Design and Ergonomics
This isn't an uber-skinny tablet, but we don't mind because it's actually comfortable to hold and grip. The rubbery backside (available in deep red or dark gray) is easy to hold, though not chic. The Acer A200 feels and works like a tablet that was meant to be held and used rather than look pretty. The sides are curved for good ergonomics, and ports are located for easy access. The only thing we don't like is the speaker placement: the stereo speakers are at the lower corners where you'll likely grip it in landscape mode. And these speakers are already terribly volume-challenged. You'll need wired or Bluetooth headphones to enjoy music or videos. The 3.5mm jack sounds a bit bass-heavy to our ears, but most folks enjoy plenty of bass these days. Volume is acceptable using wired and Bluetooth audio gear. The mic is happily much better than the Iconia A500's, and we were easily heard over Skype.
The charger has a barrel tip and is the same wall wart charger that's used on prior Acer Android tablets. That means the side micro USB port is available for use when charging, which we like. A full size USB 2.0 port lives on the upper left side (when held in landscape mode), and the microSD card slot and reset hole live under a plastic door on the left side. The tablet doesn't support USB charging.
The 0.48" thick tablet won't win design awards, but it's not bad looking and feels sturdy. The back has a textured pattern and it shows some fingerprints but is easily cleaned with damp cloth and a tiny bit of soft soap, as is the display. The display has decent but not IPS caliber viewing angles, with none of the peculiarities of the Acer Iconia Tab A100 7" Android tablet. Colors are good and brightness is fine for indoor use, but it fades in very bright light and outdoors. It looks good for video watching and photo viewing, as long as you're not in an extremely bright room where the just average brightness and glossy screen glare detract.
Gaming and Video Playback
The Tegra 2 does well with 3D games, thanks to Nvidia's involvement and promotion of Tegra Zone games. The Acer Iconia Tab A200 does a fine job with Tegra Zone games like Riptide, Grand Theft Auto III, Dungeon Defenders and Shine Runner (see our video demo using a USB game controller below). But the Tegra 2 usually falls short when it comes to playing high profile 720p and 1080p video thanks to less than stellar 2D acceleration. Happily, the Acer has better codecs and drivers, so it can play 720p high profile H.264 MPEG video fine, and it can play 1080p standard profile video competently. Since the tablet has a 720p display and no HDMI out, 1080p high profile content that plays with dropped frames isn't much of an issue unless you're using DLNA WiFi streaming to an HD TV to play videos. If you want to watch Netflix and YouTube streaming video, the Acer Iconia A200 is a fine choice, and it can handle 720p standard and high profile locally stored MPEG4 content but not 1080p high profile MPEG4 content where it drops frames but does much better than the Acer Iconia Tab A500 that played 1080p high profile at 2-4 fps.
CPU and Performance
Acer Iconia Tab A200 Benchmarks:
Linpack multi-thread: 53
The tablet has the usual 1 gig of RAM and is available with 8 or 16 gig of storage. Given the mere $20 difference between the 8 and 16 gig versions, we heartily recommend the 16 gig model. The tablet has a microSD card slot under a plastic door on the side, and it's compatible with cards up to 32 gigs in capacity. You can also use flash drives and external hard drives to expand storage.
The tablet is a good gamer, and you can use it with USB game controllers. We tested the XBOX wired controller and it worked great with GTA III and OnLive. In our video below we tested it using a Logitech USB controller (a Playstation Dual Shock clone).
Acer claims the 2 cell battery sealed inside the tablet is good for 8 hours of use. While that won't break any tablet records, it's acceptable and ours manages 7 hours with brightness set at 50% and WiFi on with mixed use that includes web, email, streaming Netfix video for an hour and playing a few YouTube videos.
Acer pre-loads Netflix, Adobe Flash, VirusScan, SoundHound, Documents to Go (an MS Office viewer, you can upgrade to get edit and create abilities or buy another Office compatible suite for $20 or so), Evernote, Zinio (a very attractive magazine app) and the full suite of Google apps such as Android Market, Maps, Navigation, YouTube, Google+, Gmail, email and the web browser. Acer apps include AUPEO! (online radio), clear.fi, Media Server (DLNA server) and SocialJogger for social networking with Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. There's also a Voice Recorder app and a link to buy Gameloft HD games available for purchase. Acer's DLNA apps work well, but keep in mind that most of the third party apps are freely available on the Android Market, so aren't exactly a value-added (the same is true of many other Android tablets' software bundles).
For the price, we really like the Acer Iconia Tab A200. Acer's doing a good job of chasing the affordable and entry level market with their tablets, and we can see the A200 selling well in Walmart where the Iconia A500 once reigned king. The tablet is sturdy, has a decent capacitive display that's fine for indoor viewing, solid Tegra 2 performance and a full size USB port and 8 or 16 gigs of storage plus microSD card expansion. It's not razor thin, but it's comfortable to hold thanks to its more ample girth and grippy back. At 1.5 lbs., you'll notice the weight after 30 minutes of use vs. lighter tablets like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad 2. If you're in the market for an affordable tablet that's upgradable to Ice Cream Sandwich, the A200 is worth a look as long as you don't want a rear camera or HDMI port and can live with the whisper-quiet speakers.
Price: $329 for 8 gig model, $349 for 16 gig model