A First Look at the Acer Iconia Tab A500

The Acer Iconia Tab A500 is the first Honeycomb tablet I’ve seen here in Brunei and is the first proper 10″ Android tablet. As with most Android tablets the specs are somewhat typical: 10″ (1280×800) with dual cameras running on the nVidia Tegra2. @mfirdaus and I managed to play around with the device for over an hour and below is the video overview we took of it. Below the video are further thoughts of the device and sample photos and videos from the device itself.

Full specifications (from Concepts and Acer specification pages)

  • Android Honeycomb(3.0)
  • 10.1” (1280×800) HD Touchscreen
  • 10.24″ x 7″ x 0.52″
  • 10 points Capacitive Multitouch screen
  • 1Ghz nVidia Tegra2 Dual Core processor
  • 32GB built-in capacity
  • Dual Camera (2mp front, 5mp back)
  • GPS, E-Compass, 6-axis Gyroscope G-sensor (auto rotation)
  • Long life 3260mAh x 2 battery
  • Dual display (HDMI output) (micro HDMI port)
  • microUSB expansion slot (up to 32gb)
  • Physical USB port (Full-sized USB port)
  • Dolby Mobile dual speakers
  • Acer Clear.fi app
  • Acer Social Jogger app
  • Acer Photo Browser app
  • Preloaded games (NFS Shift, Let’s Golf, Hero of Sparta)

Weight & Size
I have always thought 10″ tablets were a bit bigger than an iPad but in fact they are similar sizes: The A500 is longer and thicker but narrower than an iPad 2 (A500: 26cm x 17.7cm x 1.33cm, iPad2: 24.1cm x 18.6cm x 0.88cm). However the A500 is relatively heavy at 765g (iPad 2 is 601g), thus if you’re holding on the device it can get tiring.

Screen
The 10″ screen was responsive and we didn’t feel at real / noticeable / annoying lag or unresponsiveness. At a resolution of 1280×800, that is the same resolution as a lot of 13″ or 14″ laptops and is of higher resolution compared to an iPad: this means when browsing you should see more content. Speaking of browsing, with the great browser which has tabs and the ability to install Flash, this would make a great web browsing device.

Honeycomb and Apps
Refer to the previous post on A First Taste of Honeycomb (Android 3.0): in short there are not many apps optimized for Honeycomb and the large screen, but regular apps can still run.

Connectivity
The killer hardware features are the microSD card slot, full sized USB port and micro HDMI.

The microSD card slot enables you to add storage without buying a new device. If you’re on a budget, just buy the lowest capacity device and add microSD cards for your media (do note that microSD cards could be slower than internal storage on device, but is probably cheaper and can be transferred to other devices in the future).

The full sized USB port means you can connect a regular USB keyboard to the device and start typing straight away if you really need to type out of an email / do word processing. This will easily make the A500 into a productivity device with the proper applications. The USB port also means that you can copy files to and from a regular thumb drive like a regular computer which is a great feature. I’ve heard that USB card readers do not work, but I have no confirmation on this.

The micro HDMI port means you can connect the device to a projector / HDTV with display mirroring (display on both device and projector/TV). While this is a great option, I still think an iPad 2 trumps with the VGA dongle because VGA is still very widely used and HDMI is not. For people wishing to use the device for presentations, I would think an iPad 2 with the VGA dongle would be much easier to work with. I don’t believe there is an easy way to convert an HDMI signal to VGA without an external box, which means added cost and added items to bring.

Cameras
The front facing camera is a 2 megapixel while the rear camera is 5 megapixels (and also has a flash) however the picture and sound quality wasn’t stellar: samples below. Do note that the device was covered with clear plastic which would affect both the video and audio quality but I wouldn’t expect quality to be much better than what we got. Audio quality is pretty disappointing. Photos are stored in JPG format while videos in 3GP (H264/AAC).

