Taiwanese manufacturer Acer made an ambitious entry into the tablet field this year, introducing not one -- but four -- different tablet product lines that give buyers a choice between two different operating systems and two very different user experiences. See what you know about the Acer Iconia.
Acer is one of the few manufacturers to give consumers a choice: The Iconia TAB A Series runs Android 3.0, while the TAB W series runs Windows 7.
One of the drawbacks of the Android operating system is that the 150 tablet-specific apps available in the Android Marketplace can't compare with the 65,000 available for iPad in the App Store.
With 2.5 million tablets shipped in 2011, Acer surpassed the BlackBerry PlayBook and held its ground against Samsung, Motorola and other competitors.
Also known as Android 3.0, Honeycomb is an operating system designed specifically for tablet PCs. Honeycomb is an entirely new branch of the Android tree, not a mere upgrade of the Android 2.0 operating system that powers many smartphones.
With a screen size of 10.1 inches and a resolution of 1280 x 800, the Acer Iconia tablet beats the 9.7-inch, 1024 x 768 resolution iPad.
The Iconia-6120 is Acer's attempt to make dual touch screens a reality. The bottom screen can display a full virtual keyboard, bridging the gap between tablets and laptops.
With a 7-inch screen and 8 GB internal storage, the A100 is the cheapest Iconia tablet, priced around $330. The dual touch screen 6120 will set you back about $1,200, while the 10-inch Android and Windows tablets range from $450 to $619.
Acer announced its Iconia tablet line in November 2010, but the first tablets, including the W500 and the A500, didn't hit the shelves until April 2011. The 7-inch A100 joined the party in August 2011.
At nearly 1.7 pounds, the Iconia weighs more than an iPad, but not by much. Its W Series counterpart is much heavier, weighing in at 3.48 pounds.
The Acer Iconia's gyro meter makes the tablet super responsive to changes in position, helping accuracy and response time for even the most complex games.
The Acer Iconia tablet features between one and four USB or micro USB ports (depending on the model) and a microSD card slot, making it easy to read memory cards and access flash drives, USB media card readers and portable hard drives.
Like the Motorola Xoom, the Iconia Tab A500 runs on the Android 3.0 operating system (Honeycomb) and has the same 10.1-inch screen size and 1280 x 800 resolution. The Iconia A500 is a little chunkier and heavier, but offers memory, speed and processing power comparable to the Xoom for about $150 less.
Reviewers have generally praised the Acer Iconia as a solid tablet at an affordable price, but some have lamented weaknesses in Google's Android operating system, including its sometimes sluggish performance and its less-than-intuitive interface.
There are four different tablets in the Iconia Tab A Series (the 7-inch A100 comes in an 8 GB or 16 GB version, while the 10.1-inch A500 comes in a 16 GB or 32 GB version), and two in the Iconia Tab W series (the W500 is available with Windows 7 Home or a Windows 7 Professional option). And that doesn't even include the Iconia-6120 dual screen tablet or the new 4.8-inch Iconia SMART, a smartphone/tablet hybrid.
You can choose your screen size, your memory and even your operating system, but when it comes to color, it's basic black.
The models containing a "w" are functionally identically to their counterparts without (for example, the 07u08w is the same as the 07u08u), but you'll only find them at Walmart.
Acer helped build its U.S. presence and, according to PC World magazine, became the third largest PC vendor in the world, when it acquired Gateway in 2007.
You can add a laptop (wireless or docked) to set up your Iconia for work, or kick back on the couch and turn up the volume with your wireless remote, but you'll have to choose your operating system before you buy.
You should be able to get through about two feature films (4.5 hours) if you take the Acer Iconia A100 on your next flight. Going farther than that? You might want to take the A500 for its estimated 9- to 10-hour battery life.
AT&T announced in March 2011 that it would add the Acer Iconia Tab A501 to its network in late 2011.