Category Archives: Tablet Devices

Acer Iconia W510: Windows 8 “budget” Tablet Convertible, great battery life but flawed and underpowered

A friend of mine had one the Acer W510 Windows Tablet Convertible he had won  as well as as the prize for an event conducted and sponsored by Microsoft for students to promote writing apps for Windows 8.  He brought the device as he was about to dispose it and move to an Apple Mac (yeah a Mac, supposedly it ran windows on a VM far more efficient and reliably than native Windows on any other hardware, scary) for me to get a quick feel of the device and Windows 8 on a tablet device.


Readers be aware that this is a device running normal Windows 8 on a tablet, and not the tablet friendly RT device. To me devices such as the Acer W510 make far better sense, than a pure Windows RT device with the arrival of the newer range of lower power (ULV) Atom and Intel Core series based devices.  Why would you want to limited yourself to RT specific apps, when you can have both RT and Windows apps in one device!

For those who are not aware, Windows 8 comes in many flavors, not just versions.  The normal windows 8 as we know is a upgrade of Windows 7 can can any windows application.  However recently Microsoft launched a version called Windows 8 RT, which is a pure tablet device that uses a new set of libraries for developers to write pure tab applications.  These can be run on normal Windows 8 as well as Windows 8 RT devices. However Windows 8 RT devices cannot run normal Windows applications, so you are limited, severely limited if you buy a RT device.

The Acer W510 runs a normal version of Windows 8, with the only limitation being that it is a 32-bit version of Windows 8, as 64-bit is not supported by the hardware used, and it is also limited to 2GB memory, both harking back to netbook origins.

What is a Tablet Convertible

A tablet convertible as they call it is a device that can work as tablet device, and also provide almost laptop like functionality to the user.  The devices in the past used to come in mainly as rotating screens (either you twist it to face you, or as in the case of DELL with their swinging screens on a frame).  However with Intel working hard on reducing the power consumption and heat generation of their processors to make the mobile friendly, the time has come where the laptop internals have all moved to the screen, making truly tablet like formats possible, which is where the Acer W510 fits in.

The hardware

The Acer W510 is what is labeled as a budget tablet convertible, but its not by any means a cheap device, since it cost more than many far more powerful ultra portable laptops.  The term convertible here means that you can use the device purely as a tablet, or when connected to the optional dock, as a laptop.

However the advantage a convertible device provides is that it can be used a tablet and if required to a lesser degree as a laptop.  Its this key advantage that also makes the prices high, but the Acer W510 is one of the cheapest (and least powerful) devices in this market, as most other feature far more powerful Intel Core i3/5/7 processor based solutions including Acer’s own W700.  I am sure by the end of this year we will see a lot more such devices, and the ultabooks may switch to this format since the ultra books in the current format have not faired well against the Mac Air and MacBook Pro devices.

So what powers the Acer W510.  Let me discuss each separately


Processing is handled by an Intel “Clover Trail” Atom Z2670 1.8Ghz dual-core processor. This is better regarded for its very low 1.7W TDP power consumption than processing power. The desktop version of this model is the N2600 Atom.  The Z2670 Atom is a lot more powerful than the Atom processor range that used to power the rather primitive netbooks until recently, and yet it consumes nearly half the power compared to the previous gen Atom dual-core.  However compared to a Core i3 or even a dual-core Celeron based on the Sandy Bridge or Ivy line, this processor can be considered very very limiting for high end stuff, but for normal usage (web browsing, document editing, etc) this should be more than sufficient.


Graphics is handled by a PowerVR SGX545 unit.  This does mean that it has more graphics capability than the Intel GMA series featured in old Atom netbooks, but sadly its no match for event the latest HD 4000 graphics from Intel which itself is in simple terms is crappy in the 3D performance aspect.  In an era where we talk of multi-core/stream based graphics processors, the PowerVR graphics core is a single-core unit, and is sadly far less capable than the PowerVR units that are featured in the Apple IPad devices, and Android tablets.  Intel should have coupled the Atom processor with a far more capable PowerVR unit so that the 3D capabilities of this SoC could have been improved.

Another concern over the Cloverleaf Atom and SGX545 combination is that, this was brought as a temporary measure for Intel to provide some decent low power graphics to its Atom range, and the proper Intel HD 4000 based Atom units are due soon.  The PowerVR chip has gained very little support due to this fact, and with the arrival of an Intel HD based solution the driver support from Intel is sure to vane.

A recent test by the famous Anandtech on graphics capability across platforms shows that the PowerVR SGX545 is one of the weakest in the range, out done by practically all current mobility graphics cores.  The Acer W510 was the preferred test platform but due to the fact the drivers kept crashing they had to shift to an ASUS with similar hardware, and the results were disappointing to say the least.


Memory is limited to 2GB (DDR2 type!) due to the SoC that this is built, and 2GB in recent times is definitely not enough for Windows based machines, so don’t plan to run anything serious on these devices.


Storage is handled by a SSD unit, but comes in a 32GB or 64GB format.  Both to most will be rather limiting as the OS and the Acer recovery itself will take more than 20GB of that space.  However the unit features a microSD slot that can take upto a 64GB micro SDXC card, that should boost storage. 

