Acer ICONIA Tab W500 review

A tablet with a snap-on keyboard
Photo of Acer ICONIA Tab W500
£529 with keyboard or £449 without

The Acer ICONIA Tab W500 is such a clever idea. You take a tablet, then provide it with an optional keyboard that effectively turns it into a notebook computer. Put Windows 7 on it so that it can be used in a professional environment. What could go wrong?

What could go wrong?
The thing is… while the idea is a great one, there are some stumbling blocks. One of the biggest is that Windows 7 just doesn’t suit the tablet concept. The operating system really wasn’t made for finger-based input, and it’s tricky to tap at small icons on screen.

Acer has attempted to overcome this drawback by adding an overlay, the Acer Ring. This is called up by doing a ‘grabbing’ gesture on screen when you’re in Windows. It looks very cool and offers access to a finger-friendly web browser (which isn’t all that finger-friendly, we have to say), a media sharing app and several options that look good such as calculator, backup utility, and disc space manager – but which, when selected, just take you right back into Windows. A missed opportunity, Acer.

Not really like a laptop
The 10.1in, 1280×800 pixel screen is clear and bright – and offers excellent viewing angles. It’s capacitive, so you can easily scroll through web pages, pinch to zoom and so on. The keyboard section is well made and the keyboard is very comfortable to use, though there’s no wrist rest. A ‘pointing stick’ does the task usually accomplished by a touchpad and there are two thin mouse buttons below the space bar.

Screen and keyboard are held together by a couple of lugs which feel quite solid, but the screen is by far the heavier of the two sections, which means the whole thing has a tendency to topple over if you try to use it on your lap – or if you prod the screen too hard when using it on a desk. There’s also no way to tilt the screen – it sits at one, fixed angle. It’s amazing how much we missed that ability.

More netbook than notebook
The AMD Fusion C-50 1GHz processor and 2GB of RAM are indications that the specifications aren’t laptop-class. More evidence comes in the shape of the 32GB SSD and lack of any optical drive. Ethernet is only available if you buy the keyboard, as the connector sits on that part – though you get Wi-Fi and Bluetooth through the main tablet unit.

There are two cameras. On the back is a 1280×1024 resolution device.The one on the front shoots at 640×480. Ports are very limited: there’s one HDMI, one microSD, one USB and a headphone connector on the tablet, with a further two USB ports on the keyboard.

Company: Acer

Website: http://www.acer.co.uk/

Positives
  • Separate screen and keyboard.
Negative
  • Topples over in use due to top-heavy screen section; Windows is not finger-friendly; over-priced for the spec.

Verdict

The Acer ICONIA Tab is a good idea. But with a price way that's way more than you'd expect to pay for a netbook with similar specifications, it's simply over-priced and under-featured.