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Summary:

Acer’s new 7-inch Honeycomb tablet, the A100, launches today with a compelling $330 price tag. Helping to add appeal to the small slate is support for the compatibility zoom mode in Google Android 3.2 that better supports the many available smartphone apps on the small tablet.

acer-iconia-a100-featured

Acer today launches its A100, the first 7-inch tablet to ship with Google Android Honeycomb. The small slate is available in a Wi-Fi only model for $330 at retail stores in the U.S. and Canada. At under one pound and a half-inch thick, the A100 with Android 3.2, looks to be a more portable way to use Honeycomb and should be an improvement over larger tablets due to the platforms better support for Android phone applications.

Aside from the smaller, 7-inch display at 1024×600 resolution, the guts of the A100 will sound familiar. The tablet runs on Nvidia’s 1 GHz Tegra 2 processor, has a 5-megapixel rear camera with flash for stills or 720p video capture, a 2-megapixel camera for video chat, and supports 802.11 a/b/g/n flavors of Wi-Fi. For $330, Acer’s includes 8 GB of storage capacity, but another $20 buys a model with 16 GB. A microSD card slot supports additional expansion up to 32 GB of storage.

I’ve been using a 7-inch Android tablet since December of last year when I bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab, and I like the smaller form factor that Acer is using for the A100. My Honeycomb experiences on larger devices has been mediocre at best, partly because relatively few software titles are optimized for the larger displays. With Android 3.2, however, Google added a “compatibility zoom” mode, similar to Apple’s “pixel doubling” feature on the iPad. This allows phone apps to scale better on Honeycomb tablets.

That could make all the difference for small tablets like the A100. I’m waiting for a review unit, but Sascha Segan at PC Mag took the A100 for a spin and says the zoom mode is:

[K]ind of wonderful on a 7-inch device, which is just small enough that the scaling still looks usable. I tried the Conan O’Brien Team Coco app, which looks awful on most tablets. In Standard mode, it’s an ugly list with too much empty orange space on the right side of the screen. In Zoomed mode, it’s tight and good-looking.

The A100 could be better positioned to offer a richer third-party app experience than the more expensive 10-inch Honeycomb tablets, and it has a compelling price as well. Acer is known more for its budget-conscious hardware than for its superior device quality, something I found out when I reviewed the capable A500 Android tablet. But there could definitely be a market for a contract-free $330 slate.

The only major downside I see so far, at least until I get my own time with the tablet, is the small battery. Acer expects five hours of web browsing, but even less time when watching video. For a device that’s meant to be more portable, it really needs to run all day long on a single charge.

  1. That battery life is surprising given the stellar battery life I’ve gotten from my 7″ Galaxy Tab.

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    1. Actually, when looking at the specs, it’s not that surprising. Acer reportedly used an 1530 mAh battery. I believe the Galaxy Tab squeezes a 4,000 mAh battery inside. If the battery claims are accurate, I’ll pass on the A100, even with my preference for a smaller slate. It would be a device I’d pretty much carry everywhere all day, so it needs to run all day; at least for me.

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      1. To make it cheap, Acer is cutting on the quality of the components, but they are cutting on the wrong ones. They should never cut on the quality of the display, build materials and battery. I think everything else is fair game. And obviously the software should be flawless.

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      2. Yeah, I guess my surprise comes from the fact that it only has a 1530mAh battery. At the very least either make it big enough to stretch over a whole day or make it user replaceable (maybe it is, I didn’t see the specs).

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  2. Android 3.2 actually added zoom and stretch. Stretch is a lot better than zoom for most apps. IOS does not have stretch functionality nor does it need it.

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  3. I’ll stick with my awesome nook color with cm7 on it. I got it for 180 on sale and it blows away any other 7 inch tab and most of the 10 inch tabs. Has an amazing screen and lasts a whole day of playing games and streaming hulu and Netflix. Pretty much as much as you can do on it I do it. Great for devopment because it is the only unbrickiabke tablet because it is set to boot from the SD card first so even if you screw stuff up you can alwaysjust restore to a backup from your SD card or reflash your Tom. Its awesome.

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  4. Can it charge from a cheap, standard USB cable, or does it require a custom one? Charging isn’t as much of a hassle if you have a USB power adapter in the car and generic microUSB cables in the car, at the desk, etc.

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