Windows 8 tablets that compete with the iPad and Android 10" tablets: where have you been? We had Microsoft's own Surface RT tablet and the not widely popular Asus Transformer RT and that was it for Windows RT and Windows 8's launch on October 26, 2012. We've seen touch screen Ultrabooks, full size laptops and convertibles that morph from tablet to Ultrabook like the Sony Vaio Duo 11, Dell XPS 12 and the somewhat larger Lenovo IdeaPad yoga 13, but 1.5 lbs. or under 10" to 11.6" pure slate tablets, not so much. Especially ones that play in the iPad and top tier Android tablets' starting price range of $499. After a delay for some bug fixes and driver tweaks, Intel Atom-based small tablets with lower price tags are finally on the market. Some, like the Samung ATIV 500T are a bit pricey at $649 and up and also a bit larger than mobile OS tablets.
The Acer Iconia W510 is a 1.3 lb., 10.1", 1366 x 768 resolution Windows 8 tablet that runs on a dual core Intel Atom 1.8GHz CPU with 2 gigs of RAM. This is full Windows 8, and that means it can run Windows 7 programs (x.86 apps) just like your current laptop or desktop. But this is the Atom CPU of netbook fame (albeit a zippier Clover Trail Z2760 version), and that means it won't run applications as fast as a recent machine running on Intel Core i5 or non-netbook AMD CPUs. Still, you can run those precious apps like Adobe Photoshop, Windows Media Player and more as long as you don't mind a little lag here and there. You can also install drivers for USB peripherals like 3G/4G USB modems, printers and anything else you can think of. That's versatile!
The W510 starts at $499 for the 32 gig model, though we heartily suggest you get the $599 64 gig model because the 32 gig version has only 11 to 14 gigs of available space. That's not much if you plan to install Windows 7 apps. You can load multimedia files on a microSD card since the tablet has a microSD card slot. It also has a micro USB 2.0 port with dongle that adapts it to a full size USB port, micro HDMI port and a combo 3.5mm audio jack. For those who love the detachable keyboard dock concept, there's a bundle that includes Acer's keyboard dock with island style keyboard, trackpad, USB port and secondary battery. That bundle starts at $750 to $799 and we haven't found the dock sold separately for those who buy just the tablet first.
The Acer Iconia W510 has dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 +HS and NFC but no GPU. It does not have built-in 3G/4G data, though you can use it you're your smartphone's mobile hotspot feature or a dedicated mobile hotspot. There's a front 2MP video chat camera centered above the display that works well with Skype and a rear 8MP camera with LED flash that takes decent photos and 1080p video using Acer's Crystal Eye app and terrible photos with the included Microsoft camera app. Shutter lag is abysmal in the otherwise capable Crystal Eye app. The IPS display is very sharp and well suited to the display size and price point.
The casing is made of plastic, but it doesn't look cheap or cheesy thanks to Acer's clean design. There's little flex and you have to press hard to make it creak. We have no complaints, especially given the price and features. All told, it's a very capable Windows 8 tablet that can handle light x86 Windows app use and is more than capable to run Live Tile apps that are built-in or downloaded from the MS app Store. For those of you who love the MS Surface RT form factor and weight, the 1.3 lb., 0.35" thick Acer Iconia W510 adds the ability to run Windows 7 apps, and that's a key feature at this price range and size.