09
Jul
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Last Updated: October 25th, 2012

I'm not going to lie: after reviewing the Toshiba Excite 7.7 and declaring the 7(ish)-inch form factor my favorite, it was an incredibly difficult task picking up the A700 and giving it a pure, objective review. It feels clunky, cumbersome, and heavy-as-heck in comparison to the Excite 7.7. Alas, I know there is a market for larger, 10.1" tablets so I've done my best to keep an objective mind with this device because, fact is, not everyone is in love with the smaller form factor the way that I currently am.

With that said, let's talk a little bit about the A700. If you didn't already know, it's the big brother to Acer's other Tegra 3 slate, the A510. In fact, spec for spec, it's nearly identical, save for one major feature: the display. Where the A510 has a typical 1280x800 TFT panel, the A700 has an incredibly sharp 1920x1200 display - and it makes a bigger difference than you think, in both sharpness and performance.

Unfortunately, a higher res display does not equate a better device in this case. If you didn't already know, I loved the A510; it performs like a beast, gets great battery life, and is buttery smooth all the time. The A700 doesn't even begin to compare, especially where the latter is concerned.

Since this is just an incremental update to the A510, I'm only going to touch on the aspects that are the same and put the primary focus of this review on what's different. For a more in-depth look at things like build quality and feel, check out my full review of the A510.

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Details

Specs

  • Display: 10.1" 1920x1200 TFT HD display
  • CPU: 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor
  • RAM: 1GB DDR2
  • Storage: 32GB built-in storage, microSD card slot
  • Cameras: 5MP rear shooter, front-facing camera
  • Ports: microHDMI, microSD, microUSB
  • Battery: 9800mAh
  • OS: Android 4.0.3
  • Dimensions and weight: 6.9" x 10.2" x 0.4", 1.47lbs.
  • Price: $450
  • Color Options: Black or Silver
  • Availability: Immediately (Buy it here: Black, Silver)

The Good

  • The display. I initially thought that the jump from 1280x800 to 1920x1200 wouldn't be that drastic. Boy, was I wrong. Details are so crisp and sharp - it's really mind-blowing. And while it may still be a TFT display, the color reproduction is light years ahead of the A510.
  • "Smart" buttons. All Acer tablets that I've used actually have this feature, but I didn't start to appreciate it until recently. Basically, the volume rocker will change according to the orientation of the device. For example, if it's in landscape the leftmost button will decrease the volume; turn it to portrait, and that same button will increase the volume. That's good design, and I wish all tablets did it.
  • It feels well made. It's very solid - no creaking, cracking, popping, or anything else. It's well put together. 
  • Acer Ring. The Acer Ring is a nifty little utility that offers quick access to four user-selectable apps, as well as volume and bookmarks. It also allows users to customize which apps can be launched directly from the lockscreen, which is downright awesome.

The Bad

  • It's heavy. Like the A510, the A700 is quite heavy. In turn, this will make your wrists quite tired after holding it for extended periods.
  • The experience is choppy. Navigating through home screens, playing games, launching apps - basically everything done on this device results in some sort of choppyness. Considering this device is nearly identical to the A510, I can only assume it's because of the increased resolution. This doesn't make the device unusable by any standard; it's just not as fluid as I would like.
  • "Proprietary" microUSB charging port. While that may seem contrary, Acer managed to pull it off. The charging port is indeed microUSB, but it still requires a proprietary charger. Dumb move, Acer.

Build Quality, Design, and Feel

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If you read my A510 review, then you already know how I feel about the way that device, and thus this one, is built: like a tank. It feels incredibly well put together, the buttons are solid, and the plastic back feels quite nice. The main downside of this device is the weight: it's quite a bit heavier than most other tablets that I've used, and compared to the 13.4 oz. Toshiba Excite 7.7, the A700 feels like a brick.

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That said, the weight is the only negative thing I can say about the this otherwise terrific-feeling device.

Display and Touchscreen

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The biggest difference between the A510 and the A700 is the display. As I've already mentioned, the A510 has a 1280x800 TFT panel, and the A700 has a 1920x1200 TFT display - which is a huge upgrade. In fact, I don't think that can be overstated: the A700's display is so far and above what the A510 offers, they can't even be compared.

At 1920x1200 (224 PPI), the A700 has one sharp display. Letters are so crisp, images are more detailed - literally everything looks better on this device than any other 10.1" tablet that I've seen. Colors are well balanced and Acer seems to have corrected the "coolness" problem from the A510. While colors aren't over saturated, the blacks aren't quite as black as I would like them - I guess I got spoiled to the AMOLED display of the Excite 7.7 during my time reviewing it. Still, that's not uncommon among displays on mobile devices, and this one looks fantastic for what it is.

When I reviewed the HAND Stylus a while back, I used a very simplistic method to display how it reacted on various displays. Unfortunately, Acer hasn't improved touch sensitivity on the A510 at all since then:

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These lines were made without lifting the stylus from the display.

