LAS VEGAS: PC MAKER Acer unveiled its Iconia A1-830 tablet just ahead of CES on Sunday, claiming that the 7.9in tablet is the ideal choice for buyers on a budget, offering them in-plane switching (IPS) screen technology and Intel Atom performance while costing a mere €169.
The price makes the A1-830 even cheaper than the £269 iPad Mini and £200 Google Nexus 7. However, with both the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini featuring superior specifications, some might question whether price alone will be enough to secure a place for the A1-830 in the increasingly competitive affordable tablet market.
Design and build
Visually the Acer Iconia A1-830 looks unashamedly like the iPad Mini. The tablet has an all but identical aluminium chassis that wraps round its glass front. Were it not for the Acer logo emblazoned across its back it would be forgivable to think that the A1-830 was built by Apple.
This isn't terrible though, as - like the iPad it's obviously inspired by - the A1-830 feels very robustly built and is fairly comfortable in the hand, featuring slightly rounded edges that help it sit neatly in your palm. The metal back also felt reassuringly sturdy and left us more than convinced the A1-830 could survive the odd bump and scrape unscathed. This is a good thing, as weighing 380g and measuring just 8.15mm thick the A1-830 is fairly travel friendly.
Acer made a big deal about the A1-830's 7.9in 1024x768 resolution IPS display during our hands-on. Having tested it, we were fairly impressed. While we wouldn't say that the A1-830's screen is on a par with the Nexus 7's 7in 1920x1200 resolution 1080p HD 323ppi display, it is fairly good when you consider the tablet's price.
Using the tablet in the hotel suite where our briefing took place we were impressed at how bright the A1-830's screen was and were pleased with how vibrant colours displayed on it were. The only minor qualm we noticed during our hands-on was that at points text displayed on the screen could look slightly fuzzy, although to be fair even in these situations the text was still easy to read.
Acer's loaded the A1-830 with a dual core 1.6GHz Intel Atom Clover Trail+ processor and 1GB of RAM. While these specifications aren't really anything to write home about in the quad-core processor dominated world we now live in, testing the tablet we didn't notice any serious performance issues.
During our hands-on we found the A1-830 opened webpages and apps in a matter of seconds and navigated between menus stutter-free. We didn't get to benchmark the A1-830 or see how it performed when tasked with more demanding loads like 3D gaming during our hands on, but we will be sure to do so in our full review later.
One downside we noticed is that the A1-830 runs the previous generation Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean mobile operating system, not Google's latest release, Android 4.4 Kitkat. While this is understandable considering the A1-830's price, it is a slight shortcoming, as the latest version of Android adds a number of useful under the bonnet changes.
These include a refined and more central version of the Google Now push update service and the new Restrictive Access feature added in Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Restrictive Access builds on the multiple account support added on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and lets the device's owner create separate user accounts with tailored rights.
Battery, storage and camera
Acer lists the A1-830 as boasting a 7.5 hour battery life. We didn't get a chance to test this claim during our hands-on, but considering its low power Atom processor the reported battery life sounds realistic.
The A1-830 features 16GB of internal storage. This can be upgraded to a maximum of 32GB using the tablet's microSD card slot.
Finally, the A1-830 features a 5MP rear-facing camera and a 1.9MP front-facing camera. Testing the tablet in the fairly well-lit hotel room, we found that the rear-facing camera was at best average. Images taken were reasonably good but nowhere near as good as those take on most current smartphones, and in general they looked slightly dull and washed out. However, considering how bad most tablets' cameras are this really isn't too big of a surprise and is forgivable.
The Acer Iconia A1-830 is set to arrive in Europe during the first quarter of 2014 and will have a recommended retail price of €169. Having had some time with the A1-830, while its specifications aren't anything special when compared to more expensive tablets, we were still fairly impressed. For its price the A1-830 offers reasonable performance and seems fairly well built.
For this reason, while we're certain that it won't set the tablet world alight, upon its release it could prove to be a solid choice for an individual or small business on a budget. µ