Design and Ergonomics
The casing is made of plastic, but it doesn't look cheap or cheesy thanks to Acer's clean design. There's little flex and you have to press fairly hard to make it creak at the bezel edges. We have no complaints, especially given the price and features. The tablet's back is silver and the front face is white, and it has straight sides that are easy to hold onto. The non-gloss finish is a godsend because it doesn't show fingerprints and unlike the Samsung ATIV 500T, doesn't slickly slip out of hand.
The power button is on the upper right corner (when held in landscape mode) and the volume buttons are beside it. Micro USB and micro HDMI ports are located on the sides and the charging connector is at the bottom edge. The charging connector doubles as the keyboard dock connector and there are two locator holes in the tablet to anchor the dock. The keyboard attachment is decently secure, though we'd never recommend picking up a transformer style product by just one half.
There are some that might pine for a full HD display, but 1366 x 768 resolution is fine for a 10.1" display, and the only time I wished for a higher resolution was when reading Zinio magazines in full page (print layout) mode where the 5 pt. text was readable but not as sharp as on a 1080p display. The Acer's Gorilla Glass-clad display has wonderful viewing angles, very good contrast, pleasing color saturation and more than adequate sharpness for viewing videos and reading web pages. Though Acer doesn't specify whether it's IPS, it definitely looks like an IPS panel. The display is bright enough for indoor use, but it's not a super high brightness display as are some Asus tablets like the more expensive Asus VivoTab TF810C. But at 300 nits, it's average for the tablet category and even at higher brightness settings battery life doesn't take a big hit. The display is a strong selling point for this tablet vs. Windows competitors and I doubt it will disappoint most folks.
Performance and Horsepower
This is an Intel Atom dual core tablet, and that means it can't compete with Intel Core i5 tablets like Acer's own Iconia Tab W700 Windows 8 tablet. Demanding apps will run more slowly and though casual games play fine, forget about 3D games, including World of Warcraft. The 32nm 1.8GHz dual core, four thread Clovertrail (1.5GHz with 1.8GHz burst) uses PowerVR SGX545 integrated graphics licensed from Imagination Technologies, and it ranks a bit under the SGX graphics used in the fourth generation iPad with Retina Display. It works well under the Windows 8 Live Tile UI, but we noticed frame drops scrolling through Control Panels under the desktop UI. There's no reason that graphics driver updates couldn't fix this, but we don't promise we'll get these fixes.
The Clovertrail works with DDR2 RAM and is a 32 bit CPU, so that means 2 gigs of DDR2 RAM is the best you'll get here and it's not upgradeable. Again, it's fine for the Modern UI with Live Tiles, but it won't make for fast response times under desktop mode or multi-tasking with several apps running under desktop mode. That's a little frustrating since the appeal of Atom tablets over ARM9 compatible Tegra 3 Windows RT tablets is their ability to run Windows 7 apps in desktop mode. As long as you keep expectations in check, and wish for Windows 7 app compatibility to run just one demanding app at a time (say Photoshop) and to install your favorite RSS reader, FTP client and cloud storage apps like Dropbox, you'll be fine.
The Atom chipset is limited to eMMC flash storage, much like Android tablets. That means you get good storage speeds, but they won't rival SSD drives on Intel Core machines. The 32 or 64 gigs of storage is soldered onto the motherboard and like RAM, isn't upgradeable. There's another reason to opt for the 64 gig model if you can afford it.
Windows Experience Index (scale of 1.0 - 9.9):
Desktop Graphics: 3.6
Gaming Graphics: 3.3
Primary Hard Disk: 5.8
PC Mark 7 Benchmark Comparison Table, Windows 8 Intel Atom (unless otherwise noted) Tablets:
Storage Space and Recovery
The 32 gig model has only 11-14 gigs free and the 64 gig has 35 gigs available for your use. You can remove the recovery partition on the 64 gig model to bring that up to 46 gigs available. The 64 gig tablet has an 11 gig recovery partition, and you can use Acer's recovery manager to create a recovery USB stick (an 8 gig will suffice), in fact it will prompt you to do so after a day or two. Once you've made the recovery flash drive, it will offer to reclaim the space and increase your C drive's space by 11 gigs. The 32 gig model lacks a recovery drive but comes with recovery DVDs. In either case if you need to do a restore from USB, you'll need to enter the BIOS (press F2 on an external USB keyboard while booting to enter the BIOS) and set the USB HDD or DVD drive as the first boot option. Likewise, you'll need a USB hub so you can use your USB media and a USB keyboard to make selections during the recovery process. If you have a recovery partition and don't remove it, recovery is simpler (no need for a hub and external keyboard).
Since this is Windows 8, you can install drivers for your USB peripherals and they'll work. That makes for a very capable tablet that can make use of 3G/4G LTE USB modems, weird old printers than Windows RT doesn't recognize, scanners and the usual keyboards, mice, game controllers, hard drives and flash drives. If you can use the USB peripheral with a Windows 8 (and generally speaking, Windows 7) laptop or desktop, you can use it here. Sweet! You will have to use the included micro USB to USB dongle adapter to plug in your USB peripherals, but we can live with that. If you bought the bundle that includes the keyboard dock, you can use the full size USB 2.0 port on the dock. The Intel Atom chipset supports USB 2.0 but not 3.0, and that means you'll only get USB 2.0 speeds with USB 3.0 hard drives and flash drives.
This is the section where we get excited and praise the Acer Iconia Tab W510 to high heaven! Battery life rivals mobile OS tablets like the iPad with Retina Display and the Google Nexus 10. It runs for about 8 to 9 hours on a charge (that means actual use time) and standby can go for days and days with just a quick press of the power button to put it to sleep. There's really no need to completely shut down the tablet unless you know you won't be using it for a week.
The Acer has a 3650 mAh Lithium Ion Polymer battery, and while that might not sound like much compared to the 9,000 mAh batteries in some Android tablets, it manages equal runtimes. That means the Intel Atom Clovertrail chipset is extremely good at power management. The tablet comes with a compact wall wart adapter in matching white.
All told, the Acer Iconia Tab W510 is a very capable Windows 8 tablet that can handle light x86 Windows app use and is more than capable to run Live Tile apps that are built-in or downloaded from the MS app store. For those of you who love the MS Surface RT form factor and weight, the 1.3 lb., 0.35" thick Acer Iconia W510 adds the ability to run Windows 7 apps, and that's a key feature at this price range and size. For power users who are looking for a tablet that verges on notebook functionality, the Acer Iconia Tab W510 certainly is more capable than the iPad or Android tablets. We love the display quality, extreme portability and ability to run all Windows apps, though we'd lay off the heavy lifters and stick to lightweight Windows apps. If you don't want a notebook replacement, but instead care more about speedy turnkey operation and a large selection of quality games, then the iPad or even an Android tablet might be the better choice. But for those of you who expect tablets to run the same apps as your computer, the Acer W510 is worth a serious look.
Price: Starting at $499 for the 32 gig model, $599 for 64 gig model, keyboard bundle ~ $750.
Directly above: the Acer Iconia W510 and Acer Iconia W700.