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Acer Iconia Tab 8 mini-review

Big tablet on a small budget

With the Nexus 7 on its way out and the new Nexus 9 sporting a higher price-tag and size than many users are willing to put up with, folks are now looking for tablet options that fit into their lives and their budgets a little better. Acer aims to check all the boxes and then some with the $199 Acer Iconia Tab 8 — which can be found for almost half that price. While to some this will fit the bill nicely, there are a few more boxes checked that aren't as desirable. The question is do the good boxes offset the bad?

About this review

I've gone through two review units, as the first was suffering from some pretty bizarre battery issues and a stuck pixel. I got the second one three weeks ago and have put it through its paces thoroughly with both heavy streaming sessions, periodic gaming, and lots and lots of reading.

All things in a mid-size package

On first glance, the Iconia Tab 8 looks like a mid-range-to-premium tablet, with its metal frame and a white screen. You've got power and volume controls on one side, microSD slot on the other, headphones, mini-HDMI and power ports on top. There's a raised 5MP camera sticking up out of the back along with the speaker and a single black dot on the white frame for a front-facing 2MP camera. Note 'single black dot'. That's right, there is no ambient light sensor on this tablet, which is an odd omission and one that if you use this tablet for long you will very quickly notice.

The construction seems adequate, the tablet feels firm in the hand, and the bezels are easily big enough to hold on to. The screen is decent for the price, but it's not going to completely blow you away, especially as you're going to have to tune the brightness manually ever time you move. While it's not the lightest tablet in the world, it's not hard to hold it for a few hours of video streaming or gaming. That said, if you're not using headphones, you'll be adjusting that grip to try to redirect the speaker's sound and squeeze every little bit out of them.

blockquote class="pulloutright"> Stereo speakers do no equal loud speakers Acer says that these speakers are stereo, but while you're watching a video in landscape, those speakers will sit on one side or the other and they are not terribly loud. In a quiet room with the tablet in your lap, you'll be able to hear most of the time, but we were reaching for our Bluetooth headphones once we got to a soft scene.

Lots of features with a handful of standouts

Bloatware. Boo.

The Iconia Tab 8 looks fairly stock, and for the most part it is, but let's not confuse that with bloatware free, because this tablet comes with quite a few pre-installed apps, both Acer-branded and third-party. Acer has its own suite of apps, including a full office suite, video player, and file manager, and then we have apps from eBay, Booking.com, Audible, Netflix, AccuWeather, TuneIn Radio, Skype, iStoryTime, WildTangent Games, and another suite of apps from Amazon.

The Acer suite requires an AcerID (opens in new tab), which you're prompted to enter or create on setup, and most of them function in much the same way Google Drive does. And if you want an alternative to Drive, that's great. Otherwise feel free to ignore them. Acer has pre-installed McAfee Security, and that's a little harder to ignore as it will pester you with notifications. Thankfully, you can disable it — and any other unwanted apps — in the Apps section of Settings.

Intellipin

There are a few features from Acer that are pretty nifty. First, Acer has added IntelliSpin, which will rotate the orientation of your screen while on a flat table if you shift and slide it around. No more lifting your tablet in order to get it the right direction. It also provides the option for a icon so you can quickly lock the orientation if desired.

Acer IntelliWake will wake the tablet if you press five fingers to the screen while it's in your hand. I often forgot the "in your hand" part and tried this to little effect while it was lying on the desk. You also have an option to wake it by pressing both thumbs on the screen while picking it up two handed.

Added this morning, split screen would be welcome if it allowed more apps

In a new system update, Acer also added another feature: split screen mode. This allows you to take a little more advantage of the real estate and be more productive. However, as you can see, the list of apps supported in this initial push is rather lacking. Hopefully more apps will become available in the future, but for now, it's easy to trigger and to switch between apps, and it lets us watch cats on YouTube while we check email or write up our reports.

Performance

The quad-core processor putters along easily most of the time, but there was the odd, errant freeze here and there. Marathon streaming sessions on here are seamless, so long as your Wi-Fi can keep up, but some games were quick to stutter — namely Big Hero 6 Bot Fight (opens in new tab) and Frozen Free Fall (opens in new tab) — mostly between rounds, though the tablet did completely freeze up two or three times during gameplay. The cameras on this tablet are good enough for video conferencing and maybe a quick pic for posting to social media, but it won't go much further than that.

