Also, while it features the bare-minimum capabilities of all other post-Honeycomb Android tablets, it actually loses two features many Android tablet owners take for granted: a rear camera and an HDMI port.
Still, it can be yours for only $330 (for the 8GB model; $350 for 16GB), making it the cheapest noncontract buy-in to Honeycomb/ICS yet.
Whether that distinction actually makes it special enough to buy is up to you and your needs.
The Iconia Tab A200 marks Acer's third major tablet design after the A500/A501 and A100 releases. Compared with the A500/A501, the A200 is slightly thinner and lighter, with a sleeker, less boxy look.
|Acer Iconia Tab A200||Acer Iconia Tab A501||Asus Transformer Prime||Samsung Galaxy 10.1|
|Weight in pounds||1.56||1.7||1.32||1.24|
|Width in inches (landscape)||10.2||10.2||10.3||10.1|
|Height in inches||6.9||6.9||7.1||6.9|
|Depth in inches||0.48||0.49||0.32||0.34|
|Side bezel width in inches (landscape)||0.69||0.77||0.8||0.8|
The tablet has a 10.1-inch capacitive touch screen, with a 2-megapixel camera on the front. Unfortunately, there's no back camera, a fact sure to disappoint those accustomed to dual-camera tablets. And by "those," I mean pretty much everyone.
The A200 sports what's probably the most adhesive back I've seen or rather felt on a tablet, doing an effective job of keeping the tablet firmly in my hands. The tablet is available in two different color schemes: a gray-backed version and one with a strawberry-red back.
Tablets with corners that don't dig into your hands as you hold them always earn points on the comfort scale. The A200, with its smooth, rounded corners, is comfortable to hold over extended periods and likely won't give you blisters.
For connections, the A200 has Micro-USB and full USB, and a microSD card slot (for cards of up to 32GB) is concealed behind a small door. It also has a headphone jack, a volume rocker, a rotation lock switch, a power/lock button, and a small pinhole-style AC adapter input hole. Unlike the A500, it doesn't have a Micro-HDMI port, unfortunately.
Acer is known for including its own unique software touches in its tablets, and the A200 is no exception. From the lock screen, Acer adds the option of swiping to one of four customizable app shortcuts--useful for getting to those much-used apps quickly.
The A200 also sees the debut of Acer Ring, an app shortcut and carousel-like bookmark hub that appears after you tap the green ring symbol at the bottom of the screen. Each bookmark or app is completely customizable, allowing you to include up to four apps and as many bookmarks as you like.
While this would seem useful, accessing apps the normal way is already so quick and easy that adding an extra step puts you that much further from your goal. To be fair, we're talking about mere seconds here, but it does add up.
Clear.fi and Media Server work in tandem to aggregate media on your network and stream media to and from the A200.
Ice Cream Sandwich
The tablet comes preinstalled with Honeycomb 3.2.1 and is upgradable to (ICS). ICS is the latest version of Android and is more of an evolution of Honeycomb than something that feels completely different. There are a few notable differences, however.
UI and widgets: On the home screen, Google has slightly changed the way we access widgets. Honeycomb had a little shortcut at the top of the screen, or you could press and hold the home screen, but now widgets have been grouped with apps.
Tapping the apps shortcut now brings you to a dual apps-and-widgets section, each with its own tab. Also, swiping through your apps will eventually bring you to widgets. This change is subtle; widgets now feel less hidden and more important than before because of it.
One of the most annoying things about Honeycomb notifications is the way they can pile up, requiring you to close each individual one to get rid of them. Fortunately, ICS lets you kill them all in one fell swoop and let the tablet gods sort it out. Also, instead of simply showing you the last message you've received, ICS consolidates all mail notifications into one, displaying the number of new messages you have.
Settings: With settings you'll notice right off the bat that things are subtly different, with no real huge changes, just a few useful refinements. Options have now been split into four sections: Wireless and networks, Device, Personal, and System. Some features that were crammed in with others in Honeycomb now have their own sections.
The Data usage section details the amount of overall and per-app data you've downloaded over a specific time. Battery now has its own section showing more detailed power usage information than we're used to in Honeycomb and even tracking battery capacity over a set duration.
Now as soon as you create a new Google account it gives you options as to which specific Google services you want synced. The Developer options give access to things like CPU usage data, pointer location, and, my personal favorite, the ability to kill apps as soon as you leave them.
