Prizefight (week of May 20)
Acer Iconia Tab vs. Asus Eee Pad Transformer
Acer Iconia Tab vs. Asus Eee Pad TransformerMotorola Xoom). Today, nearly halfway through the year, we have so many Honeycomb tablets flying around CNET that it's hard to keep them all straight. More importantly, the prices on these things are steadily creeping downward, making them a more compelling alternative to Apple's lowest-priced iPad 2.
Two of the latest low-cost Honeycomb tablets to hit the shelves are the Acer Iconia Tab A500 and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. The only trouble is, it's almost impossible to tell the two apart (beyond the $50 price difference). Both tablets have 10-inch screens, Android 3.0, front and rear cameras, HDMI output, and a Wi-Fi connection to the Internet.
So, to set the record straight on what these two Honeycomb beauties have to offer and which of them is worth your time and money, our CNET experts endure six rounds of grueling deliberation to see which tablet comes out on top.
Let the Prizefight begin!
Round 1: DesignIt takes a lot of design ingenuity for a tablet to successfully straddle the line between laptop and smartphone. Here we examine the look, size, feel, and sex appeal of the devices to see how well each achieves this balance.
|Acer Iconia Tab A500 (16GB)||3The Iconia Tab feels like the lid ripped off an Acer laptop. It's not sexy, or light, or thin. It survived an accidental drop on the floor, though.||4Although the Iconia is the heavier of the two, the Tab's smoother form factor and overall greater feel of solidity win this round.||3I prefer the styling with its metallic finish but this might be one of the heaviest tablets I've ever held.||3.3|
|Asus Eee Pad Transformer (16GB, Wi-Fi)||4The Transformer feels nicer in your hands. It's a little lighter and the textured back feels expensive somehow. Visually a little sexier. I wish the keyboard dock fit wasn't such a mess, though.||3The Transformer has a cool back texture, making gripping easy, but its hollow feel and sharp edges keep it in the design Stone Age.||4The Transformer is easier to hold, the textured back is classy. There's more screen and less bezel and that's a good thing.||3.7|
Round 2: Controls and user interfaceSexiness is one thing, but are the tablets easy to use? In Round 2, we examine the design and usability of their user interfaces and navigation controls.
|Acer Iconia Tab A500 (16GB)||4After the Xoom, I was just grateful to have a conveniently located power button. Seriously. The rotation lock up on the top is nice, too, though the horizontal volume rocker is a pain.||3The Tab includes a few custom Honeycomb features that make using the OS a more pleasant experience, but they're not quite as far-reaching as the Transformer's options.||4Thank you for the physical rotation lock switch! You'll also have a Dolby Mobile sound preference to customize your Audio balance.||3.7|
|Asus Eee Pad Transformer (16GB, Wi-Fi)||4I'm a sucker for a vertical volume rocker placement. Nothing more natural than up for up and down for down. I do miss the Iconia's screen lock, though, and I'm not sure why Asus felt it needed to tweak Google's navigation icons.||4The Transformer has made the most significant alterations to Honeycomb so far, offering key customizations that add even more utility to the base Honeycomb interface.||4Volume rocker for its landscape position is great. There's a built-in screenshot function in the OS, which I love. I'm not a fan of its virtual keyboard, which includes a row of numbers, because it makes the typing experience more cramped.||4|
Round 3: FeaturesWhat do these tablets offer under the hood? Here we examine the software features and hardware capabilities of each device and decide which tablet offers more.
|Acer Iconia Tab A500 (16GB)||4If connectivity is your thing, the Iconia Tab delivers Micro-USB syncing, full USB hosting, a dock connector, a charging socket, and MicroSD and MicroHDMI compatibility. 16GB of onboard storage is puny, though.||4The Iconia includes the usual Android tablet suspects: USB, Mini-USB, and Micro-HDMI. Giving you the expected trimmings of an Android tablet.||4You'll get standard Honeycomb goodies like voice Search and Turn-by-Turn Maps. The Iconia features a standard USB port and Mini-USB and a Micro-SD card slot and Micro-HDMI output.||4|
|Asus Eee Pad Transformer (16GB, Wi-Fi)||3My biggest strike against the Eee Pad is the lack of a standard Micro-USB sync port. Going with the 30-pin connector is just a pain. The use of Mini-HDMI over Micro is a little unusual, too.||3Asus skimps on USB, unless you buy the keyboard. Also, while the inclusion of Mini-HDMI is strange, it's nothing a quick trip to Monoprice can't fix.||4You'll find a Micro-SD card slot and HDMI but there's no standard USB syncing port on the tablet. Having the ability to dock it into a keyboard separates it from other tablets, but that privilege will cost $150 more.||3.3|
Round 4: Web browsing and multimediaHaving a big ol' touch screen isn't much good if you can't use it for the fun stuff, like browsing the Web, watching videos, or playing games. In this round, we'll evaluate which tablet does a better job of delivering what tablets do best--Web browsing and multimedia.
|Acer Iconia Tab A500 (16GB)||3I cannot get the Tab to load videos larger than 100MB. Streaming video is fine, but when it comes to playing movie-length content locally, this one just doesn't cut it. The browsing experience seems indistinguishable from the Transformer.||4The Acer uses the stock Honeycomb multimedia and Web-browsing apps.||4You're pretty much getting the same Web browser and multimedia experience. There's a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash on the back and a 2-megapixel camera on the front. Pictures looked richer and a little more detailed.||3.7|
|Asus Eee Pad Transformer (16GB, Wi-Fi)||4I was able to load larger video files on this one with no problem. For all its flaws, I do think that the optional keyboard dock gives this an advantage for Web browsing and e-mail.||4The Asus uses the stock Honeycomb multimedia and Web apps.||3There's a 5-megapixel rear camera with no flash and a 1.2 megapixel front facing camera. Images were a little more washed out and not as clean.||3.7|
Round 5: PerformanceFeatures look great on a spec sheet, but how well do they actually work? How long will the battery last? Are either of these good enough to replace your laptop?
|Acer Iconia Tab A500 (16GB)||4Almost 8 hours of battery life in our tests makes the Iconia Tab's extra bulk worthwhile. It's still no match for the 10 hours of the iPad, though.||47.8 hours of battery life is impressive for a Honeycomb tablet, but it still has a long way to go before matching the iPad's 10-11 hour battery duration.||4Both of these are snappy devices and it really feels like it's even when it comes to speed. The 7.8 hours of battery life is solid.||4|
|Asus Eee Pad Transformer (16GB, Wi-Fi)||4If you include the optional keyboard dock, this guy can get up past the 10-hour mark. Still, you're charging two items instead of one, and the keyboard dock is a nightmare to work with.||4Getting the keyboard attached takes some getting used to, but once you do, you're looking at over 10 hours of battery life. That's if you want to pay the extra $150. Without the keyboard, 7.3 was the max we got.||4 Connecting the keyboard dock gives it more juice, but standalone battery life is already respectable at 7.3 hours, and that's enough to keep its performance score even.||4|
Round 6: ValueTablets have yet to really prove themselves as a necessary technology in the same way that laptops or cell phones have. To justify owning one, a tablet needs to deliver a ton of value at a great price. In the final round, we'll decide which tablet purchase will be easier to explain to your loved ones.
|Acer Iconia Tab A500 (16GB)||4A good price for all you get, but with the iPad just $50 away you really have to be an Android diehard to bite. Plus, let's remember this thing is nearly twice as thick as an iPad 2.||3$450 is a great price for a tablet, but not so great with an iPad 2 tempting you at just $50 bucks more.||4$450 is still below the iPad 2 and the Xoom, and the hardware here is compelling for Android users, especially for that price.||3.7|
|Asus Eee Pad Transformer (16GB, Wi-Fi)||5$399 is the current rock-bottom price and puts a compelling distance between the Transformer and the lowest-priced iPad. The tablet isn't perfect, but the price is spot-on.||4$400 is where most tablets should be, pricewise. At $150, the keyboard is a bit too expensive, though. Still, with the keyboard it's only $50 more than the iPad 2 and being able to type on actual hardware is quite useful.||5One of the most compelling price points for a full Honeycomb tablet experience with a solid form factor. $399, you won't find that anywhere else...yet.||4.7|
The winner is...
Asus Eee Pad Transformer (3.9 pts)
Acer Iconia Tab A500 (16GB) (3.7 pts)
It's hard to say if Asus will be able to steal any market away from the mighty iPad 2, but for now, we can safely say that it offers the best bang for your buck among the latest Android 3.0 tablets.
69 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment