It’s light and solidly built (though it looks fairly chunky) and is clad in a patterned grey plastic chassis. Weighing 401g, it’s almost identical to the smaller BlackBerry Playbook.
Acer includes a full complement of connection options: HDMI port, microUSB and a pair of speaker grilles occupy one end, together with a slim power/docking port. At the other is the silver power button and a 3.5mm headphone port. A microSD card slot hides under a plastic flap on the top. When the screen is in powered-down mode, it’s easy to get to the power button (which glows blue when the tablet is in standby mode) and reactivate the display.
The screen is dark, bordering on brooding. This helps disguise the usual fingerprint smear, but also means the app icons scattered across its five screens tend to blend into the background. Another issue is that the vertical viewing angles aren’t great: we found ourselves propping it up when viewing video clips and using the photo slideshow.
The 5Mp main camera does a decent job of reproducing detail and colour, but you’ll find yourself confused by the slew of options for viewing your gallery.
Acer installs Nemo Player to handle music and video playback and to show photos taken on the A100 or imported from an SD Card. You get a Video Wall of favourites allowing you to quickly jump to recent viewings. It’s not the most sophisticated media manager, but the simple setup suits the fairly limited screen dimensions of the A100. Alternatively, you can try the separate Multimedia app which serves up e-readers, games, social networks, music and video players, all presented in separate screens. And then there’s Acer Clear-fi – Acer’s bespoke media manager for accessing content over your home Wi-Fi network. Too much choice, guys.
Pulling up photos in the Acer Clear-fi menu, we found the images crisply reproduced with good levels of zoom and detail preserved up to around 5x zoom. The tablet does not auto-rotate images, but tapping a photo or using two fingers to twist it onscreen does the trick. One intriguing aspect we noted: we were able to have the photo gallery in Clear.fi live and still scroll through the Android Honeycomb tiles of currently active apps. Is this multitasking ju-ju on a formerly crash-prone tablet OS? It seems so.
We were also impressed with other attributes. Text entry is made easier by the inclusion of commonly used symbols such as @ to the right of the standard Qwerty key layout – no need to switch between numerals and alphabet.
The GPS module works well. We clicked on an address given in a Calendar listing, prompting Google Maps to launch and, within less than five seconds, zoom in to the exact building we’d specified. Places allows you to Explore Nearby, find restaurants, cash machines, attractions and petrol stations with ease, while one-click Google Latitude activation adds an instant people-search.
Battery life is good. The 1GHz Tegra 250 Cortex A9 processor and 1GB of RAM seems not to struggle – we had no issues with the Iconia A100 crashing (a not uncommon Android complaint), even with nine apps running at once. As with all Android devices from 1.6 onwards, you can monitor what’s using most of the battery power and manually quit any apps that are unreasonable resource drains. Nearly four hours’ use browsing the web, downloading apps and casual gaming didn’t faze the Acer, which was still reporting a third of a tank in its battery. Video use (based around Mpeg 4 variations, as is standard on tablets), saw the battery indicator diminish rather faster.