eBay Daily Deals is re-offering the Acer Iconia A100 tablet. Unlike other 7-inch Tegra 2 tablets, like the Dell Streak 7, this tablet has received Android 4.0 officially.
An official Android 4.0 update is crucial, as third-party ROM developers have struggled to make the jump from Android 2.0 or 3.0 to Ice Cream Sandwich. The reason stems from Android 4.0’s graphics engine, which requires new drivers from hardware and silicon vendors. Those drives are closed-source, and as a result, are not available until someone offers up an Android 4.0 upgrade officially. Even with two devices using the same silicon, subtle differences can exist that impede the progress of unofficial firmware.
Some tablets have gotten lucky. The HP TouchPad has had success in providing a viable Android 4.0 alpha release, that is more functional than the economically-crippled webOS 3.0 release for the tablet. Others, such as the HTC Flyer and its EVO View 4G twin, are still “under evaluation”, approaching nine months after Android 4.0 came on device manufacturer’s radar.
The Acer Iconia A100 was largely a market failure, trumped by iPad and lost in a sea of Tegra 2 tablets. However, it now is that diamond in the rough. While refurbished, $169 shipped is the lowest tablet price we’ve seen for a reliable Android 4.0 tablet.
And, having purchased this deal ourselves the last time it was offered… we’re impressed around the office. The A100’s Android 4.0 release (which was only pending the last time this deal ran), is very impressive. The tablet is responsive, and handles Android 4.0’s most demanding functions properly. The only drawbacks we’ve seen with the Android 4.0 release are the lack of the Light Beam live wallpaper (which can be found on the Google Play Store), and an overly-aggressive automatic brightness mode.
Acer’s bundled apps aren’t that impressive, but also don’t get in the way. And, thanks to Android 4.0, you can disable pretty much all of them, and get that Google-inspired vision for what Android 4.0 should be out of the box: minimalistic.
Great firmware aside, the A100 has a couple of drawbacks you should know about. First, the cameras (both front and rear) are dismal. We really wish they had shipped the tablet without cameras, and focused on less weight and appearance. In fact, the rear camera is poorly placed right where your right hand would normally hold the tablet, when facing vertically. The LED flashlight does provide great backlighting in a dark room, however. The other main drawback? Tegra 2 is a power hog, you cannot charge over USB because of its 10W power demands. All Tegra 2 tablets that we have used force you to tote a separate power brick and car charger, in addition to a micro-USB cable for data. And, the power brick is certainly not designed for travel…
In all, the A100 is still our favorite tablet. Granted, the other big box gadget sites love to point people to the latest tablets out there, but this tablet cleans the clock of current tablets like Kindle Fire. With a powerful native GPU, micro-HDMI port, microSDHC, autonomous GPS, and Bluetooth alongside Wi-Fi (with DLNA thrown in for free), this tablet is great for consumers at a time when they need cheap tablets the most.
Even if you have another tablet already, give this one a look. It’s well worth the price.