Acer‘s focusing on affordability at this year’s CES. Starting at $150 and $130, respectively, the company’s newly-unveiled Iconia A1-830 and Iconia B1-720 slates aren’t going to wow you on the spec sheet, but they’re priced low enough to make some waves with budget buyers if they’re done right.
We were pleasantly surprised by the A1-830’s display and build quality given its price, but we found its B1-720 counterpart to take its ‘budget’ designation a tad too far during our recent hands-on time with it.
Build and Design
There’s a distinct difference between being inexpensive and being cheap when it comes to gadgets like this, and unfortunately, too much of the Iconia B1-720 swayed towards the latter. It’s not that it’s built poorly — everything here felt sturdy and comfortable in the hand, and the device as a whole felt sufficiently slim (at 0.42 inches) and light (at 11 ounces). All of the essential ports are here too, including a microSD slot that can hold up to 32GB of storage space (the slate comes with 16GB on its own).
Its textured back is composed of a nice-feeling, soft-touch material similar to what you’d find on the Google Nexus 7 (2012), and its speaker grille is wisely placed below the 7-inch display without looking garish. Its front comes in either a grey or red finish, the latter of which should appeal to the kids who are presumably a big part of this slate’s target audience.
Most everything else about the Iconia B1-720 feels inferior, though. Its display, for example, looks brutal and blurry, hampered by a lowly 1024 x 600 resolution, some rough viewing angles, huge bezels, and just about no pop to any colors onscreen.
The Iconia B1-720 sports a 1.3GHz dual-core Mediatek chip and 1GB of RAM, and as far as performance is concerned, our demo unit felt a tad sluggish even as we were browsing the Web and moving through Android’s menus.
The B1 is officially running a very lightly skinned version of Android 4.2.1 (Jelly Bean), by the way, but Acer says it won’t be updating the already-old software after the device launches.
There’s no rear-facing camera here at all, which can be excused, but pictures taken with the front-facing shooter were merely ho-hum.
All of this made the Acer Iconia B1-720 feel like it was lacking in the fundamentals, and given its dated hardware, it should only feel worse as time goes on. But such is life with cheap tablets. It’s worth noting that the $130 price tag listed is the B1’s MSRP, so the device could very well slide below $100 at retailers. That’ll fly with some people, especially since the B1 is at least competently made and functional.
Still, there just doesn’t seem to be any hook here. Older Android slates like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Asus Memo Pad HD 7 already offer plenty of value at a comparable price point, and Acer’s own Iconia A1-830 will apparently improve upon everything its little sibling does for just $20 extra.
Acer expects the Iconia B1-720 to launch within the next month, so we’ll hold off on making any final judgments until then. For now, we aren’t expecting much.