In terms of performance, we didn't notice much difference between ICS and Honeycomb.
The built-in photo-editing tool is probably the most significant new feature. Options include crop, resize, and red-eye correction, as well plenty of color and tint controls. Additionally, recent apps can now be closed with just a quick side swipe, allowing you to more easily find and kill memory hogs.
Overall, ICS feels like a small but significant step up from Honeycomb. You can check out ourto see it in action.
The A200 houses the usual Android tablet hardware, including Nvidia's dual-core Tegra 2 CPU and 1GB of RAM, and comes in 16GB and 8GB varieties. Also, it has 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi support, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, a gyroscope, and GPS.
The speakers, located on the back in the bottom corners of the right and left sides, deliver high-volume sound even with the tablet placed on a flat surface. Still, don't expect to use the A200 as a dedicated music player. At high volume, the sound is quite shrill at times and doesn't deliver that deep bass you'd want in such a device.
The A200's 10.1-inch capacitive touch screen sports a fairly high luminance with low black levels, but doesn't have the high-contrast, glossy look of the Transformer Prime's display. As a result, colors just don't pop as well as they do on the Prime and look somewhat bland in comparison.
|Tested spec||Acer Iconia Tab A200||Acer Iconia Tab A501||Asus Transformer Prime||Samsung Galaxy 10.1|
|Maximum brightness IPS mode (Super IPS)||318 cd/m2||322 cd/m2||358 cd/m2 (570 cd/m2)||336 cd/m2|
|Default brightness||120 cd/m2||62.7 cd/m2||183 cd/m2||336 cd/m2|
|Maximum black level, IPS mode (Super IPS)||0.18 cd/m2||0.2 cd/m2||0.27 cd/m2 (0.45 cd/m2)||0.3 cd/m2|
|Default black level||0.08 cd/m2||0.04 cd/m2||0.15 cd/m2||0.3 cd/m2|
|Default contrast ratio||1,500:1||1,568:1||1,220:1||1,120:1|
|Maximum contrast ratio, IPS mode (Super IPS)||1,766:1||1,610:1||1,325:1||1,120:1|
Web speeds matched most other Android tablets when within 5 feet of our test router. However, when running in Honeycomb, performance dropped dramatically the farther away we got from the router, more so than on other tablets like the Motorola Xyboard, which retains much of its speed even at long distances.
Indoor GPS performance was sound, capturing up to 8 satellites in our tests and increasing in performance the closer we got to a window. When outside, the A200 found up to 11 satellites and saw stronger satellite connections.
While the Acer Ring is integrated seamlessly into the OS, its performance lacks the immediacy necessary to make it worth using most of the time. The carousel sometimes takes up to 2 seconds to appear after you tap the ring. This interval may sound small, but the value of this shortcut is diminished when I can launch an app through conventional means in about the same time as it takes using a shortcut.
Thanks to its hardware scalability, I used Riptide GP as a games performance benchmark. Depending on the speed of the CPU, Riptide GP will deliver a noticeable increase or decrease in frame rate. The A200 offered performance typical of a Tegra 2-based tablet by delivering a consistent, playable frame rate that unfortunately can't match the Prime's silky-smooth 60-frames-per-second Tegra 3-induced fluidity.
As I mentioned previously, the A200 has a single, front-facing 2-megapixel camera. Images and video recorded with the camera looked washed-out and lacked detail. The A200 likely won't be your first camera choice when a picture opportunity presents itself.
Playback of 1080p and 720p video from external sources ran smoothly and looked sharp on the A200's 1,280x800-pixel-resolution screen. However, color depth and contrast just aren't as accurate as on the Transformer Prime, and video on the A200 looks drab and washed-out in comparison.
Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.
|Video battery life (in hours)|
|Acer Iconia A200||7.7|
If the A200 were one of the guys in "The Expendables," it would definitely be the Randy Couture character...eh, I can't even remember his name, and chances are you don't even remember him from the movie anyway. The point is, it's dull, boring, with no real "special" features.
Still, at its current price of $330 for 8GB and $350 for 16GB, it's the cheapest way to get ICS on a tablet, and while that's expected to change over the next few months, if you can live without a few missing features like a rear camera and an HDMI option, the A200 could be for you.
Editors' note: This review was updated with CNET Labs battery test results.