Acer Iconia Tab A700

With the recent introduction of Google’s Nexus 7, Android tablets have reached a bit of a crossroads. To the right lies the current trend of beefed up specs and raw computing power; on the left lies the newly-blazed trail of “content as king.” Ask Google and it will say that its latest project is the face of how Android tablets should proceed, though unfortunately for tablet makers, that news hasn’t quite made it down the pike yet.

Take for example Acer, a company that has focused solely on specs for its Android tablets, and thus hasn’t been able to garner the attention that its competitors enjoy. Any maybe the reason for this is its lack of innovation: sure, you can put the latest and greatest processor and display on a tablet, but does that really make it unique enough to catch a consumer’s eye? Acer’s latest attempt at attracting people’s attention is the Iconia Tab A700, the 10-inch successor to its first venture, the Iconia A500. But has Acer done any innovating here?  Unfortunately, the A700 is the same Android tablet you’ve seen time and time again from nearly every Android manufacturer under the sun. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re a hardcore Android fan, but it’s far from being a good thing for those who have yet to jump onto the Android tablet bandwagon.


The Good

The Iconia Tab A700 ships with cutting-edge specs, as well as a nearly-stock Ice Cream Sandwich experience. Its 1900 x 1200 resolution display is one of the best you'll find on an Android tablet today, and offers amazing color clarity and viewing angles.

The Bad

Despite its Tegra 3 processor, the A700's performance is remarkably subpar. Touch sensitivity is poor, and lag makes using the A700 an exercise in patience. The A700's design is already last-generation.

Conclusion

Those looking for one of the best displays on an Android tablet today do not have to look any further. Though despite its HD screen, the A700 suffers from poor performance and an uninspired design. With the Nexus 7 days away, it's nearly impossible to recommend an already-dated tablet to someone who cares about getting their money's worth.

Inside this review

More info

The Iconia Tab A700 hardware

Acer Iconia Tab A700

The Iconia A700 is, bluntly put, the same old 10-inch Android tablet that we’ve all seen time and time again, at least on the outside. The overall design is as attractive as it is uninspired, bringing to mind the A500 and countless other 10-inch tablets that have come and gone. Considering what its competitors have come up with in recent memory, the A700 is on the bulky side at 659 grams, though I’d stop short of calling it obese. To be fair, there is nothing overly unattractive about the A700, though in the same breath, there is nothing overly unique.

Acer Iconia Tab A700

The A700’s volume rocker and lock switch are located on the top of the device, while the bottom is home to two Dolby surround-sound speakers. Volume is loud and fairly clear, but I wouldn’t say the speakers’ performance does Dolby any justice (though in-ear performance is admirable.) This system might be slightly above average, but sticking a Dolby sticker on there was more of a marketing ploy than an indicator of performance. I’m still waiting to be blown away by a tablet’s sound—I humbly believe sound is the next thing manufacturers have to focus on, as display innovation is already getting a bit long in the tooth. Galaxy Tab Boombox, anyone?

Acer Iconia Tab A700 Acer Iconia Tab A700 Acer Iconia Tab A700  Acer Iconia Tab A700

The left side of the tablet houses the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack; across the street you’ve got an HDMI out and a clean-looking door with SIM and microSD slots behind it. I appreciate the effort, and the door is fairly simple to open and close, but don’t fiddle around too much with it, as it’s anything but unbreakable.

Acer Iconia Tab A700

The A700's display is the star of the show here, and rightfully so: this is simply one of the
best displays on an Android tablet today.

Acer would disagree with my calling the A700 generic looking, citing the tablet’s 1920 x 1200 resolution 1080p HD display, and here it would have a valid point. The 10-inch screen is quite nice, and it's certainly a refreshing change from what we’ve grown accustomed to on Android tablets. Viewing angles are superb and colors seemed rich and deep. If you’re upgrading from a tablet with 1280 x 800 resolution, you won’t be able to fathom how you lived so long without this display. Though the Transformer Infinity offers better viewing angles in direct sunlight than the A700, the two displays are simply the best  you’ll find on an Android tablet today.

