Uh oh, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity has some serious competition! That’s right, not the iPad! Lest we stop comparing Android tablets to the iPad, since both devices are vastly different inside and out. If you recall, the Iconia A700 debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, but six months later we have a solid Android tablet for the masses.
The Iconia A700 sits alongside a new class of premium second-generation Android tablets. Many of which have Nvidia Tegra3 quad-core processors, 1 GB of RAM, and a high-resolution “Retina-like” display. Until the Infinity Pad launches next month, the A700 is the highest-quality tablet you can get.
The standout feature of this tablet is its high definition, 1920 x 1200 10.1-inch display. For comparison, most 17-inch laptops max out at 1920 x 1200 pixels. Luckily, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich leverages every facet of the display right out of the box. Unlike the Toshiba Excite 13, you can get your hands on an Iconia A700 for only $450, which is admirable given the relatively upscale specs.
Design wise, the Iconia A700 appears similar to the lesser-equipped A510, including sharp corners and a grippy, texturized back. Available in silver and black, the A700 is a hefty tablet, weighing 1.47 pounds. If you recall, their first-generation tablet, the Iconia A500, was also quite beastly. Nonetheless, the Iconia A700 feels solid and is thick enough to provide a good grip. Unlike the previous generation, the A700 doesn’t include a full-sized USB port. Rather it opts for MicroHDMI, MicroUSB, and MicroSD card ports.
If you’re considering the Iconia A700 it’s because of the glamorous 1920 x 1200 screen. Some call it overkill, but the display is great for reading text – it appears crisp, sharp, and prevents your eyes from getting tired after long periods of use. Unfortunately, the soon-to-be released Infinity Pad one-ups the Iconia A700 with it’s IPS display. While it is stunning, the A700 uses a traditional LCD, which reduces viewing angles and brightness.
The Iconia A700’s speakers are nothing special for a tablet, but Acer includes Dolby Mobile for virtual surround sound, which comes in handy when streaming Netflix movies. As with most tablets, headphones are the preferred listening devices. In terms of volume, the Iconia A700 is ideal for personal viewing – it doesn’t “fill the room.”
On the software front, Acer throws in an added launcher and UI enhancements to the A700, whether you like it or not. Some of the apps come in handy, such as the screenshot program. Other bloatware includes Netflix, Evernote, Polaris Office, Zinio, Amazon MP3, and Google’s fleet of apps. For the most part, Acer doesn’t intrude in the Ice Cream Sandwich experience. Unfortunately, due to their additions, it will likely take them longer to issue the Android 4.1 update when it becomes available.
With regard to benchmarks, the Acer Iconia A700 trailed the Toshiba Excite 10 and the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, but performed better than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. Overall, the conclusion is that while the tablet isn’t the fastest, it offers admirable performance that few users would notice when tested head-to-head against the competitors.
Unfortunately, battery life was on the low side, with only 8 hours 22 minutes runtime. The new display undoubtedly eats up juice, considering the A510 has 10 hours 23 minutes runtime. The 25 Wh battery is more than enough to get you through a 7-hour flight or full workday, but will likely die the next day if not charged overnight.
The Bottom Line
The Acer Iconia A700 is a solid tablet, one of the first to offer a Retina-esque display. Unfortunately, it doesn’t perform as good as the competition. While the display is admirable, it isn’t as good as the Transformer Pad Infinity’s IPS screen. For $50 more, you’re better off waiting to buy the Asus Infinity Pad.