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Acer's Iconia A500 incorporates most of the hardware that's required for a tablet these days, including front (2 megapixel) and rear (5 megapixel) cameras, dual microphones, WiFi (b/g/n), 1 GB of dual-channel DDR3 system RAM plus 16 GB or 32 GB of eMMC flash storage, a headphone/microphone combo jack and stereo speakers.
There's also a GPS receiver, acceleromoter, Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR (enhanced data rate). What's also present and not always found elsewhere is an Micro SD card reader with support for up to 32 GB, a full-size USB 2.0 host (rectangular) connector, Micro USB 2.0 (slave) connector and a docking port.
Acer includes several excellent apps with Iconia, including an eBook reader and three classic eBooks, a golfing game and one called Need for Speed: Shift (the latest version of EA's excellent driving game), and a utility called Clear.fi, which permits file sharing and media streaming from Windows desktops and DLNA-compliant devices.
When setting up the unit for the first time, prompts appear for selecting a network, opting in or out of Google's anonymous data collection program, setting the date and time and for signing into and synchronizing with a Google account.
There were just a few things we didn't like about the Iconia A500. Foremost, there's no way to charge the unit from either of its USB ports; it can only charge using the included AC/DC adapter (with its cannon plug). We also had trouble navigating the many significant UI changes in the Honeycomb Gmail client and found ourselves unintentionally tapping the screen with unintended parts of the hand. Also, a flare in the case around the docking port causes the unit to teeter when stood up with this side down.
On the whole, Acer's Iconia A500 ($449 list) is a capable tablet with much to offer its intended audience of individuals and families for accessing e-mail, social networks entertainment and media; students for accessing learning apps, eBooks and courseware; and for business people to take written and spoken notes and for accessing company and client data and email while on the road.
Options include 3G connectivity ($50), a full-sized Bluetooth keyboard ($70) and a docking/charging station ($80). For the serious Gmail user that's looking for seamless integration with a tablet that's cheaper than an iPad, the CRN Test Center recommends the Acer Iconia A500 tablet.
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