The USB port even allows the connection of devices like keyboards and mice. Hooking up a mouse suddenly makes the use of the A500, like web browsing, a hugely enhanced experience. It will probably make you want to buy the optional docking station that perches the tablet upright (at a cost of another £100 or so), although we found a rather cheap alternative in the form of the ‘iFoldAway‘ foldable plastic stand, available for a mere £6.99! The only catch; it won’t charge the tablet.
The tablet also comes with a HDMI-output, which if connected to a TV or monitor along with a keyboard and mouse suddenly turns the tablet into something you could begin to look at as an alternative to a desktop PC. Of course, the apps don’t offer anywhere near the same level of depth as desktop applications you’d get for a PC or Mac, but if you don’t really use a desktop for much more than basic document editing and web browsing, it really can do most of what you want. What’s more, the apps are getting better all the time.
This additional feature may serve as a means of justifying shelling out for something that is always fighting to prove it isn’t just an expensive gadget for people with a high disposable income and no actual need for one.
But what about using it on its own? You may not be wanting to replace a computer, especially given the extra cost of getting a dock to get the most from it. The A500 comes in a number of configurations, from the £400 32GB model reviewed here, to a cheaper 16GB model for £350. Both are Wi-Fi only, although a 3G enabled model for use on the move is coming soon, for around £530. All of these prices are less than Motorola’s XOOM, even though the specs are very similar. However, it’s Acer that comes out top on the imaging side with a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera (with flash) and a front-facing 2-megapixel sensor for video calling. Not that I can see anyone wanting to take photos with a tablet.
The 1GB of RAM and a microSDHC socket are other good additions, as well as a decent set of internal speakers with Dolby Mobile support, to further enhance the sound.
The problem is the A500 weighs in at a hefty 730g, and it isn’t easy to hold with one hand while pressing on the screen. Unless you put it on your lap, or buy the dock, it becomes quite cumbersome to hold for any length of time. Another annoyance is the automatic brightness that is far too quick to turn the brightness down to the bare minimum. It’s probably great at maintaining a decent battery life, but it makes the screen near impossible to see.