That said, there is still room for improvement. The A700’s LCD display still pales in comparison to the iPad, and alternative screen technologies like LCD2 on the HTC One X and Super AMOLED HD on Samsung’s Galaxy S III still overshadow nearly anything that’s available on a tablet today. In short, the A700 is the cream of the Android tablet crop, though it falls short of being the best in the biz.

What's under the hood - Iconia Tab A700 specs and performance

Underneath the hood we’ve got Tegra 3 running the show, clocked at a respectable (if not increasingly standard) 1.5 GHz, along with a full gig of DDR2 RAM and a full 32 GB of internal storage. Coupled with Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box, the A700 should scream. Sadly, it does not. In fact, it barely even whispers. Performance on the A700 is passable at its best, and nearly unusable at its worst. The dreaded Android tablet lag we’ve all come to fear is rampant here, and perhaps even magnified. Switching between homescreens never failed to hiccup, and launching the app drawer consistently produced a stutter. Even the display, as beautiful as it is, is an act of patience-- touch response is shameful, with the A700 at times requiring two or three presses before your touch is even registered.

Acer Iconia Tab A700

​Benchmarks tell only half the tale, though the A700's scores are
an accurate reflection of its less-than-stellar performance.

What’s to blame here? I hesitate to point the finger at Tegra 3, as its performance on the international One X is nearly flawless. I also hesitate to blame Ice Cream Sandwich, as we’ve seen it perform amazingly on latest-generation smartphones. If I had to shake my finger at one culprit, it would have to be Acer. Instead of innovating and creating a unique and optimized tablet experience, Acer seems to have thrown together top-of-the-line specs and crossed its fingers for the best. The best, it seems, is not what has resulted. The A700 could use some major tweaking behind the scenes, optimizing hardware for software and vice versa. Maybe it could be resolved with a simple OTA, or maybe we’ll have to wait for Jelly Bean, but one thing is clear: the A700 requires a lot of deep breathing.

On the lighter side, I’m happy to report that the A700 offers admirable battery life, albeit a bit on the lower side for recent tablets. Acer advertises a solid 11 hours of video playback over wifi-- with light to moderate usage you should be able to squeeze at least two to three days out of the A700’s 36.25 wH battery. With heavy usage, though, you’ll be plugging in around lunchtime on your second day. For a transcontinental flight, you should make it to the other coast with around a half a battery to spare, depending on what you’re doing up there.

Iconia Tab A700 software

Acer has remained firmly in the “less-is-more” camp, and I really enjoy what they’ve done (or rather, haven’t done) with stock Ice Cream Sandwich. The “Acer experience” is pretty uniform across all of the company’s tablets, so don’t expect anything radical here on the A700. Acer’s home menu is slightly skinned, as is its lock screen, but the company’s touches are few and far between.

Acer Iconia Tab A700

Acer's touches are few and far between, but they do add a nice touch.

Acer’s standard launcher ring is present, offering one-touch access to a selection of apps directly from the system bar. We’ve seen this on previous Acer models yet on the A700 it looks gorgeous, thanks no doubt to that beautiful screen. But this rose has its thorns, as I learned from A700 owners who point their finger at the ring for the tablet’s lackluster performance. According to some, disabling the ring (along with turning fonts from “large” to “normal’) erases all signs of lag, stuttering, and the rest of the unsavory bugs mentioned above. I tried the trick myself and found perhaps the slightest improvement in performance, but certainly nothing to write home about. Other folks swear by it, so I’ll stop short of knocking it, but disabling one of the signature selling points of the tablet should not be necessary.

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The A700 cameras

Acer Iconia Tab A700

The A700 is equipped with the standard 5 MP shooter we've grown accustomed to on tablets, and its performance is also something we've seen time and time again. Right now, manufacturers don't seem to be investing much in tablet cameras, and why should they? A tablet is one of the least convenient ways to snap a photo, which is one of the reasons why companies like Acer aren't pumping dollars into high end optics.

