Phone, Smartphone, Notebook and Gadget Reviews and buyers guide
Phone Notebooks & Tablets Gaming Gadgets iPhone & iPad Shop Forum


Home > Tablet Reviews > Acer Iconia Tab A500 and A501


Acer Iconia Tab A500

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating star
Carrier: N/A
Manufacturer: Acer
Discuss this product

What's hot: Attractive, solid materials, plenty of ports, relatively low price.

What's not: Can't play 1080p video.


Reviewed April 30, 2011 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Editor's Update, Jan. 2012: Be sure to check out our review of the newer Acer Iconia Tab A200 10" tablet.

The tablet floodgates are open, and the Motorola Xoom is no longer the only Android Honeycomb tablet on the market. Acer, whose strong suit is making a notebook with the same specs as tier 1 competitors and pricing it significantly lower, is doing the same thing with their first US Android tablet. The Iconia Tab A500 has very similar specs to the Motorola Xoom WiFi-only model, but it currently sells for $150 less ($450 vs. $599). The Xoom gives you a few improvements for your money like double the storage and dual band WiFi 802.11n, but Acer counters with a functioning microSD card slot and USB host capability (we're still waiting for a software update to enable the microSD card slot on the Xoom). We tested both the card slot (it worked fine with our 8 and 16 gig cards) and the USB host port (it worked with flash drives, keyboards but not external hard drives, mice or optical drives).

Acer Iconia Tab A500

As the 10.1" Android Honeycomb tablet space fills in, it looks like we'll see several products with nearly identical specs. That means quality, price, storage, 3G/4G options and display quality will be the main differentiators. Like the Xoom, Asus Eee Pad Transformer and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the A500 has a 1GHz dual core Tegra 2 CPU, a gig of RAM, HDMI out, front and rear cameras, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth and a GPS. It has 16 gigs of storage and no 3G/4G (the A501 will have AT&T 3G). Its capacitive multi-touch display looks nearly identical to the Xoom's and is bested by the IPS display on the even less expensive Eee Pad Transformer as well as the bright and vibrant Galaxy Tab 10.1 display. The X500 runs vanilla Android OS 3.01 Honeycomb with only the most minor customizations to the user interface such as folders with backgrounds for like-purpose apps such as eReading, Multimedia, Games and Social. Note: Acer issued an over-the-air free update to Android OS 3.1 in June 2011.

Acer Iconia Tab A500

Two 10"Android Honeycomb tablets: the Motorola Xoom and Acer A500.

The Acer Iconia A500 is an attractive tablet with a brushed aluminum finish and gray plastics that remind us of attractive TimeLineX notebooks like the Acer TimelineX 1830T. It doesn't look in the least bit cheap and feels lighter than its hefty 1.7lb. weight. Build quality overall is good, but we noted that on our Best Buy purchased unit the case doesn't meet as tightly on the lower and upper right corners as it does on the left. We also noted a few bugs including the device's about string saying it's an A501 (the AT&T version, which it most definitely is not), a bad habit of waking the display every few minutes (the wake-up bug was fixed in a firmware update) and a complete inability to play 1080p video at more than 10fps. Though it lacks 3G and there's no SIM card receptacle, cell standby uses a significant amount of idle power (also fixed in a firmware update). Acer also didn't bother to make two casing versions for the A500 and A501, so there is indeed a hole for a SIM card but don't put a card in there because there's no receptacle and the card will thus fall irretrievably inside the unit and rattle around. With these caveats in mind, the tablet still offers a lot of bang for the buck and is leap years ahead of no-name Android tablets sold at Best Buy and Fry's that run pre-Honeycomb Android versions, have even worse build quality and have murky displays. And we're pleased to see that Acer has been proactive about fixing bugs and issuing firmware updates.

Acer Iconia Tab A500

The non-functional SIM card slot with plastic tape removed and the microSD card slot.


Deals and Shopping:




Video Review

Here's our 17 minute Acer Iconia A500 video review. We test out gaming, video playback and more. We also compare the A500 to the iPad 2, Motorola Xoom and other tablets.



