Review: Acer Iconia A1-830
We’re all dependent on a personal computer, and we’re all in love with our smartphone, but does everyone need a tablet? Even if you don’t, the price of these portables is becoming too hard to resist, and that’s what Acer is hoping will persuade people to check out its A1-830, an Android push for the iPad Mini’s spot.
For Acer’s latest tablet, the company isn’t going the route of the Snapdragon processor, or even sticking with the Tegra. Rather, it’s looking at the chips used in its Windows devices, which it hopes will provide solid performance across the board.
As such, you’ll find a dual-core Intel Atom Z2560 processor here clocked at 1.6GHz, working alongside 1GB RAM and 16GB storage, with the latter able to be boosted thanks to the microSD card slot on the side.
Connection options are pretty standard for a mid-range product, so don’t expect 802.11ac here, because you won’t get it. Rather, you’ll find 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, and GPS, with wired connectivity catered through the microUSB port.
Cameras are also included, with a 5 megapixel camera on the back and a 2 megapixel camera up front, neither of which support a flash.
Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean” runs on this hardware, and all of this sits under what is technically 7.9 inch IPS screen, running the resolution of 1024×768, and offering 162 pixels per inch.
The Acer Iconia A1-830 is built in an aluminium casing, with glass on the front.
You’ll find a small selection of ports and buttons on this tablet, with a microUSB and 3.5mm headset jack up top and the microSD slot on the right, while the power button and volume rocker sit on the right edge, with all soft-buttons catered for with the on-screen Android buttons provided by the copy of Android running on the device.
The battery is rated for 4000mAh.
When it comes to smartphone size, there is no right choice. Some people like big, and others like small, and tablets are exactly the same, with a variety of choices available depending on what you’re looking for.
There are small tablets ranging from 7 to 8 inches, there are medium tablets that fill the 9.7 to 11 inch size, and there are even tablets that go from 11 to 13 inches, making them big slates.
Acer’s Iconia isn’t for that last set, though, offering a 7.9 inch tablet to people who don’t want to spend more than $250, and who are looking for something sleek and stylish, while also offering what appears to be a decent amount of power.
From a design point of view, we can’t give any real awards to Acer for this one, because it’s very clear who and what they’re channelling. We’ll give you a hint: the company name starts with an “a” and the product is a very popular tablet.
Give up? We’re sure you know the answer anyway, and once you see the Iconia A1-830, it will become obvious all the same, and that’s because there’s a similar softened rectangular aluminium body, plastic edging at the top, rear camera at the top left corner, and a very distinct frame around the screen to Apple’s current crop of iPads.
You won’t be surprised either to hear that the design works, even with another company pulling it off, because it worked for that other mob, so why not use it here. It’s modern, comfortable in the hands, and looks premium, so is the rest of it premium to match?
Yes and no.
Switch it on to find a bright screen facing you with decent viewing angles, though not a lot of resolution to match it. Acer has provided the same resolution as Apple’s iPad Mini, and we understand that from the design, this is Acer’s best attempt at an iPad Mini clone, but we’re not totally impressed by this, and we’ll get to this shortly.
It’s also worth noting that Acer’s choice to go with a 4:3 aspect ratio makes the A1 830 a little different from other 7 inch Android tablets, offering more width than other Android bodies. Will this be better for you? It depends on if you use the tablet to watch a lot of movies, but certainly if you do typing, you’ll find the landscape position means the keyboard won’t be taking up most of the screen like it can on widescreen slates.
Using the tablet, you’ll find a pretty barebones version of Android here, with 4.2 “Ice Cream Sandwich” provided. That’s not really close to the latest version, 4.4 or “KitKat,” and that’s surprising. In any case, if or when KitKat does land for the Iconia A1-830, we expect it’ll be more or less exactly the same as Acer has provided, because there’s very little the company has provided that’s different in the first place, except maybe a change of a widget here and there.
That does mean, however, that it is easy to use, since it’s the way Google envisioned, with several widgetised homescreens, a scrolling menu, a tab in that menu section for widgets to stick on the home screen, and some drop down notification bars.
For casual use, the A1 830 works pretty well, with the WiFi letting you jump onto a network pretty quickly, and the basic Android installation giving you access to books, magazines, games, and apps, all in a body that feels more durable than many of the plastic slabs permeating the market’s every orifice.
But we need to take aim at Acer for a few things in the A1, though, and the most important one from our point of view is the performance. Sure, it will work for casual use, but the moment you decide to really use that tab and the machine starts to fall over.
Running more than four tabs in the web browser? It’s there. Loading a few apps and switching between them? It’s there.
If you don’t mind only using your tablet for a small amount of things — email, minor web browsing, a little bit of video and some low-end games — the Iconia A1-830 will be fine, but anything else and it just won’t cut it, and we suspect the 1GB RAM hasn’t helped here at all, especially when Android really seems to prefer a minimum of 2GB for that sweet spot.
It’s a shame, too, because we had hoped Acer’s use of the Intel Atom on-board — a chip clocked to 1.66GHz — would have helped, but alas here, with the memory, or lack thereof, really highlighting what should have been boosted before release.
Another concern, though not as big, is the screen, which just doesn’t cut it running only 1024×768.
Technically, that’s the same resolution as Apple’s iPad Mini, which commands a hundred dollars more, but the Acer A1 830 isn’t an iPad Mini, and doesn’t run Apple’s mobile operating system iOS. We’re not huge fans of Apple’s sub-HD 1024×768 iPad Mini resolution either, so don’t think we’re giving high marks to it and not Acer, but it’s pretty easy to pixel peep here, with some obvious blur around the icons.
It won’t be bad enough to hurt your eyes, but given that the Iconia A1-830 is 50 bucks less than Google’s own Full HD Nexus 7, we’re not sure we see the same value Acer is putting out.
At a price of $249, it’s hard to see the A1 830 as good value, even if it does compete on price quite well with Apple’s own iPad Mini, which Acer is drawing heavy inspiration of.
The problem is there are better options for a little bit more out there, and if you had to pick, we’d probably tell you to shell out that little extra or wait for this to drop even more before considering pulling out that wallet.