UPDATED: Acer’s Iconia Tab A500 will sell for $449 when it becomes available April 24, although U.S. consumers can pre-order the tablet online through Best Buy (s bby) starting today. Acer also today announced accessories for the A500, including a wireless keyboard, dual-angle desktop dock with infrared remote control and a case with two display positions.
The A500 is Acer’s answer to Apple’s (s aapl) popular tablet and shares similar hardware features to the 16 GB Wi-Fi iPad 2: the same internal storage capacity, a dual-core CPU (Nvidia’s Tegra 2 (s nvda)) a 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800, multitouch, capacitive display, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 5-megapixel rear camera with autofocus, and a 2 megapixel front camera for video calling through Google Talk or other third-party services. Acer’s A500 will run on Google’s Honeycomb (s goog) (Android 3.0) operating system, so it will also be compared to Motorola’s Xoom Wi-Fi (s mmi) model, which boasts double the storage, but costs $150 more than the Acer’s tablet.
Critics of Honeycomb tablets will correctly point out that a solid tablet experience is at least as important, if not more so, than the actual hardware specifications. It’s early in the Honeycomb life-cycle, but my own impressions show an operating system that was rushed to market with room for improvement in the experience and available software.
The operating system still can’t take advantage of external memory, a possible differentiator in the minds of consumers, until Honeycomb sees a software update. Like the Xoom, Acer’s A500 has a memory card slot and can be used to add 32 GB of storage, for example.
In light of these challenges, Acer has positioned the A500 well in terms of price by undercutting the iPad by $50. Hardware specifications and user experience aside, it’s price that will get consumers to at least consider this, or any other, tablet. And a lower pricing trend will help spur both the tablet wars and sales of such devices. Earlier this week, a pair of smaller slates were priced at attractive points that could spur more interest: Acer’s smaller A100 appeared in the UK for £299 ($483 USD) and is rumored to hit the U.S. for $399 or less, while a 32 GB Wi-Fi model of Samsung’s 7-inch Galaxy Tab was announced at $349.
Update: After publishing this post, Acer reached out to inform us that the A500 doesn’t face the same external memory constraint of the Motorola Xoom, saying the “A500 does indeed have the capability out of the box to utilize external storage including the micro SD reader.”