Acer Iconia Tab A200 £279.99
11th Apr 2012 | 14:35
An Ice Cream Sandwich tablet at a budget price
The Acer Iconia Tab A200 is one of three new tablets from Acer in 2012, and the runt of the litter.
Priced at £279.99 in the UK and $329.99 in the US, this 10.1-inch tablet packs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and serves as a budget option for anyone who doesn't fancy paying out for the new iPad 3 or other top-tier Android tablets such as the Asus Transformer Prime or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Acer's other two new tablets are the Acer Iconia Tab A500 and the premium Acer Iconia Tab A700, but it's the cheaper Acer A200 that could cause the biggest stir among those searching for an affordable tablet.
Acer is obviously pitching the A200 at families and first-time tablet buyers. The Acer Iconia Tab A200 wears its family-friendly persona on its sleeve, with a friendly curved rectangle form factor and a soft, rubber-coated back that reminds us more than a little of the BlackBerry PlayBook.
It's available in two colours; the standard Titanium Grey and the much-better-looking-in-our-opinion Metallic Red.
As ever with budget tablets, there are some corners being cut. That's no different with the Acer Iconia Tab A200, and the eagle-eyed among you will have noted the lack of a rear-facing camera lens in our pictures.
Acer has stripped out the camera, as well as other features such as HDMI connectivity, to keep the costs down.
However, it has kept both a full-sized USB port and micro USB and the option to expand the 8GB of storage with a MicroSD card. In the US, 16GB versions are also available, for $349.99.
The Acer Iconia Tab A200 also weighs 715g, which is heavier than both the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (565g) and the iPad 2 (601g) - and the difference is obvious. This feels solid, but not obviously a tablet that you could just scoop up and use.
The big selling point of the Acer Iconia Tab A200, though, is the fact that it ships directly with Android Ice Cream Sandwich. And Google's latest update works well, with plenty of small tweaks such as the ability to load apps into folders and save web pages for viewing offline at a later date.
It's not like Acer has really skimped on the specs under the hood either. There's an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, built-in GPS support, 1280 x 800 screen resolution and support for the Google Play app store.
It's far from competing with the likes of the Asus Transformer Prime or the new iPad, but as a budget option, the Acer A200 doesn't do much wrong.
It concentrates on the main things you want to use a tablet for - browsing the web, watching movies and playing Draw Something. All of which it handles nicely for a budget device.
And you really begin to notice the extra weight after holding the Acer Iconia Tab A200 for a while, particularly if you're holding it one hand. We'd find it pretty difficult to recommend this tablet as an ebook reader, for example.
To give Acer some credit though, this tablet does feel robust. And if you were to hand it to the kids to use (as in Acer's cheesy promotional video), it could probably take the inevitable knocks and bumps. The rubberised back of the tablet means it won't slip out of your hands or get covered in smudges and fingerprints.
We also found the power button on the left-hand side and volume rocker on the top were easy to find and use. And, because the buttons are chrome silver, they look quite attractive too.
There's a 17mm bezel running around the 10.1-inch screen that could do with being a bit thinner, although it doesn't get in the way when you actually start using the tablet.
Of course, the other benefit to having a bit of bulk is that there's room to include ports on the side.
The Acer Iconia Tab A200 has both a full-sized USB port and a micro USB port, although, irritatingly, you can't charge it by USB and so have to use the bundled AC adaptor that connects via a port that looks almost identical to the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The big omission in terms of connectivity is the absence of an HDMI or Mini HDMI port that would enable you to hook the tablet up to a monitor or HD TV and enjoy your content on a larger screen. This has become almost standard on most tablets and, while we appreciate the Acer Iconia Tab A200 is a budget option, we still would have liked to see it here.
Although Acer has neglected the HDMI port, it has included a microSD slot for expanding on the paltry 8GB of onboard storage here (although US customers can opt for a 16GB version for an extra $20).
The microSD card seems to be falling by the wayside somewhat, with many new tablets omitting the expansion, but we think it's a particularly important feature and it's good to see Acer including it.
The microSD card slot has been hidden next to the reset button behind a plastic flap that you'll need fingernails to open. It's a bit frustrating to say the least, and it took us a few attempts to get it open.
Another noticeable omission - like the HDMI connection - is the rear-facing camera. Presumably in order to save costs, Acer dispensed with this feature that, although standard on virtually all tablets, isn't necessarily essential. How many times do you take your tablet out to take some pictures?
