The Acer Iconia Tab A510 has the usual 1280 x 800 resolution display, and though it's not IPS, it has very good viewing angles and good brightness (320 nits, which puts it a little bit ahead of the 300 nit Asus Transformer Pad TF300). The tablet is plenty bright enough for indoor use and is viewable outdoors in the shade, but it can't combat direct sunlight (look to the 600 nit brightness Transformer Prime for that or the Motorola XYBoard 10.1). The display has a cool color cast, and that means blues are stronger and whites look bright white though not blue-white as they do on some Super AMOLED Plus Samsung displays. The new iPad, Asus Transformer Prime and Transformer Pad TF300 are warmer and more neutral. If you're interested in an even higher resolution display, check out our review of the Acer Iconia Tab A700 with a 1920 x 1200 display.
Our retail purchased review unit has no dead pixels and there's no light bleed to speak of. Colors are rich and we really enjoyed using this tablet for watching videos, viewing photos and reading. Contrast is high but not stark, and blacks are deep when watching videos. Though the Acer doesn't have a super high DPI Retina Display like the new iPad, we found reading using the Kindle and Nook apps easy on the eyes with good text clarity and whites that look white.
The auto-brightness function works well, and doesn't stray annoyingly far to the dark side. Though the Tegra 3 and GeForce GPU support dynamic range switching to save power (the display dims when white backgrounds are active), it doesn't seem that Acer uses this feature. We're glad because that feature degrades image quality without sufficient improvement to battery life.
Screen sensitivity is average, and there's a setting that allows you to select from three levels of touch sensitivity (the middle setting is the default). Acer goes with the large font option for the system wide font setting, while other tablets use the "normal" setting, but you can change this to suit your tastes.
Performance and Horsepower
The quad core Nvidia Tegra 3 T30 with fifth low power companion core and 12 core GeForce Graphics processor are currently top of the line for Android tablets. When Qualcomm's dual core S4 Krait CPU hits tablets (it's currently just appearing on smartphones), it will probably give the Tegra 3 a run for the money, but the number of cores and Nvidia's reputation for graphics processors will probably get the public's attention for some time.
The Acer Iconia Tab A510 is every bit as fast as the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, the first Tegra 3 tablet by many months. In fact, it's a bit faster because we didn't suffer the pauses and "wait/force close" dialogs that we get on the Prime. In terms of synthetic benchmarks, they're nearly identical, with the Acer leading by just a tiny bit in graphics. The Acer A510 bests the slower clocked Asus TF300 by a consistent but small margin in synthetic benchmarks. Unlike Asus Tegra 3 tablets, there are no user-accessible speed settings for the CPU and GPU.
Currently, the A510 and the Prime (along with the slightly slower Transformer Pad TF300) are the fastest Android tablets on the market. They're all fast enough that you won't likely feel like they're slow or outdated a year from now. Android isn't often CPU-bound if you've got a decent dual core CPU let alone a quad core CPU. The Acer has the usual 1 gig of DDR2 RAM and 32 gigs of internal flash storage. It has a microSD card slot if you wish to expand storage, and microSD card content automatically appears in Gallery and other apps making for seamless storage expansion.
Sound and Multimedia
No more anemic audio from Acer tablets, the Iconia Tab A510 has robust stereo speakers with Dolby Mobile sound, and they're loud by tablet standards and reasonably full. Good stuff. While I'd never choose a tablet's built in speakers for music playback given a choice between them, headphones or external wired/Bluetooth speakers, the sound is pleasing for video sound tracks. It certainly beats the mono iPad and poorly located dual speaker setup on Asus 10" tablets.
The tablet can play 720p and 1080p high profile MPEG4 video handily, and it can output that 1080p with 5.1 audio (we tested it by plugging the Iconia A510 into our Sony receiver via micro HDMI). The tablet supports MPEG4 and AVI, and if you need other formats, there are third party video players on the market that add support for additional formats and codecs.
Audio input via the built-in mics has improved from Acer's first Android tablet, the Acer Iconia Tab A500. We found the built in mic worked decently with the voice recorder (we noted some flanged sound but voice was still clear) and for Skype. You can use the combo 3.5mm stereo headphone/mic jack for Skype conversations and the front video chat camera delivered decent video. When recording video, the mic picked up a full array of ambient sounds, including small birds chirping in the distance, which is both good and rare.