That said, the A700's rear-shooter works just fine in a pinch, and should be more sufficient for your next profile picture or Twitpic. Colors are accurate and well balanced, despite appearing soft and muted in certain conditions. The camera lacks the bells and whistles we've seen recently from Samsung and HTC (though panorama capability is present), so you're not going to be able to get too creative with your shots within the app. I'd leave the A700 home during your son or daughter's graduation and bring along the smartphone or point-and-shoot.

Acer Iconia Tab A700

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Acer Iconia Tab A700 Acer Iconia Tab A700

The bare-bones front facing camera does just fine for what its intended-- video chat lacked crystal clarity but offers more than enough detail to get the job done. Again, you're not going to be relying on the A700 for any respectable self-portraits.

Acer Iconia Tab A700

​The A700's camcorder records in 720p and, much like the camera, lacks the bells and whistles you might have hoped for. Sound distortion is minimal and again, colors are accurate, though shakiness is certainly noticeable. Then again, you're probably not going to be relying on your tablet as your main camcorder.

The wrap up

Acer Iconia Tab A700

Despite its young age and bleeding edge specs, the Iconia Tab A700 is already last generation’s news. Call it bad timing, call it lack of innovation, or call it the victim of the Nexus 7, but whatever way you cut it, the A700 is already a dated piece of technology. Even in Android terms, that was fast.

With its Tegra 3 processor and stunning HD display, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better-spec’d 10-inch tablet. That said, despite what the A700 is packing under the hood, its performance and responsiveness (or lack thereof) make it a hard sell.  Using the A700 requires patience and a taste for the quirks of Android. Taking kid gloves off, I can honestly say its flaws make the A700 borderline unusable.

As you may have read, this unit was my second A700, as the first unit's performance was so poor that I thought it must have been a lemon. And though the second unit was indeed more usable, it still underperformed. Other sites have reviewed the A700 less harshly, and some even enjoyed their experience. How is my opinion so radically different? It could be the $450 pricetag that simply cannot be justified, or perhaps the perfect storm of specs that fizzled out when it all came together. Or maybe I've just grown increasingly weary of "next-gen" devices not living up to their hype. 

Or then again, maybe it's that pesky 7-inch tablet from Google, just days away from shaking up the market. If you aren’t hell bent on a larger screen, and if you’re not easily fooled by CPUs, GPUs, GHz and pixels, the Nexus 7 outperforms the A700 is nearly every single aspect. With its fast-track to the latest and greatest Android, its focus on content, and its mind-blowing pricetag, the Nexus 7 is nearly impossible to pass up for the same Android tablet you’ve been seeing for the past year. The face of Android tablets is changing, and it's nearly impossible to ignore how quickly the new landscape will turn previous-generation tablets into dinosaurs.

If you want to roll the dice and hope that Jelly Bean’s Project Butter improves performance, than the A700 certainly has the guts to perform well under better circumstances. But if you’re willing to shave 3 inches off the size, and you aren’t object to saving $200, pass up the A700 and grab yourself the true next-generation Android tablet.

 

Reader comments

Acer Iconia Tab A700 review

15 Comments

Ok... you mention the Prime, but have zero comparison to the Infinity? You know, the other 1920x1200 resolution tablet? Because honestly, that's a much more fair comparison than the Prime or Nexus 7.

From the article: " ... Though the Transformer Infinity offers better viewing angles in direct sunlight than the A700, the two displays are simply the best you’ll find on an Android tablet today."

It's not going to be a product until you can, you know, BUY it. It's not available so who knows what performance is like. I'd like to think that since it's Asus it will be great, but until you apply the juice to it and check it out, it's still an unknown.

This is the first truly honest review of the A700. Everyone else downplays the horrid touch response. I thought, based on those reviews, "How bad an it be?" In a word, plenty. It lived with me 24 hours, then back to Amazon.

Still touting the lag when everyone else who tried the adjustments saw the stutter completely disappear. Its not subtle either.

Still there are problems with first taps getting missed. This can mess up your games until you are use to it. I'm betting this gets fixed even before JB arrives for this tablet.

