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In Use

Cameras
Front1
Rear1
Flash
N
Connectivity
Wi-Fi
Y
Dual-Band
N
3G
N
4G
N
Bluetooth
Y
uHDMI
N
HDMI
Y
USB
N

I did not have to plug in the device during setup as it was already about 80% charged. After powering on the tablet and navigating through the initial setup, I was greeted with a traditional Windows 7 desktop screen.

The tablet immediately saw my Wi-Fi connection and seamlessly let me connect. By using the 802.11 b/g/n wireless capabilities, most users should have no problem connecting to wireless networks.

As with other Windows 7 tablets, control and navigation are problematic. On the other hand, control is easy and seamless when combined with the keyboard. Many functions like the Program and Options menus are difficult to navigate by touch. If you have average or larger-sized fingers, this tablet will frustrate you.

Many times it took several tries to click on what I was aiming for. Often the arrow would appear just above what I wanted to select. This is an unfortunate drawback that makes average use difficult and unproductive. The screen also proved to be a fingerprint magnet and the material that comprises the front viewing area is prone to glare.

Image Gallery

Once you get past the initial issues, browsing the Internet is not as difficult. There is an option for a slide out virtual keyboard that can be docked on the right side of the screen. This virtual keyboard also pops up when you click on the URL bar or any other field that requests text input. But when opened, it takes up the lower half of the screen and blocks half of what you are looking at. This was not a great option as every time I wanted to type I had to alter between viewing my webpage and viewing the keyboard interface.

Docking the tablet to the keyboard attachment solved the on-screen keyboard issue, but created other problems. The first being the screen thought I had turned the tablet upside down. In reacting to this, the picture adjusted and was displaying 180 degrees from what I wanted. The only way to change this was to undock, and carefully re-dock the tablet.

I found that the picture direction is touchy and can switch the image interface when it is not wanted. Even tipping the tablet screen back can induce the image to switch upside down. There are also issues when transitioning from horizontal viewing to vertical viewing. Often the screen would freeze and take about 10-15 seconds to correct itself.

On a positive note, battery life was a plus. The three cell Li-polymer 3260 mA) battery is rated for a six hour battery life while browsing the internet and four hours for viewing HD video. Although I didn't do a controlled battery rundown test, my experience didn't contradict these specs. I was able to use the tablet sporadically over the span of a few days without having to charge it.

Media

Both video and audio are strong aspects of this tablet. HD video was clear and impressively pleasant to watch. I noticed there was little to no frame rate problems and many videos did not need buffering. While watching Hulu, I was pleased with the quality of the 480p playback. I was also able to watch movie reviews in 720p.

I did not have any problems viewing video from several different sites including CBS, Hulu, and CNN. Viewing streaming HD videos was a nice surprise. I was even able to view HD video game footage without any problems.

Screen viewing angles are well done and offer little degradation when being viewed from the sides both vertically and horizontally. Adobe Flash is supported with version 10.0 already installed. HTML 5 video was accessible and flash enabled websites were easily viewable.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the audio quality of the two stereo speakers housed at the rear of the tablet. While playing Pandora, I was able to easily hear the music from the next room. Audio remained clear when played at the highest volume settings and music quality was crisp with little distortion.

On the downside, as noted earlier, my test photos indicated that indoor and outdoor picture quality is poor compared to other tablets. There are a few examples in the gallery

Closing Thoughts

The Iconia Tab W500, in theory, should be a great device. But after spending time with it, the W500 failed to provide a pleasurable tablet computing experience. All of its great video and sound performance can’t make up for the clumsy Win 7 interface and difficult to use touch controls. Windows 7 has never been noted for outstanding tablet optimization and the Iconia Tab W500 is just another unfortunate example of this.

Acer did a good thing by not making the keyboard an optional accessory. But it failed in its integration design by making the docked duo untransportable without risk of damage and inflexible in use. If you like the idea of having an attached keyboard, you may want to look into getting a netbook.

I had high hopes for the Acer Iconia Tab W500, but those were quickly diminished by this little tablet that couldn't provide a decent expierience. If you are in the market for a tablet, you should skip this one. It's just not fun to use.

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