Acer Iconia Tab W500 review: First Look

Acer has officially announced its new Window 7 tablet, the Iconia Tab W500, and it's rather unusual.

Price
£359

Acer's Iconia Tab W500 has a couple of distinctive features that will be of interest to businesses.

The iPad and most of the tablets launched since its release rely on onscreen keyboards for typing which isn't ideal for working on long documents. The Acer Iconia Tab W500 docks with a physical USB keyboard that also has a laptop-style touchstick. It feels pretty similar to a keyboard you'd find on a full-size Acer laptop which should be a good thing as those are usually comfortable to work on. It uses a standard USB connector with extra braces for support. The W500 can be folded screen down into the keyboard like a laptop for extra protection during transit.

The W500 is the first tablet we've seen to use one of AMD's new Fusion processors, the 1GHz dual-core C50. AMD claims it's powerful enough to play 720p video on the 1,280x800 pixel 10.1in screen and 1080p video on a high definition TV connected to the W500's full-size HDMI port. We didn't have to test this, but we suspect smooth HD playback will depend on how much RAM the W500 comes with, 'up to 2GB' will be available according to Acer, among other factors.

Windows 7 Home Premium will come pre-installed on a 32GB SSD, but Microsoft's desktop operating system isn't especially well-designed for touchscreen use in our experience. Acer has added its Ring user interface which, as its name suggests, groups buttons and controls together in a circle. Unfortunately many of these simply launch standard Windows 7 programs not designed for touchscreen use. One of the exceptions is a customised web browser with big finger-friendly buttons, but both the interface and rendering speeds were frustratingly sluggish in our brief tests.

Moving files to and from the W500 should be easy thanks to both the standard USB2 port and the SD card slot. There are also WiFi and Bluetooth wireless connections, but 3G will only be available on the W501 variant which also comes with Windows 7 Professional instead of Home Premium installed which will appeal to many companies.

The Iconia Tab W500 will be available on the 8th April for 359 (449 inc VAT), with the keyboard costing an extra 74 (90 inc VAT). Alternatively they can be bought together at a slightly cheaper 423 (529 inc VAT). We'll bring you a full review of the W500 shortly.

So what are our first impressions?

Verdict

Unless you must use Windows applications on a tablet, we're not convinced the Iconia Tab W500 will be a good fit for many businesses but we'll reserve final judgement until we see a final, finished unit.

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