But I call shenanigans on those image postings. We all know this isn't the worlds best camera, but its no where near that bad.

Looking at http://cdn.androidcentral.com/sites/androidcentral.com/files/postimages/...

The first thing you notice is that it was shot (or cropped) to less than half the full resolution of the camera. We see a 1200x900 shot, but the camera resolution is 2592x1944. Diagonal lines are simply not that jagged with this camera.
Even Street View shows better photos than were posted here. (With the same car parked in the same place. Anndrew Vacca, is that yours?
Original resolution please.

gonna guess the problem actually is the Tegra 3.'

it's the weakest current gen SOC and then it gets paired with a 1920*1200 display, that's twice as many pixels as 720p and 1280*800 displays... Nvidia can't hang with the big boys.`

I'm curious as to whether the issue is not the Tegra 3, but rather that its the same Tegra 3 found in the 1280x800 tablets. The Transformer Infinity uses a Tegra 3 as well, but its at a higher clock speed than the Prime and the reviews I've seen for it say it performs just fine.

Except that there ISN'T any problem to blame on Tegra 3.

It has no problem playing 1080P video at full resolution (an it only uses the 5th low power core to do so). It plays high quality Tegra games stutter free.

So I'm at a loss to understand what it is you are blaming Tegra 3 for.

Agree on all counts. The display is fantastic. But it's thick, kind of heavy, and response to touch is awful awful awful. Get one of the recent Asus tabs. I have the TF200 and TF300. Both are amazing - fast, responsive, and good displays. I wish there was a 10" Android tab with this screen AND good performance though.

I love mine only thing I agree with is the touch screen is not as sensitive as my A500 , I have no lag and web pages zoom in out like warp speed . Does get a little warm though, mine records video in 1080p / HD , not just 720p. Do wish it had a LED Flash/Lighting for videos.

Mark

You know, I am always puzzled about how these reviews get written. I would be willing to bet that who ever writes these reviews maybe spends at most 30 minutes with the device before reviewing. The A700 is not clunky. It does not lag. The touch screen is very responsive. What the heck planet are you guys on. The same week the pre-release ordering started I ordered mine from Tiger and had it Friday. Needless to say, on Saturday my iPad 2 went up for sale on eBay. The A700 is an exceptional tablet, runs smooth without a hitch. The screen is perfect. Just load up and run a game like Rip Tide and you will see what I mean. The only thing I missed from my iPad was the split screen key board, and there is an app for that. Out of the box the Android launcher is as bland as the iPad. But add the Nova launcher app and you have a really nice customized launcher with which you can do things that you can not on the iPad. So if these reviewers actually used a device on a day to day basis we might get a decent review. Who am I to say this? I have been a heavy user since the C64 an IBM PC days. Since then I have bought, used, tore down, sold, and built countless PC's laptops, tablets Windows, Mac, Linux and oh ya this is my third Android device. So of you plan to review it, use it day to day before you do so. You might surprise yourself.

Come on dude, I have the A510 and the common concensus is that Acer's tablet line has got a subpar screen in terms of responsiveness. Will make sense the device lags (you should know better since you're coming from an iPad 2) because it's 1.3Ghz just like the A510 despite pushing twice as many pixels. Don't know why they didn't use the 1.7Ghz chip.

How does this compare to the A510? I have the A510 myself and I'd say performance is OK. But yeah, the screen is highly unsensitive. Don't know why they never rectified it.

I have the A510 which doesn't exhibit any of the issues referred to here in terms of touchscreen unresponsiveness. Presumably the writer of the article did turn up the touch sensitivity of the device before writing it off? The A510 arrived with it turned down by default...

I have the A700 and think that it is a great tablet and not as bad as this review makes it seem.

The screen looks great. I have had no problems with performance either. The GPS works great on my unit. Battery life has been exceptional. There has been a little hiccup here and there but nothing of concern. I am sure that Acer will fine tune it with updates as they did with the A500.

I have an A500 and love it as well. The A500 had some issues when it first came out, but like I said before, Acer provided updates which fine tuned it performance. I am sure they will do the same here.