It says a lot about the Acer Iconia A510 that the most immediately notable thing about it is an Olympic logo on the back of the casing, advertising the fact that Acer designed this tablet to celebrate its partnership with the 2012 Olympic games. Needless to say, this doesn’t have an awful lot of bearing on the actual device. There’s a slightly annoying sports-themed video that pops up when you boot the tablet and whenever you leave it alone for more than a minute. There’s trial access to a new Eurosport Player app with free coverage of the games and six Olympic wallpapers, and you might use it to run Olympic apps or catch-up with the day’s events on BBC iPlayer and the ITV Player. Otherwise, however, the connections are pretty tenuous.
The physical design is stylish enough, but not particularly inspiring. At 11mm thick and weighing in at 680g it’s not exactly super-slim or super-light, and while the black frame and seamless glass front are all very iPad, the silver plastics on the back feel a whole lot cheaper. It’s a perfectly robust tablet and very comfortable to hold in either portrait or landscape orientation, but if you’re looking for a ‘wow’ factor you’re not going to find it here.
The TFT screen carries on our ‘middle of the road’ theme. The 10.1in size is still the one to go for if you’re looking for a tablet that can cope with productivity applications as well as content consumption and games, but the 1,280 x 800 resolution is completely bog-standard, and image quality is good rather than great. Brightness levels are adequate and colours look nice and natural, but the screen hasn’t got the punch or clarity of the display on the Motorola Xoom 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, let alone the iPad 3’s mighty Retina display.
There’s better news when it comes to sound. The Iconia A510 incorporates Dolby Mobile technology, and while the sound from the built-in stereo speakers bears some of the hallmarks of tablet sound – a thin low-end, a weedy mid-range and a tendency to distort with the volume whacked right up – with the volume at medium levels there’s more body and clarity than you might expect. This makes all the difference when you’re playing games or watching movies, helping to compensate for the somewhat average screen.
Connectivity is slightly disappointing. The A510 has an HDMI output and there’s a MicroSD card slot beneath a flap on the right, but no USB ports and just a single micro USB connection at the bottom, which doubles as the power socket. Annoyingly, you can’t actually charge the A510 using a standard micro USB cable – only the charger can supply the required amount of juice – so there’s no option to cut down on chargers and cables when you’re travelling. The A510 comes equipped with a generous 32GB of flash storage, so you might not need the MicroSD card slot straight away, but it’s nice to know that you can instantly double the capacity if needs be.
Like most current tablets, the Iconia A510 is running Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich, and while there are unofficial ports of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean for Iconia tablets, Acer has yet to make an official announcement. This isn’t a disaster. While Jelly Bean’s tweaks and Butter optimisations make it an even better tablet OS, Ice Cream Sandwich is still a very good one, hitting a great balance between power, ease-of-use and customisation.
What’s more, Acer hasn’t overloaded the Iconia A510 with dubious apps and interface enhancements. There is a circular menu, launched from the notifications bar, with app shortcuts, volume controls and Internet bookmarks, but you’re not in any way forced to use this, and the pre-installed apps cover useful functions, like serving media from the tablet to other devices on the same network, or streaming media the other way around. A licensed copy of Polaris Office is bundled in, along with a nicely animated eBook reader, LumiRead, the Zinio magazine app and a Zen Pinball and Solitaire games to keep you busy on the move. LumiRead supports books with Adobe DRM, so it’s not limited to the small selection available on the built-in book store.
The Iconia A510 has a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera and a front-facing 1-megapixel camera. Stills have more detail than from some other tablet cameras, but colours appear a bit flat, and video, while 1080p, is similarly disappointing. I’ve yet to meet anyone who takes snaps with a tablet, and the A510 doesn’t really encourage you to do so, particularly as performance worsens in low-light. Still, for apps that use the camera or video chat, the image quality from the built-in snappers will probably be good enough.
Usability and Performance
The A510 might not have the brightest or sharpest screen, but it’s perfectly responsive. Typing with the default Android keyboard doesn’t pose any challenge, and multi-touch gestures and controls work about as well as they do on any other Android tablet we’ve tried. If you’re looking for a tablet to browse the Web or deal with email on the move, it’s more than up to the job.
If the Tegra 3 is the A510’s first secret weapon, then its second is battery life. Acer proudly quotes 15 hours in its marketing, and we’d estimate that we got around 10 hours of video playback, intensive gaming, web browsing and general use out of it before it demanded a recharge. That might not put it quite up there with the iPad 3, but it’s certainly close, and it’s around what you’d expect from the leading – and more expensive – Android tablets.
The Iconia A510 might have Olympic branding, but it’s not an out-and-out champion. The design is unexciting, the screen is average and it lacks the premium look and feel of the leading Android models or the iPad 3. However, factor in the long battery life and the excellent performance and the A510 is still a great deal. For under £350 you’re getting a tablet that will last for over ten hours and run the most intensive Android games – with 32GB of storage space to boot.
As a result, while the A510 might not be anyone’s dream tablet, it’s a solid compromise for those of us who don’t have the extra money for a Transformer Prime or iPad 3.
Manufacturer and Product
Acer Iconia A510
nVIDIA Tegra 3 1.4/1.3GHz quad-core
10.1in, 1280 x 800 pixels
Micro USB, micro HDMI, 3.5mm audio
260 x 174 x 11mm
Android 4 ICS