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Acer Iconia Tab A700 review

Acer Iconia Tab A700
The Acer Iconia Tab A700 is the 1080p companion to Acer's quad core Android OS 4.0 Iconia Tab A510. It shares the same design, casing, quad core NVidia Tegra 3 CPU with 12 core GeForce GPU and a 10.1" LED backlit LCD. The A700's impressive 1920 x 1200 resolution sets it apart from most other Android tablets on the market that run at 1280 x 800 resolution. The A510 impressed us with its top notch CPU, pleasing display and USB peripheral support, and the A700 is all that plus a sharp high res display.


Design 


The A700 is a dead ringer for the A510 and in fact looks much like the Acer Iconia Tab A200 (Acer's budget 10.1" offering) with more ports. The design is rubbery-rugged: the back has a soft touch finish and the 0.40" tablet is by no means thin but it feels good in hand and the added girth allows for the same 9800 mAh battery capacity found in the A510. The tablet weighs 1.47 pounds and that's not so heavy that we'd dock major points but it certainly doesn't earn points. The textured soft touch back and straight sides make it easy and comfortable to hold, though your hands may tire after an hour of use (the same is true of many of last year's 10" Android tablets). There are no abrupt or sharp edges to dig into your palms and the tablet feels solid.

We find ourselves wishing for an updated design that matches the high end specs and full HD display. This is the third Acer tablet to sport the chunky but comfortable design and it just doesn't say "high class, trendy technology" the way the New iPad, Asus Transformer Infinity TF700 and Toshiba Excite 10 do. We forgave the A510 for looking like its cheaper brother the A200 because Acer managed to squeeze a huge battery and impressive internals into the casing, but we're more than ready for a thinner and lighter revision with more panache.
Like the Acer Iconia Tab A510 the bottom right rear corner gets hot when playing demanding 3D games. There's a small hotspot (0.25" diameter) that reached 108F when we played Dark Meadow for 15 minutes. The surrounding area is 95F and it gets gradually cooler from there. The soft touch finish diminishes heat so it doesn't feel dangerously hot as aluminum might, but it did give us a sweaty hand.
Stereo speakers fire from the bottom edge and they're particularly loud and full for a tablet. They get some help from Dolby Mobile 3 audio, and this is one of the few tablets that doesn't send us running for headphones or external speakers when watching a 2 hour movie.
The tablet has a multipurpose charging port at the bottom that also accepts the included micro USB to USB host cable for USB peripherals. The charger tip is notched to prevent you from using it with your smartphone or other device because the output voltage and amperage is quite high so it can charge the big battery inside. The tablet has 32 gigs of internal storage and a microSD card slot under a door on the right side. There's a blank slot beside the SD card slot for a SIM card holder should Acer offer a 3G/4G version. Our model is WiFi-only.
The micro HDMI port lives on the right side too, and the power button and 3.5mm audio jack are on the left side. The volume controls are up top, and they have dots so you can tell volume up from volume down by feel. The rotation lock sensor is located next to the volume controls. The controls are rattle-free and are easy to operate but not easy to accidentally press. The front video chat camera is slightly off center toward the right above the display and the rear 5MP camera is dead center near the top of the tablet's back.

