The Iconia Tab A510 is Acer's 16GB mid-range tablet, which will be hitting shop shelves cross our fair isle in April, etched with special London Olympic branding. For £350, the 10-inch tablet offers a fair quantity of premium tech -- most notably a Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core 1.3GHz chip and the latest version of Android, known as Ice Cream Sandwich.
I was privvy to a hands-on preview with the A510, as well as its little brother, the A200, at an Acer event in London, so read on to find out what I thought of this slate and its sporting credentials.
The A510 will launch in the UK with London Olympic branding, which is fortunately not offensively obvious, but may still be off-putting enough for some. To remind us that Acer is a primary sponsor of this year's sporting extravaganza, a small ringed logo can be found on the rear of the tablet. If you can overlook it, there's plenty about this tablet to love.
The A510 has the same delightfully grippy back as the A200 which, along with its lovely rounded corners, helped it to sit very happily and securely in my hands. Olympic emblem aside, it was in fact almost impossible to tell the two 10-inch tablets apart. Both felt extremely solid and well put-together, the dotty rubber casing providing a reassuring barrier between the hardware and any rough surfaces it might come into contact with.
Similarly, at 658g, the A510 is heavier than I would have liked a tablet of this price and with these specs to be. At least it felt positively dainty when compared to the hulking A200, which tested my wrist muscles to the max.
The most exciting news about the A510 is that it justifies its athletic branding by packing the same speedy Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core 1.3GHz processor that can be found in the upcoming Iconia Tab A700. A chip of that power should plough through anything you dare to throw at it, with all the tenacity and velocity of a nuclear-powered icebreaker. It also gives more bang for your buck than tablets like the Xoom 2, which carries the same price tag, but only packs a dual-core chip and an older version of Android.
As far as I can tell from the specs, the only difference between the A510 and the yet-to-be-released A700, is that it lacks the promised 1080p screen resolution. Instead we find the same 1,280x800-pixel display as on the A200 and last year's A500. The screen still looked crisp and glossy with photos appearing bright and vivid. I'll have to wait until I get the A510 out of a dim candle-lit room and into the garish light of springtime London to give it a thorough test.
I'm glad to see that Acer has seen fit to bestow a microSD slot on the A510. For built-in storage, the 16GB that the tablet comes with may be about the norm, but that doesn't mean it's roomy enough in there to hang all your stuff. Whack in a microSD card and you can expand the memory by up to 32GB.
A forward-facing 1-megapixel camera means you never need miss a video conference, and a 5-megapixel snapper is hitched to the back for preserving your exploits while you're trundling about on your travels.
The A510 promises to give you a respectable 13 hours of battery life -- that's an extra 5 hours more than the A200, despite its extra bulk. Tucked away on the side is a 3.5mm audio jack and an HDMI ouput for plugging your tablet into a telly which, although only a small addition, is a big asset in my book.
Ice Cream Sandwich
It's still relatively rare to find tablets that are shipping with Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), which is disappointing considering it's been banging about for a few months now. The likes of the Asus Transformer Prime and Motorola Xoom 2 both ran Honeycomb on their release, so it's certainly an advantage for the A510 that it packs the latest version of Android from the start.
In the ICS stakes, it only really faces competition from the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Asus Transformer Infinity, which were unveiled last week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Without exposing the A510 to the rigorous and extensive set of tests CNET always employs to put tech through its paces, it's hard to say exactly how the combination of ICS and this particular tablet will fare. In the brief time I spent with the A510, I was highly impressed with how slick and refined it seemed. The moody blue hue and Acer Ring shortcut tool were certainly attractive and I'm looking forward to having more of a tinker with them on the tablet's release.
The £370 A510 has neither the top-end specs of the upcoming A700, nor the cheaper £280 price tag of the A200. But it might just be the perfect compromise if you're not willing to miss out on a proper camera, HDMI output and a beastly quad-core chip, but aren't bothered enough to splash out for a 1080p resolution screen.
For a halfway house tablet that was almost presented as an afterthought to its siblings, it seems as though the A510 might just offer the best of both worlds, so watch this space for the full review.