Performance and battery life
Like its elder statesman, the A501 is quicker than the Xoom
The first time around, our biggest disappointment with the Acer Iconia Tab A500 was its battery life. Well, the HSPA+ model was no exception and actually fared worse that its WiFi-only mate.
During a span of moderate email use, surfing the web and hourly tweeting -- using only the data signal -- the battery read 68 percent after 3 hours. We left it idle for 18 hours -- until the next morning -- still with only the HSPA+ active, and when we awoke the battery was at 53 percent. The real bummer came when we performed our battery drain test (video looping, brightness fixed at 50 percent with one push e-mail account active and Twitter updating every 15 minutes) on both WiFi and HSPA+ connections. While it managed to last six hours and 26 minutes on WiFi, it dropped to five hours and 25 minutes when we used the HSPA+ connection. This puts the WiFi runtime at about a half hour less than the A500. Sure, that'll probably get you through a normal
workday, but for that DC to Boston road trip, you better remember to pack a charger. And when you consider the performance of other Honeycomb-equipped tablets in regards to battery life, the A501 puts up a fairly lackluster effort.
We've discussed Android 3.0
at length since its release, but for the sake of A501, we'll give you a little refresher. Honeycomb is a quite beautiful OS that works nicely in regards to this particular slate. Gestures feel smooth and, with carefully designed hardware like we see here, perform almost flawlessly. As far as bloatware goes, AT&T slapped its WiFi app on the slate, which we never even used except to see what it was -- since connecting to a network through the OS itself is a breeze. However, Acer did take the same liberties as it did with the A500, so your tablet will come primed with several duplicate apps where Google's own version is in close proximity. The two exceptions still being Media Server and Photo Browser 3D, both of which could come in handy from time to time.
If you loved the Acer Iconia A500, and you need
the added connectivity of a data plan from Ma Bell, you'd be better off opting for a tethering plan with a device you're already toting around. AT&T makes the addition quite easy for your smartphone or mobile broadband device, and you'll be able to share the connection with your other tech and not just the tablet. Going this route also lends itself to any number of alternatives in the Android realm that could end up being a much better deal, including the more expensive Galaxy 10.1
. You'll have to forgo the USB port and microSD slot should you settle on Samsung's offering, though. The Eee Pad Transformer
16GB WiFi model is another solid option and can be picked up for a cool $399. Not only is the price comparable to the Acer Tab, but for another $150 you can grab a keyboard dock that adds two USB 2.0 ports, an SD slot and hours of extra battery life. At $330 with a contract, the inclusion of a WWAN radio on the A501 simply becomes more of a financial burden and not much else. But, if you've got some coin to spare and you don't mind paying for a data connection for only one device, you could certainly do much worse.