Right now, the main attention paid to tablets is in the iPad space, and its many clones. Straight up slate-style tablets are the flavour of the month, but that hasn't stopped vendors from producing convertible tablets with full keyboards. Acer's latest, the 1820PT is a small (85x208.9x34.5mm) and light (1.72kg) tablet in an appealing blue finish. We were slightly less taken with the panel that sits above the keyboard, which features a slightly hypnotic silver swirl on it. The keyboard itself is well laid out with large flat keys, predictably tiny cursor keys and a multi-touch-capable trackpad. The trackpad sits above the mouse buttons, which are formed from a single piece of plastic with a gutter strangely cut into it. It does look a little odd, but it's easy to rest your fingers in there. As an added upside, if you ever dropped a truly tiny cup of cappuccino on the trackpad, it's got a spot to pool safely. We should point out, if only for reasons of legal liability that dousing your laptop in coffee will in almost every case void the warranty.
Most tablets to date have been more focused on battery power than performance power, and the Aspire 1820PT is no different. It sports an Intel Core 2 Duo (SU7300) 1.2GHz processor and up to 4GB of RAM, although our review sample only featured 2GB. Graphics are handled by Intel's GMA 4500MHD with only 64MB of its own memory. There's no on-board optical drive — a common thing with many tablets — but expansion ports include three USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet and microphone and headphone sockets. Complementing the gigabit Ethernet on the networking front is 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1.
On the software front, the 1820PT comes with Windows 7 Home Premium and only a smattering of trialware and other included applications. These run from a trial version of Office Home and Student 2007 to CyberLink PowerDirector. Pre-installed software, and especially trialware, is often more pain that it's worth, so it's nice to see a system that's comparatively lightly preloaded.
As a tablet, one of the 1820PT's key selling points is the integrated multi-touch-capable screen, backed up by Acer's TouchPortal software. We commented in the review of the similar Acer Aspire 5738PZG that TouchPortal looks pretty but doesn't save a whole lot of functional time for the same features as simply using in-built Windows applications. It's eye candy, and somewhat slow eye candy at that. There are better, generally vertical applications for tablets that the 1820PT would be better suited for. We're yet to really see a killer consumer application for Windows 7-based systems.
Intel's CULV processors aren't noted for their processing performance as much as they are low power usage. Likewise, the GMA 4500MHD isn't a stellar graphics chip. As such, the 1820PT's benchmark scores of 2994 in PCMark05 and a meagre 553 in 3DMark06 aren't all that surprising at all. This is a functional system rather than a hugely powerful one — at least in one sense.
We set the 1820PT up with our standard battery draining test, disabling all battery-saving measures, setting screen brightness to full and running a constantly looping video file at the same time that we tested the Acer Aspire 5738PZG. That unit conked out one minute short of two hours, but the 1820PT was just getting warmed up. It kept going for a highly impressive five hours and three minutes before shutting itself down. Given we were doing absolutely nothing to actually conserve battery power, it's entirely feasible that you could run this particular tablet all day long if you needed to.
As the price of regular notebooks drop, it's not surprising to see tablets dip as well. Acer's Aspire 1820PT offers everything a portable notebook user with moderate processing power might need at an attractive price point.