The 10-inch Acer Iconia Tab A200 is one of the first Android tablets to be shipped running the latest version of the Android operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich. At £279 for an 8GB model packing a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 chip and expandable storage, it's almost certainly the cheapest to do so thus far.
After a cautious, slightly underwhelming entrance to the tablet market, Acer believes it's finally cracked the secret formula to sure slate success with its latest range. The A200 is aimed squarely at those who are new to the tablet market and will be followed up by the A510 and the A700, a quad-core monster we can't wait to get our hands on.
Read on for my initial thoughts from my hands-on preview of the competitively priced A200.
Acer has yet to revolutionise tablet design, or break away from the pack in any remarkable way, but the A200 is a pleasingly curvaceous slab of tech, with rounded corners and rear.
Bravely defying the monochrome fashion, the A200's designers have spun the colour wheel to pick a couple of new shades from the palette that differ from the staid black and silver we've become accustomed to. As such, it's available in a jaunty scarlet as well as an inoffensive charcoal grey.
Weighing in at a wrist-wrenching 720g, the A200 is on the hefty side compared to the likes of the 601g iPad. It's hardly the featherweight gadget you'd want to lug around with you. Neither is it particularly skinny, measuring 12.4mm in depth, compared to the iPad's 8.8mm.
Holding a heavy 10-inch tablet in one hand while pinching and zooming with the other can be a rather awkward and ungainly manoeuvre, particularly if you have weak forearms or small paws. My impression is that Acer envisions this slate being used casually around the home rather than for browsing and watching movies on the move.
Despite this, I found that the rubber "soft touch" back, which was peppered with tiny polka dots, made the A200 feel silky against the palms and easy to grab hold of. Likewise, the smooth rounded corners made it very comfortable to grip.
The 10.1-inch screen with a 1,280x800-pixel resolution is identical to the one on last year's A500 and on the upcoming A510. It's incredibly glossy, and while shiny is good, it's a fingerprint magnet. It may also be awkward to view in bright sunlight. I only managed to squint at the A200 in semi-darkness, which made the screen look lovely and bright, so you'll have to wait for the full review to discover how the display fares in less forgiving conditions.
Squirreled away inside the A200 is a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor,
which while not being as new or nippy as the Tegra 3, is likely to be
capable enough to perform most tasks that you'd use a lower-end tablet for, such as browsing and watching videos.
I'd hazard a guess that the 8GB version won't be enough built-in storage space for you, but breathe a sigh of relief -- you can always slot in a microSD card and bump that up by a good 32GB.
An average 2-megapixel front-facing camera has been plonked in the middle of the A200's bezel. It's perfect for saying how-do to friends and family that may be scattered in far-away places. Unfortunately, there's no camera on the back of the tablet so there'll be no photographing your exploits when you're on the roam.
This reaffirms my suspicion that Acer intends the A200 to be kept cooped up inside like a house cat and used mainly for light browsing or game-playing in front of the telly. While the lack of camera is reflected in the price, I reckon it could potentially limit the A200's chances for success -- if only because it's a feature that can be found on pretty much every other tablet of this size.
Ice Cream Sandwich OS
It's a real boon for the A200 to be packing Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) from the start. Manufacturers have been slow to gather their wits about them when it comes to releasing tablets with the latest version of Android's operating system.
Only Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 2 have launched with the new software so far, whereas other recently released tablets such as the Asus Transformer Prime and the Motorola Xoom 2 were loaded on to the shop shelves running Honeycomb.
The concept behind ICS is to allow Android phones and tablets to run on the same operating system. The scarcity of ICS tablets means that there's been very
little opportunity to take the new OS for a thorough whirl, although we
like what we've seen so far of the new blue hue and improved
Of course, the A200 will also have access to Android Market, and the hundreds of thousands of apps it offers.
The A200 has exactly the kind of power and screen resolution that we would expect from a cheaper 10-inch tablet but it's certainly impressive that it'll be shipping with Ice Cream Sandwich.
Unfortunately, poor portability and the lack of a proper camera may hamper this tablet's chances of success. Ultimately, I was left feeling uninspired with what the A200 had to offer, and even for first-time tablet buyers, it probably wouldn't be long until you'd be hankering for something zippier, more capable and lighter.
Keep your eyes peeled for a full review soon.