If you're looking to get a tablet on the cheap, your options are basically limited to $200, entry-level devices like the Kindle Fire. After that, price points generally take a leap up into the $400 zone, which is somehow still considered a decent deal these days. Acer seeks to bridge that gap with a slightly higher-end tablet that falls in the $300 range, the Iconia A200.
The Iconia A200 is Acer's attempt at creating a budget tablet without sacrificing too many features or power under the hood. So while it doesn't have a price tag as low as something like the Kindle Fire ($200), the Android-powered A200 is still affordable at a starting price of $329. For a few extra bucks, Acer has created a device that's more respectable -- though certainly not bleeding-edge -- instead of something that's underpowered just to keep the price point low. Let's take a look at how Acer fared with its happy-medium approach.
Build & Design
The A200 is not a particularly svelte tablet by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, at half an inch thick and weighing in at 1.6 pounds, it's actually quite bulky. Holding it with one hand is almost akin to holding a netbook one-handed; you're better off propping it against a surface if you're going to be using it for long periods of time. Making the A200 somewhat more comfortable to handle, however, is the rubberized material covering the entire backside of the device.
When holding it in landscape orientation, the left side of the tablet is where most of the action is, including its power/standby button, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a micro USB port, a full-sized USB 2.0 port (which is very welcome), and a microSD card slot and the hard reset button, both of which are hidden behind a panel. The top edge of the device plays host to a volume rocker -- which makes a satisfying click when depressed and features a different number of bumps on each end to differentiate up and down -- and an orientation lock, while the AC charging port is found on the right side.
Screen and Speakers
The 10.1-inch LCD display on the A200 was actually surprisingly good for something of a budget tablet, sporting a solid WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution and a comfortably wide viewing angle. Not only did images and colors look crisp, the screen, despite its glossiness, was not a total fingerprint magnet. That's not to say that it was devoid of grease after many hours of usage, but it was far from the worst that I've ever seen.
While the speakers of the A200 were plenty loud -- but not of very good quality, as tablet speakers almost never are -- I was a little disappointed to see that they were rear-firing. This is relatively standard practice, so it's not like Acer made a total gaffe here or anything. But I just can't help but wonder why more companies don't bother putting speakers on the front of their devices so the sound comes toward the user rather than away from them. At least Acer had enough sense to put the two speakers down at the very bottom of the tablet's backside, minimizing the likelihood that users will cover them by accident with their hands when using it.
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