Acer Iconia Tab A501 Video Review

This is our video review of the AT&T 3G/4G HSPA+ version of the tablet, released in late September, 2011.


Design and Ergonomics

The Acer A500 is a classy looking tablet, though it's a bit larger than the Motorola Xoom (making things small raises costs). It's one of the heaviest 10" tablets, but it feels balanced and easy to hold, despite the weight. The power button is translucent plastic and indicates power status (a nice touch) and it's the only 10 incher Android tablet we've seen with a rotation lock hardware switch. The volume keys on the upper left edge are small but usable, and the Acer has a micro USB for file transfer, a full size USB port that works with low power peripherals like flash drives and USB keyboards, a micro HDMI port, 3.5mm stereo jack and a small charging port for the 12 volt, 1.5 amp charger. There's a plastic door up top that covers the microSD card slot and non-functioning SIM card slot (Acer puts a piece of gray tape over the SIM card slot). There's a large docking port on the bottom.

Stereo speakers fire from the rear (they have pretty good sound and clarity for a tablet) and they're enhanced with Dolby Mobile software. The rear 5MP camera lens lives under a large glass sheet and the front 2MP camera is oddly placed at the upper left of the bezel, so Google Talk video chat buddies can get a good look at your left ear. The rear camera has a single LED flash. Neither camera impressed us with its video or still shot quality, but we're not sure how many of you want to wave a 10", 1.7lb. tablet around as a viewfinder. The front camera did a good enough job with Google's video chat function inside of Google Talk. Talk looks as sharp as FaceTime, and you can chat not just with other Android Honeycomb and Gingerbread users, but anyone running Talk on a computer.


The Iconia Tab A500's capacitive multitouch Gorilla Glass display is sharp and decently colorful though not as saturated as IPS displays. Like the Motorola Xoom, we wish max brightness went higher since the display washes out a bit in very bright rooms (forget using it outdoors). The display resolution is 1280 x 800 (again, the same as other 10" Android Honeycomb tablets), making it perfect for working with Office documents, web browsing and 720p video playback. Viewing angles are good, and we had no trouble seeing the display with the tablet tilted at odd angles on our lap or when sharing the view of a video with a friend.

Performance and Software

The Iconia Tab A500 runs on the usual dual core 1GHz Tegra 2 CPU with hardware graphics acceleration. Like the Xoom and LG G-Slate, it has a gig of RAM and it ships with Android 3.01. We'd expect performance to be identical on Android 3 tablets with the same CPU and RAM, and the Acer benchmarked at 2042, just a few points higher than the other two. It scored 41 on Linpack, again putting it in the same league as the Moto and LG. Oddly, the Acer fell on its face in the graphics department, where it failed to play 1080p video (720p and lower are fine). It managed around 2-4fps with the same 1080p MPEG4 test clips that played perfectly on other Honeycomb tablets. Now there's not much of a point in playing 1080p video to the internal display since its native resolution only supports 720p, but this is a problem if you want to play 1080p out via the micro HDMI port. We're not sure what went wrong here, and we hope that Acer addresses the issue.

In terms of perceived performance, the Iconia A500 felt responsive and on-par with the Xoom and LG G-Slate. Like those tablets, the Iconia runs standard Honeycomb without user interface customizations, other than the folder groupings mentioned earlier. It comes with the standard suite of Google Android apps including Market, Maps, Navigation, Talk with video chat support, Gmail, email, calendar, contacts, Google Search, Gallery, Music and the camera application. Acer provides their own, LumiRead ebook reader (ePub and PDF but no side-loading), Media Server, MusicA (identifies music that's playing now), nemoPlayer (a one-stop place for photos, video and music playback) and Social Jogger which handles Twitter and Facebook. Documents to Go 3 is included for viewing but not creating or editing MS Office documents. For PDF viewing, you can download the free Adobe Reader from the Android Market--it's quite good other than lacking bookmarks. Demo games include Hero of Sparta HD, Let's Golf and Need for Speed Shift, all of which played smoothly (see our video review).

Acer Iconia A500

The iPad 2 and Acer Iconia Tab A500.

