Horsepower and Performance
This little 7" tablet has the brains of a 10" Honeycomb tablet, and feels a bit quicker than those already speedy larger tablets. Why does it feel faster? Likely because it has the same CPU, GPU and RAM as the larger tablets, but it's moving less pixels given the 1024 x 600 resolution vs. 1280 x 800 for 10" tablets. 3D games, MPEG4 HD video and Adobe Flash 10.3 all run smoothly on the tablet, and it can handle 1080p video playback with fewer frame drops than some 10" Honeycomb tablets including the Acer Iconia Tab A500.
The tablet has a 1GHz dual core Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU with hardware graphics acceleration and a gig of RAM. It's available in 8 and 16 gig versions, and the 16 gig is only $20 more than the 8 gig, making it a wiser buy. You can further expand storage using microSD cards (the slot is under a door on the top edge), and we had no problem using 16 and 32 gig cards. HD 720p and 1080p movies played fine from class 6 and faster cards.
The Acer A100 scored 2040 on the Quadrant benchmark and 46.9 in the Linpack multi-thread benchmark test. Those are good numbers for a dual core tablet, reflecting its experiential speed.
The A100 doesn't have 3G, though there is a covered slot where a SIM card carrier could've been installed (it's next to the microSD card slot). If Acer ships a 3G version, it will have the model number A101, just as the A500 with 3G is the A501. The tablet ships with WiFi 802.11b/g/n single band, and it has average range for a tablet. That means it doesn't have the range of full sized notebooks, but it does maintain a good signal up to 35 feet when using Apple's AirPort Extreme wireless router and 40 feet with the D-Link DIR-655 (both with walls between the tablet and router). Beyond 55 feet (with walls in between) the signal becomes too unstable to rely on.
The Acer also has Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR and a GPS with digital compass. In our tests using Google Maps and Google Navigation, the A100 got a fix quickly indoors and maintained that fix when driving (we used an HTC Sensation 4G as a mobile hotspot so the Iconia could continually download fresh map data on the road).
Software and Multimedia
Acer customizes the launcher with groups that are basically icons that lead to custom folders for social networking, multimedia, reading and gaming. These are actually a very handy way to organize apps (I have 55 apps on my tablet and it's not fun wading through them to find what I want), and you can add and remove apps from these groups. There's also Acer's SocialJogger for Facebook and Twitter social networking, Clear.fi, nemoPlayer (an attractive music player, photo viewer and video player), Auopeo!, Movie Studio, MusicA, Zinio and Google Books. This is much the same software as bundled with the A500 tablet.
The tablet comes with the standard suite of Google apps including the Webkit web browser, email, gmail, the Android Market, YouTube player, Gtalk with video chat, Google Books, Google Maps and Navigation, a calculator, PIM apps, a clock, camera and camcorder apps and Gallery.
The tablet has a 2 megapixel front video chat camera that works decently with Gtalk and a rear 5 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash that takes sharp photos and 720p video.
For streaming content, the Acer Iconia A100 supports Google Movie rentals (integrated into the Android Market), streaming TV episodes from TV networks using Adobe Flash but not Hulu (Hulu blocks mobile clients, though Hulu Plus is available for some mobile devices). It also works with Amazon Instant Video and Crackle.com (both use Adobe Flash). There's no Netflix, but we're hopeful it will arrive at some point since we're seeing it on other Tegra 2 Honeycomb tablets like the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 and Asus Eee Pad Transformer.
The Acer Iconia Tab A100 has two 1530 mAh Lithium Ion batteries (the A500 also has a dual battery configuration). 3,060 mAh is a bit lower than the 4,000 mAh battery used in the 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab or 5,000+ found in 10" tablets. With WiFi on, and display brightness set to 40% we found the tablet lasted 5.5 hours on a charge when playing casual games, browsing the web, playing a few YouTube videos, checking email and using social networking apps. That's about the same as the 7" Galaxy Tab, but shorter than the 4,000 mAh single core CPU HTC Flyer by almost 2 hours. We don't expect the same battery life from a 7" dual core Tegra 2 tablet as we get from a 10" tablet since the 10" has room for a larger battery, but we'd like to see closer to 7 hours from the Acer. The tablet charges very quickly, as a consolation.
Granted, the Acer Iconia Tab A100 currently has no competition in the 7" Android Honeycomb tablet market, but even if that weren't the case, we'd still recommend it. In fact, I bought one for myself. With a starting price of $329, this little tablet is extremely portable and it packs the power of a 10" Honeycomb tablet. It's very fast, has a bright and sharp display (albeit with weird viewing angles), is stable and it runs the latest version of Honeycomb. It handles Adobe Flash well, plays MPEG4 video like a champ, has a GPS and all the trimmings you'd expect from a tier 1 tablet. The battery life could be better though, and the viewing angles will be an issue for some folks.
Price: $329 for 8 gigs and $349 for 16 gigs
Above: the Acer Iconia Tab A100 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 7".
Below: the Vizio 8" Tablet and the Acer Iconia Tab A100.