Acer Iconia Tab A110 review

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Acer Iconia Tab A110
Had it been launched at the beginning of 2012, instead of at the end, Acer's diminutive new tablet might have looked a bit of a bargain. Unfortunately, there's now a lot of competition in the sub-£200 tablet sector, and the Iconia Tab A110's £180 price now makes it more expensive than either the Google Nexus 7 or the Kindle Fire HD. This is a shame, as the specifications look promising. The tablet has a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor running at 1.2GHz along with 1GB RAM and 8GB storage. Critically, this storage can be expanded by up to 32GB using the tablet's microSD slot, a feature neither the Nexus 7 nor the Kindle Fire possess. There's also an HDMI output for plugging
it in to your TV, and a 2-megapixel/720p webcam.

Thanks to an up-to-date version of Google's Android operating system, 4.1 Jelly Bean, everything runs smoothly (4.2 is now available but only Google's own devices to date). Transitions between homescreens are as smooth and slick as we've seen on any Android tablet, as are panning, scrolling and zoom operations in the tablet's Chrome web browser. There are a couple of games included – Real Football 2012 and Ice Age Village – but other than this the tablet runs stock Android, a decision that should be applauded. That initial impression is reflected indecent benchmark results. In the SunSpider JavaScript test the A110 scored a respectable 1,759ms. We threw a number of popular 3D games at the A110 and it coped fine with them all, including the demanding Asphalt 7.

HD video played back smoothly, too, whether streamed or via a locally stored file. All this means the A110 should be a fine tablet for games and movies, but the screen lets it down. Normally, we wouldn't be complaining too much about the 600x1,024 resolution. This is lower than the 800x1,280 of the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD's displays, but it still has a pixel density far higher than you'll find on most laptop screens and desktop PC monitors. It's the quality of this display, however, that's in question. The first problem is it isn't very bright. Using a colorimeter we measured its maximum brightness at a mere 208cd/m2. This compares poorly with the Nexus 7 whose screen can go all the way to 330cd/m2, and it means it can be tricky to read the screen in bright conditions. That's not all, though. Horizontal viewing angles in portrait orientation are well below par, and as you tilt the A110 from side to side, colours and contrast change distractingly. Neither are we particularly blown away by this tablet's design. None of the tablets in this price range compare favourably with the stunning design of Apple's iPads or the top-end Asus tablets, but the A110 is particularly dowdy, with its plain, dark grey plastic finish and chunky profile – it's 11.5mm thick, and weighs 384g.

Battery life is reasonable, but once again the Acer Iconia Tab A110 falls  short of its rivals. The Acer's 3,420mAh capacity is 25% smaller than the Nexus 7's, and this is shown in our video playback benchmark. The tablet lasted 7hrs 33mins when playing a video file on repeat, while its rival achieved a time of 10hrs 20mins. Still, the Acer's battery is still good enough to watch Ben Hur twice over - a feat that should not be underestimated. In isolation, the Acer Iconia Tab A110 doesn't look a bad deal. It offers an awful lot of power for not much cash, and it's good to see a budget tablet with both expandable storage and an HDMI output. The trouble is that the opposition is simply too strong. The Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD are not only cheaper than this A110 - they're also better in almost every conceivable way, with better screens, more attractive looks and better battery life.
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