Photos (jpg)

  • Rear: 5 megapixels (2592 × 1944)

  • Front: 2 megapixels (1600 × 1200)

Videos (3gp format with H264 video and AAC audio)

  • Rear: 720p (1280×720)

  • Front: VGA (640×480)

Battery Life
We could not take the device home to test the battery life of the device but below lists battery tests from other reviews but most reviews say you can easily get an full days worth without issue.

Price
At B$728, the 32GB A500 is priced cheaper than a 32GB iPad 2 (B$798), but do note that a 16GB iPad 2 is cheaper (B$668). IMHO Concepts should have brought in the 16GB version of the Iconia Tab to undercut all iPad 2 prices because with most Android tablets you can add expansion via microSD cards.

Summary
As a consumer device, this is a great device for web browsing, reading and watching movies. If you have TVs/monitors with HDMI input, this is a possible media center device with a purchase of a microHDMI to HDMI cable or a microHDMI to standard HDMI converter. As an office device, this is a viable option is you have HDMI monitors / projectors. The USB port option is great for using external keyboards and transferring of files. Overall Honeycomb is still maturing and is hard to convince people with an Android tablet unless there is a particular function that they need/want that is available on Android or a specific tablet as the iPad, with iOS, has the advantage of apps. Would I get one myself? I doubt so, as I’m looking more of a 7″ device with USB host, VGA out (highly unlikely thus maybe HDMI out) and possibly 3G to wirelessly tether via a wireless hotspot so I may even look out for the Iconia Tab A100 which is a 7″ version that is coming out in a couple of months.

Other Useful Links

Want a computer to trade-in?

So Concepts Computer is having another trade-in offer at the moment: get an Acer Aspire One Happy for only B$398. I always love this trade-in offer as it gives people a chance to get rid of their old non-working computers and get discount in return. If you can’t get the trade-in offer, it is still going for B$468 under their Anniversary Special Deal.

I have some notebooks that meet this requirement and am willing to give them to anybody who wants to take advantage of this good offer. Anybody interested leave a comment / email me (tim _AT_ thewheatfield.org) / tweet me @thewheat and we’ll be in touch.

Bring any of your existing notebook or netbook (any brand, working or otherwise*) from now till 31 May 2011, you’re entitled to have Aspire One for $398 only.
*Terms & Conditions apply:-
Old Notebook or Netbook can be in working or non-working condition but all main components inlucding motherboard, HDD, processor, RAM, battery pack, power adapter etc… must be present. We reserver the right to reject any products deemed incomplete. Thank you

P.S. I also have desktops that can be used for the other trade-ins that don’t require laptops. Check Concepts website or visit their store to find out the latest trade-in deals

Concepts’ Computer Trade-in Promo

Have you got old/non-working computers? If you do and want a new computer, Concepts has a deal for you.

Trade in your old computer at get an Acer Aspire X3900 – 353X7 for B$798 (B$818 with card) which is a B$90 discount for your old computer. The monitor has a resolution of 1600×900 and a standalone cost of B$248 (or B$198 bundled price with a computer) and I believe this is a good deal and the computer is ideal for general / family use.

With only an Intel integrated graphics card, it will not be the perfect gaming machine but there is 1 PCI Express X1 slot and One PCI Express X16 slot (low-profile) for expansion. Note: I was told by the staff that there are no expansions slots, however on the specifications in the brochure and online there seems to be PCI Express slots, so I believe the staff was mistaken. However taking a look at the back of the machine, it is fulled with ports and there doesn’t seem to be any space for expansion cards to be placed. I asked to see inside the chassis but they declined my request. (Update 1: managed to get them to open the chassis for me as there are only 2 SATA connectors which are used for the DVD drive and hard drive and there are 2 expansion slots on the back of the case as shown below, I guess I wasn’t remembering things right)

Ports on the back of the system

Ports on the back of the system (including 2 slots of PCIe expansion)

Also note that this is a mini-tower and thus regular components may not fit in the expansion slots, thus the reason for "low-profile" mentioned in online specifications of this system. Another thing I noticed is that the configuration that Concepts is selling only has 2GB RAM where all the other bundles I’ve seen for the same model X3900-353X7 has 4GB RAM (Acer Malaysia’s product page | QQeStore | Google Search). I will try clarify with them on this (Update 1: seems that the 2GB is a Brunei deal, other computer shops selling Acer products have the same 2GB with monitor configuration as opposed to 4GB without monitor)

The base Acer Aspire X3900 – 353X7 bundle from QQeStore has 4GB RAM but no monitor. QQeStore sells OCZ 2GB DDR3 RAM for $258 which is more or less the price of the monitor (assuming existing 2GB in the system is a single stick). Personally I have enough monitors at home and would prefer 4GB RAM but I guess for the typical home looking to upgrade a computer system, the choice for a monitor is better. While 4GB would be great for any system, I feel 2GB should be sufficient for most and only enthusiast or people with higher requirements from a computer will complain. (Update 2: You can upgrade RAM to 4GB for B$98 – 2 sticks of 2GB)

Acer Aspire X3900 – 353X7 bundle by Concepts Computers, Brunei

  • Intel Core i3 530 Processor (2.93GHz) (4MB Cache /2.5 GT/Sec QPI)
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM (upgradable to 8GB)
  • 500GB SATA2 Hard Drive
  • DVD SuperMultiplus Writer
  • Acer Brand 20" Wide LCD Model: P205H (Resolution: 1600×900)
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD
  • 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit Ethernet
  • High-Definition audio with 3rd Generation Dolby Home Theater & S/PDIF
  • 40-in-1 Card Reader
  • 10L Housing, 352(L) x 265 (H) x 100 (W) mm
  • 1 PCI Express X1 slot & 1 PCI Express x16 slot (low-profile as found on Acer Malaysia’s product page)
  • 9 x USB 2.0, IEEE 3994 port, eSata, HDMI, Dsub VGA, 5 audio jacks, S/PDIF jack & 2 x PS/2
  • Acer USB Speaker Keyboard & Optical Mouse
  • Genuine Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium

Update 1: Kudo’s to Concepts for allowing me to tickle my fancy of wanting to know how many SATA connectors there are. I asked if I could transplant the system in an existing chassis and they even offered to do it for free. So if you do transplant the system you can use normal sized components but the next issue that you could run into would insufficient power to the component. Stock power supply is only 220W, so if you put in a power hungry graphics card you will have to spend more on an extra power supply too. Possibly add another $200 – $300 for that.

Update 2: So you can upgrade the RAM to 4GB for B$98. (2 sticks of 2GB which is a added nice touch as it means you can max out the RAM without getting rid of any sticks, if they used 4 sticks of 1GB RAM). Also my brother seems to be having an issue with this brand new system. Monitor detected that the video signal was lost, then the power button kept blinking. Tried moving the mouse, pressing the keyboard, pressing the power button and none of that worked. Had to force shutdown and also during a restore, the restoration got stuck.

Concepts Computers is not Recycling

So I finally managed to talk to Mr Vincent Pao, the General Manager of Concepts Computer regarding the recycling issue that I had, resulting in my “Concepts Computer Lying to Us?” post. In my talk with him about a few things but most important to me at the this time was the recycling issue. He stated that people from the recycling place came and picked up the equipment and that he did not have the contact number of the place or of the person in charge. He mentioned the place was at “Sungai Akar” which I believed to be the Sungai Akar rubbish dump. He said there is a little building/section where they recycle the equipment.

Today I went to the rubbish dump to try and find this recycling place that was supposed to be there. After some walking around and talking to the workers there, I was directed to “Ah Huat” who told me that they did pick up the equipment from Concepts but they are not recycling it. They are merely taking the equipment apart and dumping them in the dump. As shown below you can see the remains of some of the monitors and some PCB (printed circuit board) remains.

