The A510 is also capable of 1080p video, but the finished product doesn't necessarily translate into the full HD experience you'd expect. Given the camera's lack of image stabilization, the shaky quality makes the video almost unwatchable, with the occasional crisp frame when the slate was being held still. What did blow away our expectations was the phenomenal power of its Dolby Digital Plus compression technology. As you'll hear in the sample video, the sounds of a far-off saxophone make a distinct cameo, as do pieces of various off-camera conversations. The downside to this stellar feature is the inconsistency with which it renders your intended audio -- namely, your own voice. We shot several sample videos and noted occasional elements of distortion as the tablet attempted to parse all that background noise.
So you're ready to take the plunge into the wild world of tablets, but where to start? No doubt, lots of first-timers are going to end up taking their credit cards and flinging them in Apple's direction. $500 for a 16GB iPad may be a steep price tag to swallow for some, but the simplicity of iOS make for a wise new purchase. You could also buck any pressure to have the next best thing and fork over four Benjamins for a 16GB iPad 2, though we've gone on record saying newcomers are better off splurging on that high-res Retina display.
But maybe you're not exactly a post-PC virgin, or you simply prefer Android to iOS. Luckily for you, you've got a plethora of options to choose from. For the sake of helping all the overwhelmed shoppers out there trying to make sense of the market, we'll narrow the field down to similarly priced 10-inch tablets running Android 4.0. For $400, the Transformer Pad TF300 is, in many ways, the A510's direct competition, loaded up with unskinned ICS, a Tegra 3 SoC and 32GB, though this, of course, is offered with an optional keyboard dock. The only downside preventing us from steering you directly to the Transformer is battery life. Though it managed eight-plus hours on a charge (12, if you count the $150 docking station), it's no match for the A510's ten-plus hours of runtime.
Meanwhile, if you cut the built-in storage to 16GB, lower the number of cores from four to two and keep the Android 4.0 software there's Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1). It costs $400, the same as the 32GB Transformer Pad TF300, and twenty dollars more than the Transformer with 16GB of storage. Cast in that light, it's not quite as compelling a purchase, is it?
Spec for spec, you're really left with only two contenders: the A510, which costs $50 more, or Transformer Pad TF300. Shoppers hell-bent on heavy multimedia consumption should probably stick with what Acer's selling, if only for the phenomenal performance of that 9,800mAh battery. Android purists and folks intrigued by the idea of a laptop replacement, on the other hand, might want to jump on ASUS' bandwagon.
We can still hear the echoes of NVIDIA's CEO teasing the prospect of $300 Tegra 3 tablets, but while the promise of that affordable future isn't quite a reality yet, impatient consumers eyeing quad-core performance have a readily available option: the Iconia Tab A510. Acer's succeeded in building a superb Android 4.0 tablet, and it's one consumers with a penchant for media consumption might want to consider. Alright, so it isn't the immaculate Tegra 3 conception Acer (or NVIDIA) might've wanted it to be, prone as it is to brief software fits, though we'll confess we've noticed similar bumps on the similarly priced ASUS Transformer Pad TF300, as well as the dual-core Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. So should those stifled hiccups be enough to put you off the A510's Olympic-branded trail? They shouldn't. With its bleeding-edge quad-core performance, exceptional battery life and all the benefits of Ice Cream Sandwich, this is a 10-incher worth its slightly heavier weight. For those of you intrigued by the idea of a tablet that can also double as a netbook replacement, we still heartily recommend the well-performing, reasonably priced Transformer TF300. But if you're willing to invest in a dependable tablet and it's exceptional battery life that you're after, those 450 bucks stop here.