We really like the Motorola Xoom 10.1" Android tablet, but the price isn't easy to swallow. Acer, whose game in the notebook world is making a fairly solid product for less than all the major manufacturers, is doing it now with tablets. In terms of specs, the Acer A500 matches the Motorola Xoom WiFi-only model, but it costs $150 less. There are two important spec differences to keep in mind as you think about those 150 clams: the Acer has 16 gigs of storage vs. the Xoom's 32 gigs, and the Xoom has dual band WiFi 802.11n while the Acer has single band WiFi 802.11n on 2.4GHz only (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, you probably don't care if it has dual band n).
The display is nearly identical in terms of quality and brightness to the Xoom. That means it's a sharp and fairly colorful display but you can't crank it up really bright... a bummer if you're in a sunlit room or other particularly bright and cheery place. The resolution is 1280 x 800, and it has micro HDMI out that mirrors the internal panel.
The tablet is powered by the usual Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core 1GHz CPU with a gig of RAM. It benchmarks similarly to the Motorola Xoom and LG G-Slate with the same config, but we found the Acer didn't handle 1080p video playback well... odd.
There are front and rear cameras (2 and 5MP) that are decent but not exceptional, a GPS, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and a 3260 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. The Iconia Tab A500 has a micro SD card slot that's actually enabled (hello, Moto- where's our software update to enable the micro SD card slot?), and a piece of tape covers the SIM card slot. Clearly the A500 and AT&T version (the A501) will share the same casing. But be warned, there's no actual SIM card receptacle below that slot, so don't go literally dropping your SIM card slot in there, OK? You won't get it out again and it will make annoying rattling sounds forever.
The A500 is available now for $449 at Best Buy and other retailers. Were Best Buy to have stock of the Asus Eee Transformer, things could get mighty exciting in terms of mid-priced Android tablet competition.
Here's our 17 minute Acer Iconia Tab A500 video review, with full review to follow soon:
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview