By GABEY GOHbytz@thestar.com.my
With a speedier brother just around the corner, does the Acer A200 hold its own in an increasingly crowded market?
IF THERE is one thing you can say about the Iconia Tab A200, Acer's offering in the mid-range Android Tablet space - is that it appears to be the forgotten sibling.
Released as the successor to the Iconia A500, yet overshadowed during this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by its Tegra-3 quad-core touting brother, the A700 - the A200 made its appearance well under the radar.
A first glance, the A200 is a nondescript piece of hardware, featuring a non-slip, textured metallic grey back and modest curves leading up to the bezel.
It is certainly much cleaner looking and more elegant than the A500 though at 710g, it's heftier than many other Tablets in its class.
It's nice to hold in portrait orientation but in landscape mode, it was a little uncomfortable due to its flat edges and awkwardly positioned dual speakers at the bottom of either side of the Tablet.
Inside, it houses a dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor with 1GB RAM and 16GB of on board storage.
What's nice about the A200 despite it's girth (or because of it), is that Acer has managed to cram in multiple input and output ports, in addition to a covered microSD slot and micro USB port, there's also a standard USB port.
Personally the standard USB port was a highlight, as it's not often an option on Tablets.
For all the talk about cloud-based computingwhich Tablets are supposed to spearhead the shift to,, having the option to plug in my trusty thumb drive to get a file was a relief.
Especially since I couldn't retrieve said file remotely as I happened to be right smack in the middle of a WiFi dead zone at the time (the A200 is a WiFi-only Tablet).
If you look at the A200 and get the feeling that's something's missing, well that "missing" thing would be a rear-facing camera, as there is only a 2-megapixel front-facing camera for video chats.
But considering Tablets aren't the first port of call for photography (yet), it's no real loss for now.
If there is one major issue with the A200, the screen would be it. First of all the glass Acer used on this is highly reflective, which is bad enough outside on a typically sunny afternoon.
However even when in the office, I found I had to re-angle my hold on the Tablet so it escaped the direct gaze of any overhead lights.
Secondly, it's a massive fingerprint magnet (emphasis on the magnet part) as a simple wipe with a cloth didn't completely erase the evidence of my touchscreen typing history.
The A200 is an Android Tablet, which means it comes pre-installed with the Honeycomb operating system out of the box, with the option to upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich.
As the update for that appeared on the last day of the review period, the focus here would be on Acer's tweaks to an otherwise standard Android experience.
The highlight of the user experience on the A200 would be Acer's "ring" interface.
There's a button made out of two yellow, concentric rings in the middle of the status bar that pulls up a menu with three customisable shortcuts, a volume control bar and a rotating, 3D carousel of your Browser bookmarks.
It's very snazzy and quite convenient for quick access to frequently used functions and webpages.
There's also a nice option to take a quick screenshot and while it can lag a little at times, it certainly adds a nice usability layer to the Android OS.
The shortcuts on the lock screen are also a nice touch - you can drag the lock icon to the left into four customisable shortcuts to directly unlock into that particular app.
Another highlight would be the battery life on this Tablet, as the power management capabilities behind it is quite good.
For example, if the Tablet falls asleep, upon re-awakening, you'll notice that WiFi has been disabled. Great for energy conservation, not so great for those that live on constant notifications.
On a full charge, with medium-level usage such as constant web browsing and note taking, the A200 survived for the entire day.
Loading desktop versions of any sites would be a little slower than what many would be accustomed too but to the A200's credit, the browser is also set up to automatically load the mobile versions of any site, if available.
To sum it up, with a much-improved brother around the corner, the A200's claim to fame would be it's status as one of the few mid-range Androids with the Ice Cream Sandwich update already available.
This is one of those, "get it if you love it at first grip" scenarios and if you are not in the market for the top-of-the-line Android Tablet.
Pros: Acer UI is good; great battery life; USB slot.
Cons: Screen is too reflective and a fingerprint magnet; slightly too heavy for comfort.
Iconia Tab A200
Android Tablet computer
CAMERA: 2-megapixel (front)
PROCESSOR: nVidia Tegra 2 dual-core (1GHz)
EXPANSION: MicroSD slot, micro USB
WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY: WiFi (b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, infrared
PLATFORM: Android 3.2 Honeycomb (upgradeable to Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0)
DISPLAY: 10.1in WXGA (1,280 × 768-pixels) screen
BATTERY: Lithium-polymer 3,260mAh
CONNECTIVITY: Micro USB, headphone jack
DIMENSIONS (W x H x D): 260 x 175 x 12.4mm
PRICE: RM 1,299
Review unit courtesy of Acer Sales & Services Sdn Bhd, 1-800-88-1288