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Acer Iconia Tab A210

Testing Methodology

Thankfully, there are a plethora of benchmarks with which to objectively measure the performance of Android tablets. We’ll be looking at some of the most widely used, which typically return results about a tablet’s CPU and I/O performance (which looks at how well it can crunch through weighty programs and handle multitasking), its graphical performance (which is a good indicator of performance in 3D games) and its browsing and javascript performance (which, fairly obviously, will affect how quickly you can surf the interwebs).

Benchmarks used:

  • Quadrant (CPU/web/graphics performance)
  • Vellamo Web (for web performance) and Metal (CPU/IO performance)
  • GLBenchmark (graphics performance)
  • Sunspider (web performance)
  • Linpack (CPU performance)
  • Browsermark (web performance)

But of course, it’s not all about synthetic benchmarks. We’ll also see how well the A210 has fared in everyday use over the last two weeks, in typical use cases like gaming, media, web browsing and writing. Without further ado, let’s get into the results.

 

Real-World Results

Hardware

The Acer Iconia Tab A210 was curious to use after spending a few months with the Nexus 7. As you’d guess from two tablets that share a chipset, they feel almost identical in performance. Tegra 3 is still a brilliant chipset in my book, although the novelty of quad-cores has been slightly lessened over the past year. I’d say that the Nexus 7 has the edge in terms of snappiness thanks to Android 4.1, but Android 4 is still a massive improvement over its predecessors and works well enough on the A210.

When you look at the two tablets in terms of hardware, they’re pretty much dead even – with two exceptions. The first is in connectivity – the A210 has microSD storage, which you can use to augment the tablet with an addition 32 GB. That’s brilliant for things like music and movies, as you can quickly copy your files from your PC onto the card, and you don’t have to worry about filling up the internal storage. The A210 also has a full size USB port, meaning you can plug in a USB drive or peripherals like a mouse, keyboad or joystick. While the Nexus 7 could do this via an adapter, having a full size USB port is a welcome convenience. Sadly, there’s no added HDMI-out or MHL port – this was missing from the Nexus 7 and hurt the tablet’s use as a media device, and the omission is similarly felt here.

The A210 also uses a proprietary connector to charge rather than accomplishing the feat over micro USB. That’s a mixed bag to be honest, as while having a dedicated power port means you’ll never have to choose between connecting a peripheral or charging, you also can’t use a wide range of cables and other accessories. This is aggrevated by the charger supplied in the box, which is ridiculously short – perhaps two feet long. If the tablet charged over micro USB this wouldn’t be a problem; you could easily swap the cable out for a longer one or plug in an extension. As it stands however, I simply can’t charge my tablet and use it at the same time in my bed, at my desk at work or in the hostel – there simply isn’t a socket near enough.

The next big difference is that of form factor — fairly obvious, but it makes a different to how you use a tablet. The 7″ Nexus 7 weighs little and fits easily in almost any bag, where the A210 demands the laptop space in my backpack and is noticeably heavier when I’m hiking around. The two tablets have remarkably similar chassis, with both sporting a soft touch back that makes holding onto it easily. With the Nexus 7 this is actually something you can do one-handed, buit with the A210 the weight fairly demands two hands for extended use. Thankfully though, the A210 does feel equally well constructed without feeling massively bulky.

Despite having a screen nearly triple the size of the Nexus 7’s, the A210 still has the same resolution – 1280 x 800. That’s, in my eyes, the first acceptable resolution for a device these days, as it means you can watch 720p HD content at a 1:1 pixel ratio (albeit with black bars). While the pixel density is accordingly much lower, the quality of the screen is about the same and the extra size makes watching from a distance easier — while the Nexus 7 is a one person device, you can and should use the A210 to watch a video with a group of friends. While it would have been great to see a proper 1920 x 1200 display, you can see why Acer are reserving that particular stat for their premium A700 flagship. Overall, I wasn’t as much of a pixel density snob as I thought and I generally picked the A210 when I wanted to watch a video.

For gaming, I found the A210 a bit hit and miss. While more laid back games like Plants vs Zombies fill the screen nicely and you can proceed at a leisurely pace, anything frantic like Dead Trigger, Strikeforce Omega or Marbles in Wanderland is much more tiring to play on a larger display – your swipes need to be much bigger and faster to keep up. Still, the Tegra 3 chipset still performs admirably in even the most graphically intense titles, making the A210 a good choice for gamers.

Software

Surprisingly, when you look at the A210 in software it’s close to that Nexus ideal. The tablet runs Android 4, which is again the first good version of Android and the minimum I’d expect to see these days, and unlike HTC and Samsung Acer have shown remarkable restraint in adding their own rubbish. Indeed, almost all of the changes are meaningful additions.

Probably the most obvious is the Acer Ring, which is activated by clicking on the circle icon in the middle of the toolbar at the bottom. This pops up with a ring that allows you to launch your favourite applications or visit your bookmarks. It’s a nice visual flourish that I actually found myself using, particularly as it was accessible within applications as well. The ring even includes a screenshot function by default, which is dead useful when you’re reviewing a tablet!

The lock screen has seen similar changes – from here, you can swipe right to unlock, and left to launch one of four custom applications. All of these options are customisable, and it’s a useful extension.

Finally, Acer have bundled in their own special brand of shovelware applications. While there are a good half-dozen extra applications layered on top of vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich, one or two are useful and all of the rest can be disabled if not uninstalled. Of course, rooting your tablet will solve these problems but I didn’t feel like crossing that particular bridge over the course of this review.

So yeah – while Acer haven’t added anything particularly ground-breaking, they’ve kept the overall look and feel pretty close to stock Android, and that’s how I like it. The biggest feature request I have is an upgrade to Android 4.1, but Acer have traditionally been pretty okay at upgrades so hopefully we’ll see that extra speed boost sometime in the future.

About The Author
William Judd
Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @wsjudd or on G+.