Computers / Hands-on Review

Acer's Beyond Wi-Fi Iconia Tab A501


Attention tablet shoppers: When Wi-Fi isn’t available and 3G isn’t fast enough, the Acer Iconia Tab A501-10S16u with the AT&T 4G Pay-as-You-Go Data Plan could be just what you need to stay connected. The 16-Gigabyte Iconia Tab A501-10S16u is a 10.1-inch, multi-touch tablet that supports a variety of AT&T 4G mobile broadband plans sold separately.

Featuring a high-resolution (1280 x 800) screen and nVidia Tegra 2 Dual Core 1 GHz processor with GeForce GPU, the A501 uses the Android 3.0 Honeycomb Operating System. The tablet also contains a micro-HDMI output, a full-size USB port and microSD card slot. The latter enables you to add up to 32GB of memory.

The A501 contains two high-performance cameras: a 2MP front-facing camera for video calls and a 5MP rear-facing camera with auto focus and LED flash for splendid picture-taking. A microphone, earphone jack and stereo speakers with Dolby Mobile Technology are built in.

But the big story with the Acer Iconia Tab A501 may well be the built-in WWAN HSPA+ connectivity through the 4G AT&T Mobile Broadband Network, perhaps the nation’s fastest mobile network. With the service you’ll be able to browse the Internet, check email and stream multimedia from almost any civilized place you happen to be: in an airport, aboard a commuter train, seated on an urban park bench and so on. So, even if you’re not in a public Wi-Fi hot spot, you’ll be able to switch to the 4G service. And the tablet is smart enough to switch to free Wi-Fi when it’s available so you don’t drain your data usage.

The Iconia Tab A501 is built for 4G access, and you’ll have the flexibility of choosing a plan that’s right for you—no contract required. There’s no need to visit an AT&T store either, since you can buy the data plan via a widget on the tablet itself. Data plans include 250 Megabytes for $15 and 2GB for $20. But if you choose to spend $25, $50 or $60, you’ll have up to 90 days to use your bits—not lose them in 30 days. And if you buy a $100 refill card, there’s no data-use expiration for an entire year!

Don’t confuse the Acer Iconia Tab A501 with the Acer Iconia Tab A500. The latter is also a 10.1-inch tablet with 16G of internal storage, but it is a Wi-Fi-only device. The A500 is not equipped for 4G.

The built-in lithium-polymer battery can power the Iconia Tab for up to eight hours. An AC power adapter, USB cable and one-year limited International Travelers Warranty are included.

An Acer accessory that expands the usability of the tablet is the Iconia Tab A500 and A501 Docking Station with IR Remote. The stand/charging dock comes with a remote so if you connect the tablet’s micro-HDMI output to your HDTV, you can sit back and enjoy content on your larger display or on both screens at once. (For TV viewing, you’ll need a micro-HDMI to HDMI cable such as the Kanex 6' Micro HDMI to HDMI 1.4 Cable.) For productivity purposes you may want to add the Acer Iconia Tab Bluetooth Keyboard. Powered by a single AAA battery, the wireless 10.4-inch-wide keyboard is perfect for travel.