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BW Businessworld

Supporting A New Tablet

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Android tablets were by and large big screen devices running small-screen phone software, so the overall experience was rather mediocre, even more so if you compared it to the made-for-iPad platform and apps. That is until Google announced the Honeycomb variant of the Android platform that was designed with tablets in mind. Does the Acer Iconia Tab A500, the first Honeycomb tablet to hit Indian shores, do enough? One glance at the pricing, and I'm mighty interested in find out more. Shall we?

 Straight out of the box, there is a noticeable bulk about this device. It tips the scales at well over 700 grams and feels it too. You could try single-handed reading on this device, but the weight does kick in after a while. In terms of build quality, I liked the chic brushed aluminum case, but the seams are very visible. Another visible difference you will certainly notice is the lack of buttons on its front face – it is all bezel and 10.1-inch 1280x800 pixel screen (save for the 2-megapixel front-facing camera). This is an intentional design decision that's common to all Honeycomb tablets so that you can hold and use the slate in any orientation. There is a screen-orientation lock if you find all of this confusing, though.

Under the hood, the A500 houses a capable NVIDIA 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2 processor with 1GB RAM, and on the storage front features 16GB onboard with the ability to add another 32GB via microSD card. A neat addition is a full-size USB port – great for on-the-go use with thumb drives, and USB keyboards and mice. There's news that a future software update may also allow you to connect your USB internet dongles directly to the A500 for on-the-go connectivity (the current unit was Wi-Fi only). Also, with the A500, you get a mini-HDMI port, but there's no cable in the box, you'll have to hunt a bit to get the correct adapter cable.

Stacked as it is in the specs department, it came as no surprise that games ran smoothly and HD videos played with consummate ease on the device. Even the new Android 3.0 interface with all its animation effects ran without any fuss (more on that in the box). The rest of the experience was middling, with an average 5MP rear camera and battery performance that's pretty bog-standard.
Verdict? The pricing is right, so are the specs. It's laudable that Acer pipped Motorola and Samsung in launching early. But the build and the Honeycomb platform leaves a lot to be desired, and I'd suggest you wait and watch for other entrants to launch their Honeycomb tablets so you have some options to choose from.


It may have evolved from the smartphone Android you've seen many times on these pages, but Honeycomb brings a number of new tablet features to the table. With the buttons gone, you have the back, home and menu buttons displayed all the time in the bottom left corner of the screen on the notification bar, irrespective of what app you have open. Notifications have shifted to the bottom as well. Unlike the smartphone space where pretty much every manufacturer customises the Android experience, the A500 doesn't significantly touch the base Honeycomb experience, and that has a lot to do with Google's diktat to tablet makers.

That said, the base Honeycomb apps are really quite good, and I quite liked the Gmail app which has been optimised for the tablet display. There are a number of games that Acer has thrown in as well like NFS Shift and Let's Golf. But the truth cannot be denied – there are just not too many Honeycomb specific apps available in the Android app store, somewhere in the low hundreds as compared to over 100,000 apps optimised for the iPad. Some Android smartphone apps scale well to fit the bigger display, but many look stretched and out of proportion.

Price: Rs. 27,990/

Optimal Style
The HTC Sensation and the Galaxy SII may well be the Android phones to lust after but they certainly aren't wallet friendly. It's really the phones that cost thereabouts of Rs 20,000 that deliver a better bang for the consumer's buck. One such device is the LG Optimus Black, which packs in a number of sensible features for a phone of its segment. For example, there's the headliner 4-inch Nova display, which is essentially a display with the resolution and brightness that far exceeds traditional LCD displays today. Plus it works really well in direct sunlight, a pretty mean feat.
Where it lacks in raw processing power – it packs in a 1GHz (single-core) CPU and 512MB RAM – it makes up on the feature front, and I quite like the Wi-Fi Direct technology, which allows you to transfer files locally to and from compatible phones, laptops and media players faster than Bluetooth, and is as easy to set up as Bluetooth. All in all, it heads off quite nicely against the single core Androids out there, but LG really needs upgrade this to the latest 2.3 version of Android pronto!
Rating: 7/10
Price: Rs 20,990

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