I admit, in my last post I was a bit harsh on Concepts, but after some thinking it could be a misunderstanding or miscommunication. It could have been that the person misled Mr Pao to think they were recycling or it could have been a misunderstanding on Mr Pao’s side. Whatever the story may be, I believe everybody should just know that at the end of the day the items being traded-in are not being recycled

Concepts Computer Lying to Us?

concepts misleading ad

After my post of Concepts Monitor Trade-In where I found out from the owner that they were intending to throw the monitors away, I was pretty happy to see the their ad in the paper that is seen on their handout brochure shown above. “SAVE THE EARTH WE LIVE IN” it says and shows a green bin with a recycling symbol on it. I thought it was great that they are recycling all the monitors and other devices they received from the trade-in offer so I wanted to find out which recycler they were sending the stuff to. So I went to both the Kiulap and Gadong branches to find out more and I was told (at the Gadong branch last Friday) that they were sending it to a recycler in Sungai Akar. However at the Kiulap branch, I was told outrightly today that they were just dumping them and throwing it away. I asked the sales assistant to confirm that they weren’t doing any recycling at all and that they were just throwing them away and she said without hesitation that they were throwing them away.

I was totally appalled! Is the brochure false and/or misleading advertising? I know it doesn’t say that they are recycling the products in black and white but from looking at the ad above how can you not say that they are pushing the message of recycling? Are they just trying to garner public support by supposedly ‘being green’? I personally like that Concepts is differentiating itself from other computer shops in Brunei by organizing seminars, events and promotions but this is severely damaging Concepts’ image in my mind and am personally thinking of even boycotting the company. Now what is the recourse to file a complaint with regards to this false advertising Brunei?

Update: Follow up post to confirm that Concepts is Not Recycling

Concept Computer’s Monitor Trade In Promotion

So one day I was flipping through the newspapers and I saw that Concept Computers was doing a trade in offer for old monitors to get a $50 discount on a brand new LCD monitor.

Concepts Monitor Trade-in Promo Advertisement

It’s great that they were taking both working and non-working monitors and this sort of business practise is not common in Brunei at all. So when I went to exchange 3 old non working monitor’s for LCDs I was happy to see a site of old monitors. Photos of the monitors being hauled away are available at AnakBrunei’s post

Pile of old monitors traded in

So I would assume that they were going to recycle the monitors as they accepted both working and non working monitors, but I had to check with them. Actually I wanted to get the contact of the recycling center they were going to send it to. So I asked the staff there and they informed me that I should as their boss Mr Vincent Pao. He happened to be there at the shop so I approached him and asked whether they were going to recycling the monitors. He told me that he was going to throw them away!! He did mention that they would give some away but that the last time they sent quite a lot of computer equipment to be recycled they only got B$200+ from it. So he tried another method. There were recyclers offering to take the monitors from him but he wanted to sell the monitors to them to at least get a better return on investment I guess. But they didn’t want to pay for them so he said they were better off throwing it away.

After hearing that I thought what a bummer. I’ll go hug a tree to make up for it (actually that reminds me about the ISB‘s Million Trees Project and BIBD‘s commitment to match each tree for every 4000 bought). But at least he did mention that they were giving some away. I will try to follow up on this issue as now they are having a printer/scanner trade-in: any printer/scanner for an All-In-One (Print-Copy-Scan) Epson Stylus TX100 for just B$98 available while stocks last and before 30th September. On a lighter note I have to say that Concepts Computer is the only innovating computer store in Brunei (to my knowledge), from organizing seminars on Windows 7, Panda anti-virus and now offering these trade-in offers. Other computer stores in Brunei, I hope you step up your game plan to exceed the things Concepts are doing!

Printer Trade-In

** Note: This information was gathered on the 25 August 2009 from a discussion between myself and Mr Pao. If they did end up sending it to a recycling center do let me know. Thanks