With that said, I haven't had any issues with touch responsiveness as long as I've been using the device, but if you're looking for an ultra-sensitive display, the A700 is not the one to buy.

Hardware, Performance, and Battery Life

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And this is where things start to go downhill for the A700. Performance isn't necessarily abysmal on the A700, it's just... sub par. Do applications load quickly? Yes, but just not fluidly. There is always a certain amount of choppiness to the device, be it scrolling through homescreens or the app tray, playing a game, or surfing the web. The response time is always quick, but the animations just leave a lot to be desired.

I'm not really sure the reason for this - it could be because the A700 is using the Tegra 3 T30, which is the same chip in basically all other Tegra 3 tablets on the market, save for the Transformer Pad Infinity (which uses the higher-clocked T33), and it just can't keep up, or possibly because of the fact it uses DDR2 memory instead of DDR3. Since the TF700 doesn't suffer from the same issue, I'm actually inclined to believe it's the former: the T30's GPU could be having a hard time keeping up with the higher-resolution display.

Does that make the A700 unusable? Heck no - it's still very usable, but if you love eye candy it just doesn't look as pretty while you're using it.

It's also worth noting that, exactly like the A510, the A700 gets quite warm during intense tasks, like gaming for example. It's definitely not an intolerable heat, but the bottom right corner on the back of the device does get noticeably warmer.

When it comes to battery life, the A510 lasted longer than any other tablet I've used. Considering the A700 has a higher resolution panel to worth the CPU/GPU even harder yet it keep the same 9,800mAh battery, it's understandable that it takes a hit here - and it does. Not by much, though; the A700 gets around eight or nine hours of use, putting it on par with most other 10.1" tablets.

Camera

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Over saturated, blah blah blah. It's a tablet camera, so here are some crappy pictures for you to look at:

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Software

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Like the A510, the A700 has the "Acer Ring," which offers quick access to four user-selectable apps, as well as volume and bookmarks. It also allows the user to customize the lockscreen and add the ability to launch four different apps without having to first unlock the device. Since I think the Acer Ring is a pretty important modification, I'm going to quote the entire software section of my A510 review:

Meet the Acer Ring, Acer's small addition that actually does a great job of making Android better. The Ring made its first appearance on the A200, and returns on the A510. To pull up the Ring, simply tap the yellow(ish) circle in the middle of the notification bar. It brings up a circle in the middle of the screen with shortcuts to four user selectable applications, bookmarks on the right side, a volume slider on the left side (which is slightly superfluous, considering there is a volume rocker), and a link to Google search directly in the middle.

My one issue with the Acer Ring is the icon: Acer could've used something a bit more subtle here. I get that people need to know it's there, but once you figure out what it is, there's not much of a reason to have such an ugly little eyesore in the middle of the notification bar. I would've loved it if Acer offered a few choices for the Ring icon; still, the Ring is still incredibly useful and a nice feature. If, for some crazy reason, you don't like the Ring or find it useful, it can be completely disabled (good job, Acer!). The Acer Ring isn't the only modification that Acer has made here, either; the lockscreen has also been slightly modified in a ridiculously useful way.

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In stock ICS, there are two options on the lockscreen: unlock and camera. Acer decided that this area could be used for so much more, so the lockscreen on the A510 has five options: four slots for user-selectable apps and one for unlock (of course). This is an absolutely wonderful feature, because you can launch frequently used apps (or even the app tray) directly from the lockscreen (it even includes a nifty, yet subtle animation!).

Acer also included a feature called Acer Print that allows you to, you guessed it, print things. Print is built directly into the browser, but many other applications can "share" things with Acer Print, effectively sending it to the printer. I was a bit skeptical of Acer Print at first, but it worked exactly as it should've from the very beginning. It found my network printer almost immediately and had it setup and ready to use within seconds. From there, I used the "send" feature in a Google Drive document, and it went straight to the printer without issues. Very nice.

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Acer did make one other software modification on the A700 that's not present on any other Acer tablet (that I've seen): notification toggles! In my opinion, this is one of the best mods that any manufacturer can make to a tablet, so I'm glad to see it finally make an appearance on an Acer tablet.

TL;DR

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Is the Acer Iconia Tab A700 a great tablet? No. Is it an awful tablet? No, not really. It's simply OK. The choppy performance leaves a lot to be desired, but that can easily be remedied, especially once Acer pushes Android 4.1 to the device - I'm sure Project Butter will fix it right up. Otherwise, it has a stellar display, an ample amount of storage, and enough soft mods to make the tablet very easy and practical to use.

But should you buy it with the *hope* that Acer will update it to 4.1? Maybe. Historically, Acer has done an excellent job of updating its tablets, and the comparable ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity (TF700) is around $50 more than the A700. Of course, with the $200 Nexus 7 on the horizon, you still have to really want a 10.1" display to spend that kind of money.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • http://twitter.com/IamPeePay Tomáš Petrík

    I appreciate TL;DRs in your articles.