Wireless, Battery Life

The tablet has WiFi 802.11b/g/n single band 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 2.1+ EDR and a GPS that worked well with Google Maps. If you're hoping for a 3G version, AT&T should have the Tab out by this summer.

Battery life hasn't been good for us in standby mode due to the bug or hardware issue that turns the display on every minute or so for a second or two. Thus we can't provide accurate standby times. For usage time, our A500 managed just short of 7 hours continuous video playback time with a looping 720p MPEG4 video clip. That's shorter than the iPad 2 (10 hours) and Xoom (8.4 hours) but better than 7" tablets since there's room for more battery inside the Iconia. Acer states that there are two 3260 mAh Lithium Ion batteries sealed inside the unit. We didn't open it up to check out this configuration since there are no screws or obvious way to open up the tablet. The tablet ships with a 12v, 1.5 amp charger with a mini-barrel connector.


The Acer Iconia Tab A500 has a lot going for it, most notably the relatively low price to feature ratio. Acer has made an attractive tablet that doesn't look the least bit cheap, and the features are largely on par with tier 1 brands like Motorola, Samsung and LG. The A500 does suffer a bit from either (or both) early release bugs and quality control issues. But if you're on a budget and want a good quality, well-equipped Android tablet, you might be willing to overlook these. The microSD card slot and USB port add plenty of value for those who want easy file transfer or to use the tablet as a photo viewer and to give presentations. Our top picks are still the Motorola Xoom and LG G-Slate, but the Acer A500 is a strong affordable alternative.

Pro: Nice materials and attractive design, relatively low price, good specs. Has working microSD card slot and USB host port for flash drives, keyboards and mice.

Con: Our unit turned itself on every minute or so, can't play 1080p video, unused slot is covered only by tape.

Price: $449 for the A500 WiFi-only model. $329 with AT&T contract, $479 without contract for AT&T A501 model.


Acer Iconia A500



Acer Iconia A500



Acer Iconia A500



Acer Iconia A500



Acer Iconia A500


blog comments powered by Disqus




Display: 10.1" capacitive multi-touch color LCD. Corning Gorilla Glass. Resolution: 1280 x 800, supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer, has ambient light sensor.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Batteries are not user replaceable. Two 3260 mAh batteries.

Performance: NVIDIA Tegra 2 1GHz CPU with 1 gig RAM and 16 gigs internal flash storage.

Size: 10.25 x 7 x 0.56 inches. Weight: 1.7 pounds.

3G/4G: None.

Camera: 5 megapixel autofocus rear camera and 2 megapixel front video chat camera (works with Google Talk).

Audio: Built in stereo speakers with Dolby Mobile software, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b/g/n (single band n 2.4GHz) and Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR.

Software: Android OS 3.0 Honeycomb. Google apps: search, voice search, Maps, Navigation, Places, Gmail, Email, web browser, Gtalk with video chat, Books (Google ebook reader), Gallery, YouTube, Music, Clock, Calculator, Contacts, Calendar and Latitude. Third party apps: Need for Speed Shift, Let's Golf, Hero of Sparta HD, Documents to Go 3 MS Office viewer, LumiRead ebook reader app by Acer, nemoPlayer,, MusicA, Media Server and Social Jogger.

Expansion: 1 SDHC microSD card slot.


All Phone Reviews
Smartphone Reviews
Android Phone Reviews
Windows Phone Reviews
HTC Phone Reviews
LG Phone Reviews
Motorola Phone Reviews
Nokia Phone Reviews
Samsung Phone Reviews
Sony Phone Reviews
AT&T Phone Reviews
Sprint Phone Reviews
T-Mobile Phone Reviews
Verizon Phone Reviews
Unlocked GSM Phone Reviews


All Tablet Reviews
Android Tablet Reviews
Tablet Comparisons
Android Tablet Comparisons



Laptop Reviews
Ultrabook Reviews
Laptop Comparisons
Best Ultrabooks



Bluetooth Headsets
iPhone and iPad Accessories
eBook Readers

iPhone Game Reviews
iPad Game Reviews

iPhone Case Reviews
iPad Case Reviews


RSS News Feed

About Us

Contact Us


Site Map