It wasn't long ago that a usable tablet from a major brand would cost several hundred dollars. Today, however, there are a number of high-quality slates available for well under $150. The new $129 Acer Iconia One 7 has an attractive, colorful design and provides a serviceable, but unimpressive, Android experience. This slate gets the job done, but you'll have to make sacrifices, particularly when it comes to image quality and battery life.
Design and Ports
For an inexpensive tablet, the Acer Iconia One 7 doesn't skimp on looks. While its front panel has the same glossy black bezel you'll find on almost every device in this price range, its backside has a modern, ridged texture that felt very pleasant to the touch. Acer sells the Iconia One 7 with 10 different panel colors: red, yellow, green, pink, orange, purple, black and white, and two shades of blue. The back panel is not removable so there's no way to change colors.
At 7.8 x 4.7 x 0.35 inches and 11.3 ounces, the Acer Iconia One 7 is about the same size as the ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 (7.7 x 4.7 x 0.4 inches, 11 ounces), but slightly heavier than the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX (7.3 x 5 x 0.35 inches, 10.7 ounces) and Google Nexus 7 (7.9 x 4.5 x 0.34 inches, 10.2 ounces).
Like many of its competitors, the Acer Iconia One 7 has a standard microUSB port that it uses for charging, which means you can use any standard cable to charge it. It also has a microSD card slot that lets you add up to 64GB of storage.
The Acer Iconia One 7's 1280 x 800 display provided dull, dim images with mediocre viewing angles. When we watched a full HD trailer for "The Avengers," the blue in Captain America's suit or the green in the Hulk's skin appeared flat and lifeless. The Black Widow's vibrant red hair looked more like a light brown in some scenes. Images were fairly sharp, but we could see gradients and noise in some scenes, such as the one with the glowing Avengers logo.
When we measured the screen with our colorimeter, the Iconia One 7's panel was only capable of displaying 66 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which means that there are many shades it just can't show. By comparison, the Google Nexus 7 displayed 95.6 percent of the Gamut, where the average tablet can display 86 percent. The Iconia One 7 also provided a Delta-E accuracy score of 7.3, as compared to 1.9 on the Nexus 7 (0 is perfect and higher is more inaccurate).
The Iconia One 7 is also one of the dimmer tablets on the market, registering just 269 lux (280 nits) on our light meter, well below the 343-lux category average, the 358-lux ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7, the 480-lux Kindle Fire HDX and the 531-lux Google Nexus 7.
Though the picture washed out only slightly when we viewed the screen from the extreme left or right, it was very difficult to see the screen outdoors, even on an overcast day. The display's extremely glossy surface made it far too easy for us to see our fingerprints when holding the tablet under direct light.
The Iconia One 7's rear-facing speaker provided surprisingly accurate audio for a tablet this size and price. When we played Michael Jackson's "Love Never Felt So Good," the drums were a little tinny but the vocals and other instruments seemed loud and clear. Even the guitar-heavy "Beat It" sounded pleasant and true with little hint of tin.
The Iconia One 7 was quite loud at maximum volume, measuring 82 decibels on the Laptop Audio test, well above the 78.7 dB category average, the 73-dB Nexus 7 and the 77-dB Kindle Fire HDX. The ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 was loud enough to reach 91 decibels.
Software and Interface
Unlike ASUS, which made some subtle but helpful tweaks to the MeMO Pad HD 7's interface, and Amazon, which creates a completely custom UI for the Fired HDX, Acer stuck with stock Android for the Iconia One 7. Our review unit came with Android 4.2.2 Jellybean preloaded, but Acer says it will get an upgrade to Android 4.4 KitKat later. In Acer's only significant design flourish, the home screens have a wallpaper with photo of a woman jogging in a park rather than Google's default wallpaper.
The Iconia One 7 comes with the stock Android 4.2.2 keyboard preloaded. Though Google's keyboard doesn't have the helpful number row of Samsung's keyboard, it does offer next word-prediction and trace typing. Unfortunately, the Acer Iconia One 7 doesn't provide haptic feedback, so it can't mimic the feel of a physical keyboard as some other Android devices do.
Acer preloads the Iconia One 7 with its Acer Cloud software, which allows you to sync files wirelessly with your laptop, phone and other devices. The Docs, Music, Remove Files and Video apps allow you to view different types of media files that live either on the Iconia or on other devices connected to your Acer Cloud account.
The company also throws in a heavy helping of third-party bloatware, including the AccuWeather app, Booking.com travel app, Audible, Evernote, WildTangent games, McAfee Mobile Security and Zinio's digital newstand. Acer includes not one, but five different Amazon branded apps: Amazon shopping, Amazon Kindle eReader, Amazon Local, Amazon MP3 and Amazon Appstore.
If you need to take a photo of a receipt for your records or snap an image of foreign language text for translation software, the Iconia One's 2-MP will probably get the job done. However, we wouldn't recommend it for taking photos of any importance. Images we shot of a brightly colored tree were dull and lifeless, with the red leaves looking darker than they were in real life and fine details hard to make out. A shot of the New York cityscape was equally blah, as was a 720p video we shot of cars rolling down a city street.
The front-facing .3-MP webcam captured brighter, but blurrier images. A selfie we shot featured a bright blue, but washed out sky behind us. Fine details of our face, such as the pores in our skin or hairs in our beard, were nearly impossible to distinguish.
Despite having an outdated 1.6-Ghz, dual-core Intel Atom "Clovertrail" Z2560 CPU, the Acer Iconia One 7 provided solid performance that was good enough for watching HD videos or zooming around the Jetski racing track in "Riptide GP 2."
The One 7 notched a fairly good 5,790 on Quadrant, which measures overall performance. This score falls a bit below the 6,897 tablet average, but is better than the 1.5-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon Pro-powered Google Nexus 7 (4,949) and the 1.2-GHz MediaTek MT8125-powered ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 (3,414). However, the Kindle Fire HDX and its 2.2-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor scored an epic 19,924.
Though we had no problems gaming on the Iconia One 7, it scored a mediocre 6,042 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics benchmark, quite a bit lower than the 9,234 tablet category average. Both the Nexus 7 (10,624) and Kindle Fire HDX (16,201) scored higher. However, the ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 mustered a much-lower 2,218.
The Acer Iconia One 7 lasted a modest 6 hours and 36 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. That's an hour and a half less than the tablet category average, more than 3 hours less than the ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 (9:40) and nearly 5 hours behind the Google Nexus 7 (11:27)
The $129 Acer Aspire One 7 provides a solid Android experience in an attractive and affordable package. However, to achieve this price, Acer cut some big corners, with a dull screen, subpar battery life and poor cameras. For $10 more, the ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 offers a brighter, more colorful screen, superior cameras, much longer battery life and a slew of helpful software.
For $100 more, the Kindle Fire HDX and Google Nexus 7 offer vastly superior performance and battery life. However, if you're looking for one of the least expensive Android tablets on the market, the Acer Iconia One 7 is worth considering.