The 7-inch-tablet form factor still reigns supreme in popularity. But improvements in screen technology and dropping costs have made the 10-inch tablet fashionable again.
That’s good news for users who want to play games and watch videos in addition to getting work done, especially since the larger tablets cost only about $50 or so more than their 7-inch cousins. And, Acer’s new 10-inch Iconia A3-A10-L662 Android tablet switches from productivity to play better than many of its competitors.
The Iconia A3’s retail packaging makes sense because many small businesses buy the bulk of their hardware from retail sources. It arrives well packed, but in addition to the tablet, the box includes only the power supply and a small setup manual. Optional keyboards, cases, and other accessories are plentiful, since Acer is a major tablet vendor that’s well supported by third parties. This is important, because off-brand tablets purchased in the past to keep costs down may not have had any third-party accessories available, or they would be difficult to obtain. Now that quality, brand-name tablets have dropped in price to well under $300, however, hoop-jumping to find accessories should no longer be necessary.
The first step, the welcome screen, offers language choices of English (U.S. or U.K.) and Spanish, which makes sense for the U.S. market. The Iconia A3 correctly picks up the strongest Wi-Fi router and handles all the undercover security details, so putting in the Wi-Fi password is all that is needed to get connected and working.
Since the Iconia A3 is an Android tablet, you get dead-simple access to the Google ecosystem. Put in your Google username and password, and all your emails, documents, and storage appear—after agreeing to several terms of service and privacy notifications, of course. Google Play then asks for a credit card number if you have never before provided that information to Google. If you have, the question does not appear.
Acer has its own cloud tools, but they are aimed at individuals and families, not businesses. While the Acer Cloud, Acer Portal, Acer Photos, Acer Docs, and Acer Music (all to be configured separately) work, businesses will likely already have Dropbox or Box access available for easier file syncing and exchange, or use various Google tools.
If you’ve used any Android iteration in the last couple of years, the Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) version on the Acer A3 will be familiar. Since Android-powered phones now handily outsell iPhones, few people will be absolutely new to the operating system for this tablet.
Under the Hood
The 1.2GHz quad-core processor from MediaTek running on 1GB of RAM provides nice snap to operations. Screen resolution, at 1,280 x 800, offers a sharp, crisp display that Acer claims has a much wider viewing angle than other screens, but that can’t be verified without some optical lab equipment. To the eye, it does seem readable from more positions. While the display is deep with good color, other 10-inch tablets have upped the resolution ante to 1,920 x 1,200, and of course the iPad’s Retina Display makes people swoon (or is that the price that prompts swooning?).
If your plans for a 10-inch tablet lean toward business, the video resolution and screen clarity of the Iconia A3 will serve you well. If your plans for a 10-inch model lean heavily toward streaming videos, you may want to save up for a higher-res screen, although the free included cartoon, Shaun the Sheep: The Big Chase, looks pretty darn good on this screen. And the Dolby-engineered audio sounds better than most tablets through the stereo speakers (in landscape mode) and great through headphones.
In a world increasingly filled with 7-inch tablets, the Iconia A3 at first feels a little large and heavy. But for business users just a few short years ago, a clipboard filled with papers was about their only mobile “data processing” option. This tablet is smaller and lighter than a clipboard and does much more.
Acer offers an A3 model with 32GB of storage for a few dollars more. Consumers may want the storage, but with so many cloud options that provide essentially unlimited storage, businesses should be fine with the standard 16GB. Both models support microSD High Capacity (microSDHC) memory cards, and both include a mini-HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) for connecting to monitors, TVs, or projectors.
Screen size may help on complicated forms, and viewing Web pages is easier without zooming all the time. The larger tablet size makes the on-screen keyboard easier to use, but not enough to convert those who hate on-screen keyboards (Wow, look at all those hands in the air). You can buy a case with a keyboard, but that’s still a pretty small keyboard. You can also buy an external keyboard and connect it with the micro-USB port for real typing.
Battery life is impressive: The tablet seems to run for days, but that’s without streaming many movies or songs. Acer claims 11 hours, and for general business use you can work all day with no problem.
There are more powerful (and more expensive) tablets than the Acer A3-A10 from other vendors, and even from Acer itself. But this tablet seems to hit a sweet spot between size, performance, and affordability.
SPECIFICATIONS (courtesy of Acer)
OS: Android 4.2
Processor: 1.2GHz quad-core MediaTek MT8125T
RAM: 1GB DDR3
Storage: 16GB, expandable via microSD
Screen: 10.1-inch multitouch TFT LED-LCD, 1,280 x 800
Wireless: 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS
Battery: 2-cell lithium polymer, 7,300 mAh
Dimensions (HxWxD): 0.4 x 10.2 x 6.9 inches