Display
You're here to read about the Acer A700's high resolution display, so let's cut to the chase. Yes, the display is very sharp thanks to all those pixels packed into a 10.1" LCD. At 224 ppi pixel density, it is a bit lower than the New iPad's 264 ppi, but still more pixels than many of us can examine easily with the naked eye. Thanks to Android's dpi scaling, text isn't micro-sized and in fact icons and text are the same size as on standard 1280 x 800 tablets. Those words and icons simply look sharper and more perfectly defined, making the Acer Iconia Tab A700 a great choice for eagle-eyed eBook and PDF users. Text rivals that of the New iPad and images look likewise equally as sharp though colors aren't quite as vibrant.
Viewing angles are very wide, though this isn't an IPS display. Off-angle sharing when watching videos works just fine and brightness is more than adequate for indoor use, though it can't rival the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 and Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 for outdoor viewing and brightness (these tablets have Asus' Super IPS + display. Colors are rich and balanced, without an obvious color cast. Since this is full HD display, you can watch 1080p videos at native resolution with no scaling, and they do indeed look very sharp. The tablet handles 1080p MPEG4 high profile content just fine, and YouTube streaming is a breeze.
Touch response, despite Acer's uncommon touch sensitivity setting option, is poor. Particularly at the edges of the screen, touches too often go unregistered. We died in games all too often because of this, and it can make the tablet seem slow. It's not always a speed issue; it's the touchscreen's failure to respond to touch quickly.

Software
Once again, we're looking at the same software bundle as the Acer Iconia Tab A510. The tablet runs Android OS 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich with very little UI customization (we rarely see much UI customization on Android ICS tablets). 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.

Specs:
- 1.3GHz NVidia Tegra 3 T30S quad core CPU with GeForce graphics
- 1 gig DDR2 RAM, 32 gigs storage
- 10.1", 1920 x 1200 multi-touch display
- WiFi 802.11b/g/n (single band), Bluetooth and GPS
- 2MP front camera and 5MP rear camera
- 9800 mAh Lithium Ion battery, 36.26 Wh, 2 cell
- USB host for USB peripherals (cable included)
- Android OS 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
- Ports: micro USB (with USB host), micro HDMI, micro SD card slot, 3.5mm audio
- Colors: available in silver and black colors
- $449 US

Cameras

Guess how good the cameras are on the A700. Go ahead, guess.
If you guessed "pretty much exactly the same as every other tablet camera," you win. The 5-megapixel rear shooter is faster than most tablet cameras, but the results are the same noisy, grainy, soft photos I'm all too accustomed to. I'd wish for a sensor like the 41-megapixel shooter inside the Nokia 808 PureView, but no matter the prowess of the camera I can't imagine taking a lot of important pictures with a tablet. The A700's camera is fine for taking pictures of menus or wine labels and saving them to Evernote, or for taking the occasional shot to upload to Instagram, and that's really all I need it to be.
You can shoot 1080p, 720p, or VGA video with the A700, and it's a different story with the same ending: soft, grainy, noisy, and generally not very good even in the best of situations. Given the size and weight of this (and any) tablet, it's hard to hold still while you shoot video, which means you're going to get some really shaky footage as well.
The front-facing, 720p camera (that's less than one megapixel) is good enough to work for video chat or checking your hair, but that's it. The lens is located about two inches off-center, which makes framing your face in the shot oddly difficult — though you'll get some unintentional rule-of-thirds framing with the lens where it is.
Battery Life
Like the A510, the Acer A700 has excellent battery life. The huge 9800 mAh Lithium Ion battery makes for better than average runtimes. Our tablet typically lasts 10 to 10.5 hours of actual use time on a charge, and that translates into several days on a charge with moderate use.

Wrap-up

The Iconia Tab A700's display isn't in the same class as the iPad, but it's certainly among the best Android tablet screens yet to hit the market. Paired with otherwise solid performance and a decent-if-boring design, there's a lot to like about Acer's latest tablet. At $449, you're nearly in iPad territory, and unless you're completely committed to Android it's hard to recommend the A700 over a new iPad or even an iPad 2, which offer equally good performance, far superior app ecosystems, and in the new iPad's case an even better display.
In the Android market, there's a clear new leader as well. The Nexus 7 has a better design than the A700, equals its performance, comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and has a seriously appealing $199 price tag. Every Android tablet now has to justify its purchase over Google's halo tablet, and has to prove it's worth whatever extra cost is associated. A 1080p screen goes a long way, but it's not worth doubling the price tag. This is Acer's best tablet yet, without question, but it's not quite enough to get me excited about the idea of buying an Iconia Tab.