Expandability and Special Features like USB Host
The iPad 2 and New iPad might seem to have a strangle hold on the world of tablets, but the Iconia Tab A510 fights back with Android's strong points: computer-like versatility and expandability. The tablet has a microSD card slot to augment the 32 gigs of internal storage and a micro USB port with USB host capability. That means you can use USB peripherals with the Iconia Tab A510: keyboards, mice, USB flash drives, game controllers and even portable hard drives. Acer goes one step extra and includes a USB host cable in the box, since those are hard to find in stores. And yes, the tablet supports NTFS, for those of you who want to use external hard drives formatted NTFS. External storage support is excellent, from microSD cards to flash drives and NTFS self powered-hard drives. The various storage items appear in third party file managers (not just the built-in file manager as with Asus tablets) and their contents automatically appear in Gallery (photos and video) and Google Play Music. The Acer lacks Asus' USB Ethernet adapter driver, alas.
WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS
We don't usually have to dedicate a section to wireless, because it works well on most devices. Thanks to the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime and its GPS and WiFi troubles, these wireless radios suffer scrutiny, but we're happy to report they work well on the Acer A510. WiFi reception is very good, with virtually no throughput speed falloff 25 feet from the router. The 802.11b/g/n single band WiFi radio managed a strong signal at various distances from our 802.11n network and matched our promised ISP's speeds up to 40 feet from the access point with a wall in between. The tablet switches between bridged WiFi routers (wireless network extenders) quickly and smoothly (many tablets don't).
The GPS managed to get a fix with WiFi off in 20 seconds indoors and in less than 6 seconds with WiFi on. That's good for a mobile device working without aGPS assistance. Keep in mind that you'll either need to pre-load maps or use the mobile hotspot feature on your smartphone or a MiFi to download map data on the go since the tablet lacks 3G/4G to download maps when away from a WiFi access point.
WiFi tablets generally have decent battery life, but the Acer Iconia Tab A510 just won't quit. The absolutely huge 9800 mAh Lithium Ion battery and refreshingly power frugal Tegra 3 make for class-leading runtimes. Our tablet typically lasts 10 to 11 hours of actual use time on a charge, and that translates into several days on a charge with moderate use. Acer claims up to 12 hours of video playback time or 15 hours of general use, but with brightness set to 50% and WiFi on, we saw less. Turn off WiFi and set screen brightness low, and we assume you'll get an hour more.
The tablet comes pre-loaded with Android OS 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich. Like most Android tablets, the user interface is standard Android without customization. Acer adds their Ring launcher (the bull’s eye on the bottom task bar). Tap it and you’ve got quick access to four apps of your choosing, browser bookmarks, volume and search. Acer also includes their dLNA client and server for streaming multimedia over your WiFi network, and Acer Print for wireless printing over WiFi (sweet!).
Polaris Office for tablets is on board, and it has a lovely UI and the ability to view, create and edit MS Office compatible documents. VirusScan Mobile is pre-installed and isn’t removable though you can disable it. Honestly, we feel that it takes up CPU cycles and isn’t really necessary, but should a virus outbreak hit ICS, it might be comforting. And yes, like all Android tablets, it can handle Adobe Flash, which is a free download from the Google Play Market.
Tablet cameras rarely please us. It's not that we think it's awkward or silly to have a rear camera on a tablet; rather the quality generally disappoints. The Acer Iconia Tab A510 is no exception: it shoots passable but unremarkable photos and decent 1080p video with better than average audio. There's no flash and we assume this isn't a fast lens, so low light photos have noise. Outdoors shots are reasonable, though they're nowhere as good as the HTC Jetstream, the tablet with the best camera as of this writing.
The front 1MP camera is good enough for video chat, and our Skype partners reported we were easy to understand and we looked passably sharp and colorful.
We really like the Acer Iconia Tab A510 Android tablet. It's running the latest OS on what's currently the fastest CPU, the Tegra 3 T30. It's fast (aside from Android's occasional hiccups), more stable than other ICS tablets we've tested so far and it should be reasonably future proof. The tablet can handle 1080p video playback, Tegra Zone games and anything else you throw at it.
The tablet feels marvelous in hand, and battery life is exceptional. Demanding users will love the microSD card expansion, HDMI out and USB host feature with cable included. As a computer replacement, the Iconia Tab A510 holds up, even if there's no matching keyboard dock available. Grab a Bluetooth mobile keyboard, and you're ready to tackle image transfer from your camera, MS Office documents, movie watching, web browsing and email.
$449 $429 for the 32 gig WiFi model.
Asus Transformer Pad TF300 Review
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime Review
Acer Iconia Tab A200 (dual core, 10.1" ICS Android tablet)