What Acer has included is a 2MP front-facing camera. Arguably this is more useful, because it means you can use Skype to video chat, or shoot profile pictures for Twitter or Facebook.
While the slim, metallic Toshiba AT200 or aluminium iPad might have universal appeal whether in the office or at home, the Acer Iconia Tab A200 is certainly more of a family device for the living room.
While we wouldn't have any problems scooping it up on the sofa to browse the web, the bulk and lack of connectivity render it useless for packing into a briefcase and taking into a business meeting.
Interface, performance and battery life
Although Ice Cream Sandwich has been around since November 2011, it's been a slow adoption, so we're thankful to see that the Acer Iconia Tab A200 has it as standard.
For the most part, Ice Cream Sandwich is an exercise in making things slicker and faster than Honeycomb, but there are a few cosmetic changes that you can see on the Acer Iconia Tab A200.
There's the obligatory revamped font, and now instead of vertical swiping on your app selection page, you swipe horizontally. And, like on the iPad, you can now put several apps together in folders on the home screen to save space and organise your device.
Instead of the old pull-down notification bar, you now have all your information displayed on the bottom-right of the screen. A quick tap on the clock will bring up notifications and settings.
You're still given five home screens that you can populate with apps and games from the Google Play marketplace.
Google Play has been gaining ground of late, and you can now access over 450,000 apps (some of them free, some costing money) to use on the Acer A200.
There are also plenty of widgets to choose from, and ICS has brought them to the fore by including them in the apps screen.
For the most part, Acer has kept Ice Cream Sandwich as Google intended - avoiding extra skins or layers that might clutter the experience. But it has added the "Acer Ring" - a small yellow circle in the centre of the navigation bar. Tap it and the screen is filled with a ring graphic that gives you quick access to four shortcuts, a web search tool and scrollable volume control.
You can customise the shortcuts in the settings menu and the ring can be loaded up at any time. It's not exactly a stand-out feature, but we did find it became useful as we began to use the tablet.
We're starting to see the first Tegra 3-powered devices touch down now, but the Acer Iconia Tab A200 still relies on the Nvidia Tegra 2 chip to keep things smooth.
The dual-core chip runs at 1GHz, and there's the customary 1GB of on-board RAM as well. On paper, the specifications don't look blisteringly fast, and in truth they aren't - there's a hint of lag when you open programs or skip around during high definition video.
But, when we compared the performance of this to other tablets at this price point, the discrepancies are somewhat forgivable.
Gliding between menus and home screens isn't going to be comparable to the likes of the iPad or the Asus Transformer Prime, but we feel the Acer A200 doesn't do a bad job. And the clean, futuristic look of Ice Cream Sandwich is relatively easy to navigate quickly.
Sound quality isn't too bad on the Acer Iconia Tab A200, but obviously there's a clear leap in quality from the higher-priced A510 or A700 Acer tablets.
The Acer Iconia Tab A200 has stereo speakers nestled in the bottom corners on the back of the tablet and, providing you aren't holding the tablet there, the sound is clear, if a little tinny.
There's less volume here than you'll find on other tablets, so we recommend investing in a decent pair of headphones to go with it.
The Acer A200 doesn't feature a rear-facing camera, so you have to make do with the front-facing lens. All this is really good for is profile shots and video chat, but you're still given a few meagre settings to play with.
The 2MP lens isn't enough for good pictures, and often the results are faded and dull.
VIDEO:Video suffers from the same dull, flat picture, but you're granted a few more effects to play with.
One of the key features of any tablet is how the battery life performs and, to give the Acer Iconia Tab A200 its due, the battery life wasn't atrocious.
We looped 1080p high definition content with full brightness over Wi-Fi, with Bluetooth activated, and the Acer Iconia Tab A200 still lasted for an impressive 350 minutes.
We're pleased about getting just a shade under six hours of use from this device and, with a bit more restraint, the battery should see you through the eight hour benchmark that we'd expect.
Taking to the internet on the Acer Iconia Tab A200 isn't a bad experience, but it could be quicker. Loading complex pages, with large graphics or carousels, took several seconds, but there weren't any residual problems with scrolling through pages.
Like Chrome on the desktop computer, the Android browser has always kept a relatively clean user interface, leaving space for just tabbed browsing and options to add the current page to your bookmarks.
Hit the bookmarks icon in the top-right corner and you're taken to a home screen showing all your bookmarked pages. You can swipe through to your history as well as your saved pages.
Adding and deleting pages is straightforward, and at any point you can access the browser's settings by tapping the spanner in the top-right corner.
