Computers / Hands-on Review

Acer W500 is a Tablet and a Notebook


Tablet computers are experiencing a golden age, with new models being introduced regularly. One of the neat things about this period is all the experimentation occurring with different form factors and feature sets. Many people feel that touch-screen tablets with no keyboards will someday become more popular than notebook computers. Only time will tell. Acer, however, is hedging its bets with a hybrid sort of tablet, one that works as a stand-alone tablet but also docks to a conventional keyboard base.

The Acer W500 is an ultra-portable tablet computer with a 10.1-inch multitouch screen. The tablet docks onto an integrated keyboard base that features a pointing stick used as a substitute for a mouse. Most touch-screen tablets can display virtual onscreen keyboards that allow you to type documents, emails and so on. Lots of folks simply can’t get used to typing on a keyboard that doesn’t have keys; there’s nowhere to rest your fingertips without triggering inadvertent keystrokes, but there’s no way to get a feel for where the keys are without doing so. Also, the ever-familiar key travel is missing as are the comforting clicking sounds that real keys make. That’s why USB and Bluetooth keyboards are popular accessories for tablet computers. But you won’t need an accessory keyboard for the W500, as it comes with one right from the factory.

On its own, the W500 is as portable as any other tablet, but when docked it provides all the functionality of a notebook computer, albeit one without an optical drive. In order to extend battery life and make the unit more portable, the W500 tablet is outfitted more like a high-end netbook than a notebook. In addition to the omission of an optical drive, the W500 features a 1 GHz low-power AMD C-50 processor and a 32GB mini-SATA solid-state hard drive, along with 2GB of onboard memory.

The W500’s 10.1-inch LED-backlit display has a 16:9 aspect ratio and native resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels; it’s driven by an AMD Radeon HD 6250 graphics processor. The tablet runs a 32-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium, and the use of low-power components allows its three-cell Li-Ion battery to last up to six hours.

Connectivity features of the W500 tablet include 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, two USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port, a 3.5 mm line output and 3.5 mm microphone input. The tablet also features dual webcams with 1280 x 1024 resolution, one front-facing and one rear-facing, making the W500 an ideal solution for video-conferencing with business associates or friends and family. A 2-in-1 memory card reader makes it easy to import content from digital cameras and other devices or to transfer files to other computers.

If you were thinking about buying a tablet computer but weren’t sure if you could make do without a keyboard, Acer’s W500 tablet computer might be the perfect compromise. You can satisfy all of your mobile computing needs in a streamlined and lightweight manner with the tablet, and use the keyboard dock for times when you need to generate copy quickly.