  • http://twitter.com/IamPeePay Tomáš Petrík

    I appreciate TL;DRs in your articles.

  • Jesslyn Hendrix

    Perfect example of why my tablet sweetspot is my GTab 8.9. I find the 10 inchers too heavy and the 7 inchers way to small for quality video consumption and gaming.

    • http://profiles.google.com/marcusleejh Marcus Lee

      I'm hoping there'll be a Nexus tablet of that size...

  • Demian Clements

    actually the toggles are on the latest A500 build. and yes very welcome addition.

  • bill nye

    While project butter SHOULD speed it right up, be careful not to buy an android tablet based on what it might become

    • Jatoma

      Especially not an Acer-Tablet. Still waiting for an ICS Update on my A501. Not just because I want it, but also in hope to get rid of some pretty ugly bugs. (Cannot switch between 2G and 3G unless GPS is switched on! Etc.)

  • GeorgePR

    disable the ring (plus other acer bloatware) and change the launcher with apex or nova and probably your tablet won't have lagging problems any more

    • Al McDowall

      Also set the font size to 'normal' in display settings and....damn, what was the other thing...oh! Touch sensitivity set to high - also in display settings.

      Girlfriend and a good friend both have the A700s (I think they are being snuck out of the factory in South China, mine comes tomorrow) and both are delighted with them. I agree that some apps can be a little sticky, but desktop manipulation is smooth as silk (running Apex) and 90% of apps are running fine. In fact the only one which isn't any good is Markers, which is a shame.

      I understand if you are looking at them with a very critical eye, that they may seem to underperform a little (as you pointed out in the editorial, due to the 1.3 Ghz speed and the increased pixel count) but for my money, this tablet is pretty desirable.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

        No matter how you slice it, a brand-new, out of the box, high-end device shouldn't have to be tweaked to make it run fluidly.

        • Al McDowall

          I totally agree with you, and think that a simple increase in clock speed might have sorted this out. At the same time, I'm happy to make the very few changes and have a big beautiful Android tablet in my hands!

          To be honest, and this is perhaps a failing of mine, I kind of get more of a sense of ownership by improving the performance from sub-par to adequate! I want to get my hands dirty, I want to make changes and this is one of the things that keeps me away from Apple. I am fully aware and happy to admit that the iPad doesn't NEED any changes made to make it run smoothly. But I like that fact that I can be responsible for improving my tablet's performance.

          There's a whole story about Freud's nephew, 50s American housewives and ready-to-bake cake mix. I think I am part of that demographic, in a really weird way.

  • http://wave-france.blogspot.com Supercopter

    Am I the only one who think USB, HDMI and SD-card ports are a big deal on tablets? I'd like to see Tablet reviews taking that more into account. Iconia Tabs should IMHO get the credits they deserve on connectivity compared to almost all the other tablets.

  • flosserelli

    This review nails it. I was extremely excited to get my A700, but my initial excitement turned into disappointment within the first day of use. The UI is sluggish, not at all what I expected from a brand new design. The A700 is not a bad tablet, but it isn't the upgrade that I expected coming from the A500. Yes, you can install a third party launcher to improve lag, but that shouldn't be necessary for a device that is supposed to be the latest & greatest. The lag isn't worth the hassle of returning the tablet, but if you are considering the A700, I *highly* recommend putting your hands on one before buying.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

    These pictures make it seem as though your A700 has gone on some sort of undercover garden black ops mission.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000110073910 Ryno Bones

    I agree with everything you've typed. That being said, I love my A700. It was an upgrade from a rooted NookColor running CM7, and when taken as such, it is quite a positive upgrade.

    The choppiness has a few easy workarounds, (not cures) though. There are two places to set font size. Set fonts to "Normal" and that takes care of a little choppiness. I've also disabled the ring and most of the bundled bloatware....Actually, because I rooted the day after I got it, I went ahead and deleted all the bloat. Last thing I've done is switched to Apex Launcher because the POS that comes loaded on the A700 stutters fiercely. Apex solved all my issues with choppiness and touchscreen issues when navigating my screens.

    After making those changes, the tablet is actually a pleasure to use. I'm still looking forward to some updates (I can't use some of my apps because of the screen resolution), and I'm ready for an overclocking solution. I'm not going to give mine up until it breaks. Freaking love it, and what Acer won't fix, I'm sure the community can.

  • gogoboy

    I love the a700 so much, using it for almost everything which almost 80%... unless I really need so heavy duty work that only my PC able to handle it, not until one strange morning when I woke up realize the darn iconia a700 didn't charged at all. For a reason, I couldn't figure out if it's tablet side or the charger side problem because Acer genius design team try screw us with special power adapter diff from regular standard mobile USB charger. Now two months old tablet is as good as an useless dead brick. I will think twice to buy Acer product again to make sure wouldn't screw twice in the near future.