One particularly useful feature that Google introduced with ICS was the ability to save pages for offline viewing - an excellent idea if, for example, you want to read a news story but can't guarantee a Wi-Fi connection. Especially considering the Acer A200 doesn't offer 3G compatibility.
If you don't like the custom Android web browser, there are other options available via Google Play. You can download secondary browsers such as Opera and Dolphin straight from the store, although in our opinion, while Opera is nice, the difference is negligible.
Double-tapping or pinching to zoom is a feature we used quite a lot on the Acer Iconia Tab A200's capacitive 10.1-inch screen. For the most part it was a smooth experience, and text is quick to readjust to the larger size. However, the browser stumbles slightly when you zoom back out again.
If the browser takes you to a mobile site, such as BBC mobile, by default you can also opt to display the full desktop site. This is well worth taking advantage of on a 10.1-inch screen, and the 1GHz speed of the Acer Iconia Tab A200 is easily up to the task.
Don't expect to go cruising through the YouTube or BBC iPlayer desktop sites looking for video though - this iteration of the Android browser doesn't have native Flash support.
Movies, music and books
It's no secret that the Acer Iconia Tab A200 is being marketed as a media device, and the screen is suitably sharp, with a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution that means you can sit back and enjoy some 1080p visuals on the move.
The Acer Iconia Tab A200 comes pre-installed with Clear-fi - Acer's universal media player that ships on all laptops and tablets. The program enables you to quickly access your movies, music and pictures all with an attractive white sand background image.
Unfortunately, we found the program to be a bit on the clunky side. If you tap the sidebar, you're given the option to view your media in a timeline, or search through your catalogue, but the experience is slow.
In contrast, using Astro file manager, which also comes pre-loaded on the Acer Iconia Tab A200, was a breeze. Folders loaded up quickly and navigating through the interface was smoother than using the Clear-fi app.
Given the measly 8GB of onboard storage (although US users can, as we mentioned before, buy a 16GB version for just $20 more), you'll need to invest in a microSD card to start loading the Acer Iconia Tab A200 full of media.
Once completed, you can play your media either through Clear-fi, which uses the standard Android player, or download a different player from the Google Play store.
The Android player has no trouble with MP4 and AVI files, but for other formats such as MKV or MOV, you'll need to install additional codecs.
Playback is smooth for the most part, although we loaded up a 1080p MKV clip of The Dark Knight and the result was difficult to watch. The playback was jerky and staggered and, although the visuals were well rendered, the Acer Iconia Tab A200 couldn't keep the footage fluid.
Acer hasn't included any way to buy or rent movies any other way than through the Google Play store, which isn't a big cause for concern given how many films are constantly added to the Android service.
The Acer Iconia Tab A200 isn't a good choice as an ebook reader. While there's no problem with the screen, the difficulty comes from the hefty body and the 715g weight of the tablet itself. It makes holding it one-handed a real workout, and although possible, it's not entirely comfortable to read on for a long time.
But if you do like reading and weightlifting at the same time, then the Acer Iconia Tab A200 comes pre-loaded with the LumiRead ebook app, which supports ePub, PDF and TXT formats, and will catalogue your tomes for you.
You can also tap the book store icon in the title bar to open the book store and download texts directly to the tablet. In the UK, the only book store on offer is LumiRead's own store, with a selection that can't compete with Amazon's virtual library.
Music on the Acer Iconia Tab A200 suffers somewhat from the lack of volume produced by the speakers. It's not quite enough to really fill a room, so you'll be doing most of your listening through headphones.
Clear-fi uses the album covers as big friendly buttons in its cataloguing UI, and there's the option to search through your entire collection quickly using the pop-out sidebar.
As expected, all the usual audio file formats - MP3, M4A, OGG, ACC - are supported here, and there's also the inclusion of Aupeo - a radio app that, while not as attractive as TuneIn Radio, isn't a bad way to enjoy music from this tablet.
Apps and games
Acer has been pretty restrained with pre-installed apps on the Iconia Tab A200. You get Aupeo for internet radio as well as SoundHound for recognising sounds and suggesting new tracks.
Interestingly, there's also Docs To Go, one of Android's premier business apps. This is a solid addition, but not something we'd realistically take advantage of with this tablet.
One third-party app Acer has stuck on the Iconia Tab A200 is SocialJogger. This aggregates your Twitter and Facebook news into one direct feed and enables you to install it as a widget on the home screen.
