Acer Iconia Tab A510 (32GB review: Acer Iconia Tab A510 (32GB

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MSRP: $449.00

The Good The Acer Iconia Tab A510 may be the most comfortable tablet I’ve ever held, with a sturdy build and a grip-y texture on its backside. The quad-core tablet delivers fast performance in games, navigation, and Wi-Fi. The expandable storage option and Micro-HDMI are appreciated extras.

The Bad The A510 is a bit expensive compared with other tablets and its camera performance is unimpressive. The A510’s LCD screen has narrow viewing angles and tends to wash out color. Also, the screen isn’t as responsive as those of other top-tier tablets. Acer Ring feels limited in its usefulness, and the tablet’s aesthetic quality is nothing to get jazzed about.

The Bottom Line The Acer Iconia Tab A510 is a well-designed, comfortable tablet that’s a bit too expensive for what it offers versus the competition.

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7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

The first quad-core tablet, the Asus Transformer Prime, launched in December 2011, but the adoption rate of quad-core on tablets since then has been disappointingly slow. The new Acer Iconia Tab A510 marks only the third tablet to use a full quad-core CPU and is actually the first made by a company other than Asus.

But with the Transformer Pad TF300 currently priced $50 cheaper than the Acer, is there any reason to even consider the A510?

Design
The Acer Iconia Tab A510 looks and feels a lot like the A200 before it. The left and right edges are adorned with silver plating; the back feels like a mixture of rubber and leather (in a good way), making the tablet easy to grip; the corners are well-rounded, and the tablet just feels comfortable to hold. In fact it's one of the most comfortable tablets I've ever had the pleasure of holding, with the leathery back (available in either silver or black) reducing the likelihood it'll accidentally slip from my hands. The A510 is thicker and slightly heavier than the Asus Transformer Pad TF300, and feels stronger and sturdier. However, from a purely aesthetic standpoint, the A510 looks dull and sort of boxy, compared with more stylish tablets.

If I had to choose the one thing I appreciated most about the A510, it would be how comfortable it is to hold. This is made possible by a solid, sturdy design and the leathery back side. Josh Miller/CNET

Acer Iconia Tab A510 Asus Transformer Pad TF300 Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Weight in pounds 1.48 1.4 1.32 1.24
Width in inches (landscape) 10.3 10.4 10.4 10.1
Height in inches 6.9 7.1 7.1 6.9
Depth in inches 0.40 0.38 0.32 0.34
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8
One of these tools was used to measure not only the A510's depth, but pretty much every other tablet we've reviewed. The other is a tape measure. Just kidding. Or am I?

On the left edge sits the power/lock button and a headphone jack. On the opposite edge is a Micro-HDMI port and a door covering a 32GB-capacity microSD slot. In the middle of the bottom edge is a Micro-USB port next to a reset pinhole, with speakers on the far right and left sides. On the top edge, from left to right, lies a volume rocker, a rotation lock switch, and a microphone pinhole. A 1-megapixel camera sits in the middle of the top bezel with an ambient light sensor to its left. Directly on the back sits a 5-megapixel rear camera.

The microSD slot and Micro-HDMI port.

Software features
The A510 comes preinstalled with Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Check out the Ice Cream Sandwich section of the Iconia Tab A200 review for detailed info on the improvements Ice Cream Sandwich makes over Honeycomb.

With the A510, Acer includes a number of custom software features that those familiar with previous Acer tablets should recognize. Chief among them is Acer Ring. Ring is 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 seemingly 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 like tapping the ring puts you that much farther from your goal. To be fair, we're talking about mere seconds here, but it does affect the overall experience. Acer Ring's interface is a bit faster than it was on the A200, but I feel its usefulness is limited. Thankfully, a quick trip to the settings gives you the option to disable the feature.

Acer Print is a built-in setting that allows you to add printers either through your network or by bar code scan, and then print directly from the tablet.

Hardware features
The A510 is Acer's first tablet to house Nvidia's quad-core processor, the Tegra 3. It includes a 1.3GHz version of the processor, compared with the 1.2GHz version found in the TF300. The tablet also includes 1GB of DDR2 RAM -- as opposed to the faster DDR3 RAM also used in the TF300. It has 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi support, Bluetooth 2.1, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and GPS. Only one 32GB-capacity configuration is currently available.

Acer includes two accessory cables to help fill out the A510 feature set: a Micro-USB-to-USB cable and a Micro-USB-to-female-USB dongle. The latter takes the place of an actual full USB port, which I guess is better than no port at all, but the idea of carrying around a extra dongle with your tablet just seems kind of silly.

Performance
Most newer tablets use IPS panels to power their screens. IPS panels tend to have wider viewing angles and better color performance than normal LCD screens. With the A510 Acer went with a normal LCD screen and as such, puts the A510 at a performance disadvantage. While the TF300 retains much of its color when viewed from off angles, the A510's screen immediately begins to wash color out when your perspective shifts. Even when viewed straight-on the A510's LCD screen's color accuracy and saturation can't match the TF300's.

