The resolution arms race is heating up. Hot on the heels of the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity and the new iPad, the Acer Iconia Tab A700 has emerged from its silo with a megaton of pixels--1920 x 1200, to be exact--and thrust into the stratosphere with an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. And, this 10-inch tablet costs $449, undercutting the competition by $50. Is this tablet the bargain it seems?
At 1.47 pounds and 10.2 x 6.9 x 0.43 inches thick, the A700 is heftier than the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity, which at 1.3 pounds and 0.33 inches thick, is more on a par with the new iPad. In the past, tablet makers justified the increased thickness by including a full-size USB port, but the A700 merely has a microHDMI port on its right side, beneath which is a microSD card slot hidden by an overly large plastic cover.
At least the microUSB charging port on the bottom isn't big and clunky, as on Toshiba's tablets. The left side has a power button and headphone jack toward the top, and the upper edge has a volume rocker and lock switch.
As with most tablets, the front is dominated by the screen and a glossy black bezel. The edges, sides and back are covered in a dimpled plastic silver that has a subtle soft touch finish. This would be quite pleasant to hold, if it weren't for one glaring problem, which we'll get to in a moment.
After playing a quick game of "Real Racing 2," the back right side of the tablet--exactly where you place your hand--was scorching hot: After three laps around the track, we measured a temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit. It was so uncomfortable that we didn't want to pick up the tablet. Even a game of Solitaire got it up to about 110 degrees. By comparison, playing "Shadowgun" on the ASUS Infinity for an equal amount of time resulted in a temperature of 96 degrees on the back left, which was noticeable, but not uncomfortable.
Look out, ASUS: Acer has its own 1920 x 1200 tablet. As with the Transformer Pad Infinity, movies looked crisp on the A700. Colors were rich and deep while watching an HD trailer for "The Avengers," and on a par, visually, with the Infinity. Viewing angles, too, were wide enough so that people sitting on either side of the tablet could see the on-screen action comfortably.
However, there are two caveats here. First, the A700 lacks a Super IPS mode like the Infinity. As a result, the A700's average brightness is just 309 lux, which is not only below average (347 lux), but beneath that of the Infinity (433), the Toshiba Excite 10 (460) and the new iPad (386).
Also, as we noticed with the Infinity, there just aren't many Android apps optimized for a 1080p display, let alone a 1920 x 1200 screen. This isn't a fault of Acer, but of Android as a platform.
Powered by Dolby Mobile 3 technology, the two speakers mounted on the bottom edge of the A700 produced accurate, but soft sound. We noticed nice separation of sound on Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," and her voice came through clearly, as well as the instruments, but didn't pump out as much as we'd like. Even LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" didn't have us shuffling. It seems that only Samsung got it right with the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, when it came to speaker placement. They're on either side of the screen, pointing directly at the user.
Acer went with the standard Android keyboard on the A700, featuring large gray keys on a black background. While it's hard to reach the center of the tablet with your thumbs, we liked the fact that the keys were a little taller than those on the Transformer Pad Infinity.
Apart from Android Ice Cream Sandwich, the A700 features Acer's unique Ring interface. It starts with the lock screen, where you can jump directly to the Browser, Gallery, Google, Camera or the four apps of your preference.
Once inside, pressing the small green circle at the bottom of the display opens the second Ring, which also lets you quickly open four apps of your choosing. On the right edge of the ring is a carousel of recently opened Web pages, and on the left is a slider to adjust the volume. While we think the latter is somewhat redundant, overall the Ring interface is useful without being intrusive.
We also like the augmented Notification tab, which allows you to easily toggle a number of the most used settings, such as wireless connections (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS), brightness, auto rotation and sound.
As with most other premium Android tablets, the A700 uses a 1.3-MHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor backed by 1GB of RAM. Still, on the Benchmark CPU test, the A700's score of 3738 was middling. This bests the Android tablet average by a lot (2,801), as well as the Excite 10 (3,349). However, the Transformer Pad Infinity's faster 1.5-GHz T33 Tegra 3 CPU scored a much higher 5,220.
On the AN3DBench graphics test, the A700's score of 7,829 was about 100 points less than the Infinity (7,937), but 500 points above average. Nothing yet has come close to the Excite 10's score of 10,006.
The A700 has 32GB of internal storage, and can accept microSD cards up to 64GB in size.
Loaded on the Acer is a fine assortment of apps that doesn't feel like bloatware. Acer's own contributions include Acer Print, which lets you send documents wirelessly to a printer on the network, and clear.fi, its multimedia streaming app.
Third-party apps include Evernote, Netflix, Tegra Zone and Polaris Office 3.5, the latter of which handles the extra pixels on the A700 well. Even when we blew up text to 300 percent, it remained crisp. Also, illustrations and text in a National Geographic article on Zinio scaled nicely, but other apps didn't fare as well. For example, playing cards in HW Solitaire were noticeably jagged.
We're also happy to see that the A700 has a copy of VirusScan Mobile preinstalled, too.
Of course, the standard array of Google apps, including Play, YouTube, Music and Video, are also loaded on the A700.
Images from the A700's Rear-facing 5-MP camera were on a par with mid-level smartphones, which is to say they were good, not great. Outdoor shots showed great colors and detail, but even on a brightly lit street, we noticed a good deal of noise. It was even more prevalent on an indoor photo of some tchotchkes, though colors here, too, were well-saturated.
The front-facing 1-MP camera, while less detailed, also accurately showed our skin tones, and will be more than sufficient for video chats.
We suspect the reason for the A700's thickness and weight is to accommodate its capacious 9800mAh battery, which Acer claims will be good for up to 10.5 hours of video playback and up to 8 hours of Web surfing. On the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi), the A700 notched almost exactly that--8 hours and 5 minutes. That's more than an hour greater than the average of 6:40, and also beats the Infinity 7:39, but not the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1's time of 9:59.
There are now two Android tablets on the market with 1920 x 1200-pixel displays, the $449 Acer Iconia Tab A700 and the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity. The former costs $50 less than the latter, and offers about half an hour more of battery life. However, we prefer the slimmer, faster and cooler-running Infinity. Plus, ASUS' slate has a Super IPS+ screen that's far brighter. By merit of its screen resolution alone, the Iconia Tab A700 is currently one of the more robust Android tablets on the market, but it's not the best option.