectivity Bluetooth
      Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
    • Type Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
    • RAM 1 GB
    • Weight 13.4 oz
    • Operating System Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)
    • Storage 16 GB
    • Processor Intel Atom Z2560
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