The Acer Iconia Tab A510 used a normal LCD and not an IPS panel for its screen technology. As you can see, the colors don't exactly pop from the screen and the viewing angle is less than satisfying.

Tested spec Acer Iconia Tab A510 Asus Transformer Pad TF300 Asus Transformer Prime TF201 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Maximum brightness (Super IPS) 353 cd/m2 331 cd/m2 358 cd/m2 (570 cd/m2) 336 cd/m2
Default brightness 118 cd/m2 135 cd/m2 183 cd/m2 336 cd/m2
Maximum black level (Super IPS) 0.22 cd/m2 0.22 cd/m2 0.27 cd/m2 (0.45 cd/m2) 0.30 cd/m2
Default black level 0.08 cd/m2 0.09 cd/m2 0.15 cd/m2 0.30 cd/m2
Default contrast ratio 1,475:1 1,504:1 1,220:1 1,120:1
Maximum contrast ratio (Super IPS) 1,604:1 1,500:1 1,325:1 (1,266:1) 1,120:1

The A510's capacitive touch screen is responsive, but isn't as sensitive to the touch as the TF300's. Even delicate touches on the TF300 yield responses, but the A510 requires a bit more deliberate interaction. Apps load quickly -- about a hair faster than the TF300 -- and we still get that great, smooth Tegra 3-induced, 60 frames per second screen transition effect when closing apps or swiping through apps and widgets.

Thankfully, apps like the Marvel Comics app are beginning to take advantage of Tegra 3's extra horsepower by offering smoother transitions between panels when reading digital comics. Not quite iPad smooth, as there's still some judder, but smoother than when the Asus Transformer Prime debuted in late 2011.

Thanks to its hardware scalability, I used Riptide GP as a games performance benchmark. Depending on the speed of the tablet's CPU, Riptide GP will deliver a noticeable increase or decrease in frame rate. The A510's frame rates were about identical with the TF300's, approaching 60fps, with the Tegra 3-exclusive screen water splashes in tow. The frame rate feels lower than the iPad's and as much as you may appreciate screen water splash effects (and who doesn't?), the iPad's screen resolution makes the game look demonstrably better than any Tegra 3 version I've seen so far.

Web speeds in the default Android 4.0.3 browser were more or less on par with the TF300 when traveling to the same sites. Not up to iPad speeds, however, as it seems Android tablets are plagued with many more random hangs when surfing the Web than the iPad is. However, when quickly swiping down long Web pages, the A510 scrolled through smoothly and displayed no visible clipping.

To test app download speed, I downloaded Angry Birds Space. The results yielded are an average of three iterations where each iteration per tablet was within 5 percent of each other.

Asus Transformer Pad TF300 Acer Iconia tab A510
Angry Birds Space download speed (in seconds) 15 13

Looking for a crude, but effective video chat device? The A510's 1-megapixel front-facing camera has your name written all over it, and as with most front-facing tablet cameras, it has little redeemable value beyond that function. The 5-megapixel back camera fares better, delivering fairly clear pictures that still failed to compete with the TF300's 8-megapixel clarity.

720p video recorded with the rear camera washed out colors, lacked detail, and displayed obvious video artifacting. This is a far cry from the clarity delivered by the iPad's and TF300's rear cameras. Thankfully, I was able to play both 720p and 1080p movies from outside sources smoothly with no compatibility or quality issues.

Acer touts the A510's inclusion of Dolby Mobile 3+ with premium 5.1 HD sound, but during my testing, the sound its speakers delivered was low and a bit muffled when compared with the TF300's comparatively bombastic and full audio.

The A510 has a larger-than-usual 9,800MAh battery, but its larger capacity didn't keep it from draining pretty quickly. I left the tablet in sleep mode overnight with Wi-Fi on, with the battery at about 75 percent capacity, and the next morning its battery had drained to 41 percent.

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 Tab A510 11.6

Conclusion
The A510 is pretty plain-looking, but it's well-built, feels comfortable in my hands, and its expandable storage and Micro-HDMI inclusions are appreciated. Navigation is smooth, games run fast, apps load quickly, and Wi-Fi performance ranks among the best Android tablets.

It includes dual cameras, but there's nothing impressive about them, and the normal LCD screen washes out color and isn't quite as responsive as it could be.

Acer charges $450 for a 32GB, quad-core tablet, and while that would have been impressive even a couple weeks back, now, with the Transformer TF300 out here, you can get the pretty much the same features -- and some nifty exclusive ones -- with better screen performance and better cameras for 50 bucks less.

The A510 isn't a bad tablet by any means and is actually one of the most comfortable tablets I've ever held. It's just difficult to recommend with better-performing, cheaper options out there. However, if you can look past the price and lower quality screen, there's actually a fast and well-designed tablet here.