It's surprising how much gadget you can get for just $150. For instance, you can pick up a 10.1-inch Android tablet, the Acer Iconia One 10, which offers solid battery life and useful apps for multitasking. However, you will have to temper your performance expectations for devices at this price.
The textured and patterned white shell, small silver speakers and white bezel lend the Acer Iconia One 10 an unremarkable design. The back tapers in on the sides, which causes the rear camera's lens to stick out. With a plastic shell that bends when you grip it and a display that constantly attracts fingerprints, this tablet looks and feels cheap.
A headphone jack and a micro-USB port sit on the left edge, and the tablet's microSD card slot and buttons for power and volume rest on its top edge. The 2-megapixel front camera lives slightly right of center in the bezel above the display.
Weighing 1.23 pounds and measuring 0.4 inches thick, the Iconia One 10 is heavier and thicker than the Amazon Fire HD 10 (0.95 pounds, 0.3 inches) and the Lenovo Tab A2 10 (1.1 pounds, 0.35 inches). All three tablets have 10.1-inch displays.
The Iconia One 10's display (1280 x 800 pixels) is fairly colorful but not very bright, and has a lower resolution than competing slates. The tablet did a good job of rendering accurate skin tones for Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie in the trailer for Captain America: Civil War. Unfortunately, pixilation made it difficult to make out the circular grain on Captain America's shield and the fabric of Tony Stark's suit. The $180 Lenovo Tab 2 A10 offers a higher, 1920 x 1080 (full-HD) resolution.
The Iconia One 10 allows a wide range of viewing angles (from 75 degrees on both sides), but its heavily reflective Gorilla Glass 4 display picked up a lot of glare in our well-lit office.
When tested with our light meter, the display registered 266 nits of brightness, which is fine for browsing the Web and watching videos on YouTube indoors. However, panels on the Fire HD 10 (370 nits), Tab 2 A10 (380 nits) and the average tablet (367 nits) shine much brighter.
The Iconia One 10's display reproduces 81.1 percent of the sRGB color gamut, according to our colorimeter. That is close to what we saw with the Fire HD 10 (82.7 percent), but less than the scores for both the average tablet (92.4 percent) and the Tab 2 A10 (94 percent).
With its 1.3-GHz quad-core MediaTek Cortex A53 MT8163 processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, the Iconia One 10 delivered mixed performance and was occasionally unresponsive. With YouTube and Gmail open in the background, I scrolled through Web pages with acceptable speed, but the unlock screen would occasionally need a couple of extra swipes to open, and I had to tap a few times on the address bar in Chrome to edit a URL. The tablet was unable to keep up with my finger as I drew in the EZ Note app. I could play the endless runner Despicable Me: Minion Rush on the tablet, but it did stutter occasionally.
The Geekbench 3 overall performance test gave the Iconia One a score of 1,921, which is better than the Fire HD 10 (1,514) but worse than the Tab 2 A10 (2,371). Both of those tablets have 1.50-GHz MediaTek processors; but the Tab 2 A10 has 2GB of RAM, while the Iconia One 10 and Fire HD 10 have only 1GB.
The Iconia One 10 performed poorly on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics benchmark test, with a low score of 5,737. That's below the scores for the Amazon Fire HD 10 (10,043), the Lenovo Tab 2 A10 (9,282) and the average tablet (17,452).
The sound coming from the small stereo speakers on the sides of the Iconia One 10 can get loud enough to fill a medium-size conference room, but its audio grated on my ears. When I played Jeremih's "Oui," the highs of the singer's voice came out sharp and annoying, the bass was scratchy and distorted, and the medley of drum cymbals sounded muddied and indistinguishable.
Software and Apps
The Iconia One 10 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, to which Acer adds its multitasking Iconia app suite. The EZ Tasking screen splitter doesn't support every Android app, but most of Google's apps work with it. That means you can draft a message in Gmail as you browse in Chrome, or chat with friends in Hangouts while you watch videos in YouTube. Multitaskers will also enjoy using the floating overlay EZ Gadget widget, which contains a calendar manager, calculator, notepad and Web browser.
EZ Snap adds a three-finger pinch gesture for screenshots. In EZ WakeUp, you can program the Iconia One 10 to wake to specific apps when you tap on the screen with five finger tips, press both thumbs against the display or double tap with one finger.
The performance-aiding System Doctor app gets prime placement in the middle of the tablet's home screen by default. The app provides a notification whenever the tablet's 1GB of RAM fills up, allowing you to free up some of the tablet's memory with a tap, in an attempt to make it run faster. System Doctor repeatedly alerted me that the Iconia One 10 was low on memory when I surfed the Web in Chrome and looked up directions in Google Maps.
Acer includes its suite of BYOC (build your own cloud) apps for those who want to get real work done. The abFiles app accesses files stored on a Windows PC and converts Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents into PDFs to share with others. The media apps abPhoto and abMusic let you view and play the images and songs you keep on your PC.
The tablet also comes with the standard suite of Google apps, including YouTube, Chrome and Gmail. On the Iconia One 10's second screen, Acer placed spammy links to download a handful of games, including Words With Friends, Game of War and Clash of Kings.
We usually don't test tablets for heat, but the lower-left corner of the Iconia One 10's underside registered a temperature of 107 degrees Fahrenheit after streaming HD video for 15 minutes. That's well above what we consider comfortable (95 degrees).
While we don't expect to take high-quality photos with budget tablets, the Iconia One 10's 2-MP front camera shot especially blotchy selfies on our rooftop.
The 5-MP camera on the tablet's back did better, accurately rendering the red of the leaves on a tree and showing some detail in its branches.
The Iconia One 10 offers very good endurance. The tablet lasted 9 hours and 13 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which consists of continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi.
The $150 model of the Acer Iconia One 10 we reviewed has a 10.1-inch HD (1280 x 800) screen, a 1.3-GHz quad-core MediaTek Cortex A53 MT8163 processor, 1GB of RAM, a 2-MP front camera and a 6,100-mAh battery. For $168, you can get the same tablet, but with a faster 1.7-GHz MediaTek MT8151V processor, 16GB of storage, a smaller 5,400-mAh battery and a lower-resolution 0.3-MP front camera. For $188, you can buy a version of the midrange model that upgrades its storage to 32GB.
With its solid battery life and useful multitasking apps, the Acer Iconia One 10 tablet is a pretty good deal at only $150. However, it's not the speediest tablet in its class, and the audio doesn't sound great, even for a budget slate.
For $30 more, we prefer the Lenovo Tab 2 A10 ($180), which offers better performance, 3 more hours of battery life, excellent sound and a brighter full-HD screen. But if you're looking for a more affordable tablet for apps, video streaming and Web surfing, the Iconia One 10 is worth considering.