Granted, in one way or another, every compact tablet (which we define as a model with a screen from 7 to 9 inches) competes with Apple’s industry-leading iPad Mini and iPad Mini With Retina Display. But few of them are as blatant about it as this $179.99-list Acer slate. Aside from the obviously different logos, the placement of the speakers, and a bit more heft, the Iconia A1-830 looks as though it came from the Cupertino design team.
As you’ll see in the course of our review, though, looks aren’t everything. In many ways, this 7.9-inch Android tablet is nothing like either of the core Apple iPad Mini models. Nor does it, in our opinion, offer a whole lot of competition for them.
The one area in which the Iconia A1-830 does soundly beat the iPad Mini, though, is price. When we wrote this in mid-April 2014, the standard (non-Retina Display) Apple iPad Mini sold for $299 (with 16GB of onboard storage), while the Retina Display model with the same storage was going for $100 more. In contrast, you can pick up the Iconia A1-830, with a same-size screen (7.9 inches, at a 1,024×768 native resolution) and the same 16GB for about $120 less&—or perhaps an even bigger discount on sale. (iPads, meanwhile, seldom get marked down from list price, and even then, not by much.)
Another feature on this entry-level Android tablet, as well as most other Androids—budget-priced or otherwise—that you won’t find on any iPad is a MicroSD card slot, for expanding the onboard storage. Aside from that, though, nearly everything else—most notably, the display, the speakers, and the camera quality—wasn’t up to the iPad Mini’s mark.
All this is not to say that the Iconia A1 is a bad tablet—not at all. It’s just that it’s no iPad Mini, even though it looks like one. Still, the Iconia A1-830 is hands-down superior to the thicker and heavier Iconia A1-810 it replaces. And from that perspective—this is an entry-level slate, after all—it holds up much better. It’s well-built and attractive; it feels good in your hands; and the display stacks up well compared to those of other low-cost compact tablets.
On the other hand, several under-$150 7-inch slates, such as Dell’s Venue 7 and Asus’ MeMO Pad HD 7, perform as well as (or better than) the Iconia A1-830. And Acer’s model lists for only $50 less than Google’s field-leading compact Android tablet, the 2013 Nexus 7. Our point? You can get a comparable slate for less money and a much better one for only about $50 more.
Of course, the screen sizes aren’t exactly equal; you get nearly an extra inch with the Iconia A1-830’s 7.9-inch screen over the 7-inch brigade. And what you don’t get with any of the slates mentioned in the previous paragraph is a display with a 4:3 aspect ratio, like that of the iPad Minis. A 4:3 ratio is more like an old-style television’s, versus the more common 16:9 ratio used by most HDTVs and tablets today. We’ll look more closely at the Iconia A1-830’s display traits in the Features & Apps section later on.
In short, this tablet’s resemblance to the iPad Mini is at the same time one of its big strengths and weaknesses. It’s a good-looking, relatively well-performing slate, but it suffers, on a feature level, when compared to Apple’s ace. Plus, considering its many low-priced competitors, we think the list price is a tad high. At under $150, this would be a winning budget tablet, especially as it’s a near-8-incher, rather than a 7-incher. In fact, the closer the Iconia A1-830 might get to being $100 less than the market-leading Android, the $229 Google Nexus 7, the more we’d like it.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.