Elsewhere there's the usual host of Google apps for Gmail, Google+ and Google Maps.
Like movies and music, there's no standalone store besides Google Play to get access to extra apps and games. You can install many of the older Android apps designed for phones, although many of them won't be able to best take advantage of the Acer Iconia Tab A200's 10.1-inch screen.
When it comes to gaming, the Nvidia Tegra 2 has no trouble keeping animations and gameplay on simple games like Angry Birds and Draw Something smooth and accessible.
As a casual games machine, this isn't a bad device at all, and the comfy rubber grip on the back means it won't slip from your hands during an intense session.
Even more graphically intense games such as Tiki Kart 3D ran without a hitch. You also can use the pre-installed Nvidia Tegra Zone app to take you straight to games optimised for Tegra devices if you fancy something more substantial than Cut the Rope.
Hands on gallery
Whether by chance or design, the Acer Iconia Tab A200 is an easy tablet to rate. It's a budget tablet and, as such, there are omissions. But, if you look around at other budget tablets - such as the ZTE Light Tab 2, Disgo 9104 or Archos 70 Internet Tablet - this is better by quite a long shot.
For starters, many budget tablets go for the 7-inch form factor, and for surfing the web or watching movies a 10.1-inch screen is preferable. And it can be touch and go whether or not you'll get access to Google Play on a budget tablet.
So, not only do you get a 10.1-inch high definition screen with the Acer A200, but you also get Android Ice Cream Sandwich and all the apps that Google has to offer.
Of course, there's something to be said for the smaller size for reading ebooks, or taking on the commute, and we doubt you'll be able to use the Acer Iconia Tab A200 for either of these. It's too heavy to hold comfortably for long periods, and the bulky chassis isn't as easy to slip into a case or a bag as the Toshiba AT200 or the BlackBerry PlayBook.
But, as we said, there are omissions. There's no HDMI, no rear-facing camera and only 8GB of onboard storage space - although in the US you can buy a 16GB version for not a lot more money.
If you need bleeding-edge features and all the connectivity you can muster, then you're going to need to go elsewhere - and spend a bit more.
Even though the Acer Iconia Tab A200 is a chunky tablet, we found the design - especially in red - to be quite appealing. Similarly, the rubberised back is comfortable, easy to grip and doesn't quickly get covered in unattractive smudges.
The weight gives a solid heft to this tablet that some people (particularly those with accident-prone kids or spouses) might find appealing, while others will bemoan the extra effort of holding it.
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The Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system is Google's best effort yet, and with the new iteration we're seeing Android tablets become smoother and easier to navigate.
We like the new cosmetic changes, such as the ability to lump apps together in folders, and the Acer Ring that enables you to quickly launch your favourite applications wherever you are in the system.
The 1GHz Tegra 2 processor might have been surpassed by the Tegra 3, but we still found it suitable for running all our favourite games, and thanks to a bit of microSD-enhanced storage, we were able to load up the Acer Iconia Tab A200 with plenty of media to enjoy.
Obviously, the lack of an HDMI port or rear-facing camera is annoying, but there are other irritating aspects to the Acer Iconia Tab A200 as well. For example, getting the plastic cover that conceals the microSD card slot up is a test of patience as well as fingernails.
Similarly, the fact that you can't charge via USB (unless you plug into a PC or laptop) means that you're forced to make room for the charger if you plan on taking the Acer Iconia Tab A200 away for a night or two.
Although media playback was a relative strong point of the Acer Iconia Tab A200, we did find that volume from the two small speakers situated on the back of the tablet was lacking. Similarly, we've seen brighter screens on rival Android devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9.
What's the best tablet under £300?
The biggest positive we can draw from the Acer Iconia Tab A200 is the price. Given that Apple has dropped the price of the iPad 2, it's going to become harder for Android devices to compete on price, but regardless there are people who don't want an iPad or want to spend over £300/$350 on a tablet.
Although the market for budget tablets is getting increasingly crowded, the Acer Iconia Tab A200 offers a lot for its relatively low price.
We feel that with the Iconia Tab A200, Acer is replicating some of the policies that have made its laptops increasingly popular. That is, an unremarkable chassis with a brief smattering of necessary ports and a concentration on offering decent power at a very attractive price.
Getting a 10.1-inch Tegra 2 tablet with ICS for £280/$330 is a good deal in our book, and there are alternatives from Acer if you want a more premium device.
But if you want a budget media tablet for the house, that everyone in the family can use, then this is one of the better choices available today.