Nothing earth-shattering, but it's enough to get you by.

Standby battery life on the first review unit we were sent was crippled by a Wi-Fi bug, but the second unit has taken both heavy and infrequent use in stride. The Iconia Tab 8 can go close to a week on pure standby, and I've left it in my bag for a day or two before picking it up between uses with no major drop in battery.

This is something I became quite familiar with over the course of the review

However, you'll want to keep a high-rated or the OEM charger in your bag for when a charge-up is required. This tablet will get picky about chargers, and its 4600mAh battery can take a while to tank up. Also, as this is packing an Intel Atom processor rather than a Qualcomm, so turbo-charging is not an option here.

Conclusion

Acer Iconia Tab 8 sits a small step above the rest of the budget-bin tablets

If you just need a tablet for light work/videos around the house and during your break at work, the Acer Iconia Tab 8 is a budget-minded tablet that will more than get you by. While the long list of pre-loaded apps isn't appealing to everyone, this is a decent tablet for well under $200. If you're looking for a durable tablet to stick under the tree this year for your munchkins, this tablet should fit nicely in Santa's sack.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

14 Comments
  • Nice Try Acer. But the specs not quite as good as the Asus Nexus 7 2013. However, it has a MicroSD slot something Nexus doesn't have.
  • For half the price, I'm not complaining.
  • Best price I could find on the Iconia Tab 8 is $140 from Bestbuy.com. For the Nexus 7 2013, groupon has it for $150: https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https2F%2Fclick.linksynergy.co...
  • http://www.androidcentral.com/acer-offering-iconia-8-tablet-139-40-best-buy-gift-card-holidays The Acer is 140 and comes with a 40 dollar gift card, which if you're a frequent shopper there could bring it down to 100 dollars. Not quite half, but it's also a bigger tablet with HDMI-out, microSD, and I'd still call that a decent deal.
  • Tragic that Google didn't see fit to commission Asus to do a Nexus 8 for 2014. All they needed to do was enlarge the existing N7 2013 by an inch or so on the screen size, stick in a beefier battery, faster SoC, and maybe a 64GB option and a better camera and they'd have been set.
  • How does the screen look/What's the screen resolution?
  • Screen's adequate for watching videos, it's a full HD panel but nothing mind-blowing. Thanks for reminding me, I'll add that back while I'm adding the split-screening update they did this morning.
  • Thanks! Also looking forward to the split screening info.
  • it's added.
  • Acer got me once, not again Posted via Android Central App
  • I purchased this model at Best Buy a few weeks back, took it back the next day because it would not boot past the Intel Inside screen. Got a 2nd one, took it home went thru the setup process and everything seemed ok for the $ I paid for it. I thought well my phone uses ART that I would switch this tablet into ART from DAVLIK ( I guess I should have checked for compatability prior ) anyway, it kicked off the process of optimizing the apps for ART, restarted and went to that same Intel Inside screen and stuck. I tried to go into recovery mode but this tablet only would get to Fastboot mode no matter what. Recovery was not an option. I ended up going back to Best Buy, explaining the issue, and decided to just purchase the groupon for the Nexus 7 2013. I am sure these tablets would be well served for video and web but more than likely they will be defunct in 6 months without any updates.. just my 2 cents.
  • I had to get a second unit for the battery issue I described before, and I almost thought during the update this morning that it had gotten stuck in a bootloop, but after about seven minutes it finally snapped out of it, optimized the apps for another five minutes, and booted up.
  • Why is so hard to download what's app , and the battery Its sucks
  • Thanks for the review, but I only found this after a seeing it for sale at BestBuy & Amazon and then Google searching for reviews. This was AFTER I already looked in tablet section of the 'Devices' section. AC needs to update their device listing for items that are reviewed on the site, especially those a year old or less! I trust your reviews more than I do those on storefront sites, but what good are the reviews is they can't be found in a site search?