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Review: Acer Iconia W510
Prasad Naik
March 25, 2013
First Published: 15:09 IST(25/3/2013)
Last Updated: 11:56 IST(26/3/2013)
Acer Iconia W510

The Iconia W510 is Acer’s latest tablet based on the Windows operating system. The tablet runs on the full-fledged Windows 8 OS instead of the ARM-based Windows RT, which means you can also run legacy x86 applications on the tablet. One of the key features of this tablet is the keyboard dock, which can turn it into a notebook PC at a pinch. Let’s take a closer look at this device.



Design

The design of the W510 is fairly unremarkable. It has a simple white bezel around the display with power and display orientation switch placed on the top and volume keys, microUSB port, micro HDMi port and microSD card slot on the right side. The W510 also has stereo speakers on either side. On the bottom is Acer’s proprietary data and charging connector, which also plugs into the keyboard dock once attached.

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On the back the W510 has a two tone silver and white finish, which makes the device look plasticky. The 5 megapixel camera sensor lies on the back with the LED flash.

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The build quality of the W510 was quite unimpressive. Not only did it look plasticky but it felt quite fragile as well. Our review unit creaked when a bit of pressure was applied on it. Even other plastic tablets such as the Nexus 7 feel better in comparison. The aluminum iPad, on the other hand, is in a different league altogether.

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The keyboard dock comes with a standard keyboard along with a tiny trackpad on the bottom. The trackpad also has two keys for left and right mouse key input. There is a USB 2.0 port on the right and the charging port on the left. The dock has it’s own built-in battery, which almost doubles up the battery life of the tablet once connected.

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Typing on the keyboard dock took some getting used to due to the smaller screen but it wasn’t too bad. The feedback from the keys wasn’t great but it still beat typing on a touchscren. The trackpad, however, was terrible. Perhaps it was only our review unit but the it often stopped responding and whenever it did work the tracking wasn’t precise. Eventually, I would have to resort to reaching out and using touchscreen.

The USB port on the side was a useful addition but it would have been nice if one port was provided on the tablet itself as without the dock this functionality is inaccessible.

One major problem with the keyboard dock and tablet arrangement is the poor weight distribution. In normal laptops, the base is always heavier than the lid, which means no matter how much you tilt the screen the base does not lift up. On the W510, the tablet is almost as heavy as the keyboard dock, so after a point it starts tipping back. Things are even worse when you place it on your lap and the W510 with the dock is useless in this situation as it just does not sit still unless you hold down the keyboard. Clearly, then, more thought should have gone into designing this product.

Display

The W510 has a 10.1-inch, 1366 x 768 resolution display. The resolution is par for the course for Windows laptops and even today you’ll find budget 13-inch Windows notebooks sporting this resolution. However, with the advent of the iPad’s Retina display and 7-inch, 720p tablets, it feels a touch outdated on a tablet.

Holding the device up close as you’d a tablet, it’s not too difficult to see jagged lines of the text or the images. Things improve when you keep it on a table with the dock attached but that’s not how you will be using it most of the time. The widescreen aspect ratio also makes it awkward to hold in portrait mode. The panel itself is not too bad and offers fairly good image quality but the resolution does let it down a bit.

Hardware and Software

The W510 runs on a dual-core 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760 processor, also known by the codename ‘Clovertrail’. It’s the first of the new Intel Atom series of mobile processors to have dual-core CPU and upgrades the GPU to PowerVR SGX 545. The W510 has 2GB of RAM and comes in 32 or 64GB memory configurations.

On the software side the Iconia W510 runs full fledged Windows 8. This does take care of one of the major problems with Windows RT, that is the inability to run legacy x86 applications on your Windows device. Normally, I’m not a big fan of running these apps on a touchscreen device, since they are designed for use with a mouse but since the W510 has a dock with a trackpad and USB port should you need to connect a mouse, this functionality can come in quite handy.

As you’d expect, there is quite a bit of bloatware pre-installed on the tablet. Although you can uninstall all of it, it’s still annoying to have to go through after all these years and remains one of the worst things about buying a Windows machine.

Speaking of Windows 8 itself, well, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. The combination of the new Modern UI and the old traditional Windows desktop doesn’t work very well and it’s still jarring when you move from one to another. The presence of touchscreen does make using the gestures is a lot easier than with, say, a mouse or a trackpad. But the overall inconsistency in the UI still makes it a lot less easier to use than iOS or Android.

In terms of apps, you now have a choice of using the new Modern UI apps from the Windows Marketplace and you can use traditional x86 Windows apps. There is not much to choose from the former category as the Windows Marketplace is yet to take off in any meaningful way. The problem with the latter is that they are not designed with touch input in mind, which means unless you use a mouse or the unreliable trackpad you are going to have a hard time with them.

Performance

Keeping the hardware of the device in mind, the performance was never going to be exhilarating anyway. Still, the W510 managed to run basic Windows applications just fine. You can have all your browsers, media players, mail clients, Office, etc. installed and running just as you’d expect on a Windows notebook. Scrolling in Internet Explorer, in particular, was very smooth.

Things do get quite choppy if you try to run some resource heavy applications such as Photoshop, however, as the W510 just does not have the resources to provide satisfying experience. It’s even worse with gaming, with pretty much every 3D game that I tried being unplayable. The tablet also tends to get quite warm around the back when you are running processor intensive applications.

Multimedia performance wasn’t much better. Although the stereo speakers were quite decent, the tablet refused to play 1080p video content.

Battery Life

The Acer W510 has a fairly decent battery built-in and runs for a surprisingly long time despite the full fledged Windows 8 operating system. While web browsing, the W510 managed to last for around 7 hours, which not quite in the same league as other tablets, is still quite good. Meanwhile, the W510 lasted for a more respectable 9 hours while playing back a 720p video. Of course, you can close to double these figures if you choose to go for the keyboard dock, which also has a built-in battery.

Verdict

The Acer Iconia W510 costs Rs. 39,499 for the 32GB model and Rs. 52,220 for the 64GB model with the keyboard dock. The pricing is definitely a bit on the higher side, especially when you add the keyboard dock and the W510 unfortunately, does not quite justify it.

As a tablet, the W510 is only average. Although it can do basic things such as web browsing, emails and applications fairly well, it doesn’t really do them any better than other tablets out there. The Modern UI apps aren’t many at the moment and the legacy Windows apps aren’t quite user friendly with a touchscreen. It also fails quite badly at gaming, at least the x86 ones that we tried (because there aren’t many in the Marketplace at the moment).

As a notebook replacement, again, it’s only mediocre. The keyboard is fairly comfortable to type on but the trackpad lets the whole thing down. Also, it’s not suitable for use on a lap because it keeps tilting backwards due to the tablet’s weight.

Clearly, then, the W510 falls in a no-man’s land of sorts, where it can’t really compete quite well with existing tablets such as the iPad nor can it completely replace a low-end laptop. If you want a device that claims to does everything but isn’t particularly good at anything, you can take a look at the W510. Until then, a separate tablet and a notebook would serve you well.

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