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Acer Iconia Tab A110 review

Acer’s Iconia Tab A110 has some strong points, but the screen lets the show down badly.

With tablet sales still very much on a steep upward trend, every manufacturer wants a slice of the pie. Acer has lot of different tablets in its line-up, in several ranges, with the A and B Android ranges complementing the W5 and W7 Windows based ones.

The A110 is a small format tablet, with a 7-inch screen. Selling for around £180 it is vying for the same market as the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7, along with plenty of others. We aren’t sure the Kindle Fire HD with its hybrid approach to Android presents much competition, but the Nexus 7, which is slightly less expensive, and somewhat more compelling, gives every tablet in the seven-inch space a difficult time, and Acer’s A110 is no exception.

The general design of the A110 is reasonably attractive. Rounded corners, a solid grey backplate and well positioned slots and connectors are all a good start. The ability to expand on the internal 8GB of storage and the presence of a micro HDMI slot are also both welcome. If we had one major gripe about the Nexus 7 it was its very irritating lack of support for memory expansion.

However the A110 is a bit thick and a bit heavy. It measures 193mm long, 126.5mm tall and 11.4mm thick. The 7-inch screen sits in a fairly broad bezel and while this means you can hold the A110 without fear of accidental screen taps it does look a little oversized, as well as giving the tablet a somewhat dated look.

That’s not our main issue though. It’s the thickness that we felt to be too much, and we also think the 390g of weight is a bit on the heavy side. Compare it to the Nexus 7’s 10.45mm of thickness and 347g of weight and you see what we mean. The A110 feels larger than it should be, and in this regard really falls down in the face of the best of the competition.

Power is provided by a micro USB connector – we do hate it when tablets use a proprietary charger. The processor is surprisingly accommodating. It is a 1.2GHz quad core Tegra 3. And it is supported by 1GB of RAM. As you might expect from that specification the Iconia Tab A110 zips along well and serious gaming does not trouble it.

Another plus is the presence of Android 4.1 – Jelly Bean. No tablet is really acceptable if it offers anything less than the latest major Android version. And further in Acer’s favour – the OS is barely touched from its native look and feel. There’s no news on updates as yet, but we’d expect this to make them far easier for Acer to deliver, or for users to take the hacking route as a last resort.

We can’t complain too much about the absence of a back facing camera either. It’s a feature plenty of tablets trying to reach this kind of price are prepared to sacrifice. And there is the ability to shoot photos and video via the front camera which manages still shots at 2-megapixels and 720p video.

You’ve got three performance profiles available, balanced, power saver and high performance, to help give the battery a fighting chance of seeing you through a day, and we reckon it can do that fairly easily if you are smart about how you choose your plan.

However, there is one very important negative about the Iconia Tab A110, and it is so very important that it means we couldn’t really recommend the device. The screen is a let down in more than one respect. Its brightness is very disappointing. Leave it on automatic brightness setting and it is often way too low for comfort. Turn auto off and rack the brightness up to the maximum and things improve, but not spectacularly.

The resolution is also lacking. 1024 x 600 pixels feels too low for a modern table. Another Nexus 7 comparison reveals that tablet’s 1280 x 800 to be superior. The resolution certainly shows itself as deficient when text comes into the fame, with web site text looking fuzzy. It’s perfectly readable, but not the smooth, enjoyable experience we would prefer. Viewing angles aren’t that good, either.

It’s not possible to judge the A110, or any other seven inch tablet, without comparing it to the Nexus 7. A year ago we’d have probably classed this as one of the better budget tablets. But the game has changed and we now have higher expectations of what we should get for our money. The A110 delivers some good things in certain areas, but ultimately falls down where it really counts.