But unlike its big brother the W700 with the Intel Core series processors, the Atom based units feature MMC based designs, which means you get miserable read and write performances even though the W510 features an internal SSD compared to the Intel Core based convertibles that have a mSATA implementation.  This might explain why the startup from a full shutdown took over 30 secs, when all are speaking of under 5 second boot up times with SSD.  This limitation will apply to all Intel Atom based tablet convertibles currently in the market.


The display is a 10.1inch IPS backlit TFT unit with 1366×768 pixels, which may not be fancy but does a very very decent job.  The resolution is very popular among most ultra books and laptops in the Windows market, and while it may  not be as great as a full HD unit, i feel the lower resolution suits Windows 8 tablets since the higher resolution will make touch a nightmare.  The display is classified as a 5-point capacitive touch screen and does not have digitizer as featured in the Surface Pro devices and Samsung Ativ devices, so while it does the job it does not have great touch capabilities.


Acer seems to be rather lacking in marketing flair as they miss out bragging that this device actually does come with a layer of Gorilla Glass 2 protection, a fairly important fact since many Android tablets miss this out.

The unit was configured with the font size scaling set to Medium (125%), however even with this enlarged font size, its not easy to use the tablet since the OS is bog standard windows except for the RT apps and the new Windows shell.  Launching explorer and getting a file to be selected is only easy in icon view, if not good luck trying to select the correct file. 

Here is where a digitizer and pen can be useful, and Microsoft Surface and the ATIV have got this sorted out.  Sadly no such luck for the Acer W510.

In addition the rotation of the device is painfully slow, a trait that the Windows Phone 8 also shares, though in the case of Windows 8 its rotates like a snail, i am amazed why Microsoft seems so incapable of achieving this when all other vendors have done this with amazing ease. Rotation is nowhere even close to how quickly an Android tablet or phone manages, let along the silky smooth rotation of an IPad.  Microsoft has a lot of work to do in this front for Windows 8 in any format to match the competition.


The device sports a fairly large 27Wh battery which supposedly can power the Tablet for over 8 hrs of usage, and over 3 weeks of standby.  Again i could not test this, but all reviews confirm that the tab actually can last over 7hrs which is a pretty decent performance.  What is more impressive is that when coupled with the battery in the dock the tab can extend to over 12-18hrs (and some cases based on usage over 20hrs) of usage, impressive.  However considering the Atom processor is very much similar to an Arm based A9 quad-core in power, and also less capable in the 3D arena than such a device, this may not be much to brag.

However for what most would use this which is genera windows work, reading epub and PDF, browsing, the battery life performance maybe something that is very positive about this device.

The more powerful Intel Core i5 and i7 based convertibles struggle offer even 4-5 hours of performance in tablet format, and these throttle the processor when operating in tablet mode which also means you don’t get the chance to use it at full power. If you do want these more powerful devices can give you the horsepower but watch these devices drain juice so much that even 2hrs of usage maybe asking too much.  Some such as the Surface Pro come with massive batteries (48Wh) and while this will give you good performance, i am sure the battery will not last too long, and your lifetime of your device may not be that great for pure tab use.

Another area the Clover Trail platform brings out is what Acer calls “Always On technology”.  This means when you press the power button the machine goes into standby just like a normal Android or Apple tablet, and consumes very little power and offers standby of over 2-3 weeks. In addition pressing the power again gets the device back to life in under 3 secs. This capability is yet to reach the Intel Core series, which have very poor standby time.

So on the whole in the battery department the W510 does very very well is the short side of the story.


The tablet has been well designed with many options including a micro USB, micro HDMI, microSD onboard. Acer also provides the adapter so that you can use a USB device with the micro USB port if you require.

However one issue that you can point to the W510, similar to the Galaxy tab devices and the IPad devices is that it uses a proprietary cable for sync and charging, and avoids what is now a common option of using the micro USB port.

The dock sadly only provides a single USB 2.0 port, other than that it does not bring much more to the connectivity capabilities.


The W510 comes with a 8MP back camera with a LED flash


This is one area the Acer designers attempts at skimming has worked, as the tab with all the Intel hardware is just 576g in weight, which makes it lighter than most tablets.  Add the dock it still is very light at 1.26kg.

What is missing compared to tablets from Apple and Android

The W510 is more a laptop in tablet format, than a true tablet is the first thing you have to realize, if not you are going to be mighty displeased.

The Windows tablets lack some capabilities that we may expect in modern tabby devices, mainly

  1. No built-in 3G, but you can use a 3G dongle with no problems and work with this device. However the W511 model has built in 3G.
  2. No GPS, now this is a weird miss, since any tablet like device i feel needs a GPS unit for map features as well as location specific apps

How does it work for general Windows applications

I tried the device out as a tablet that can help me do stuff i need to do from a Windows device on the move. 

  1. Microsoft Office: What more can i say it runs normal MS office and you have no limitations on the editing or viewing.  The Atom processor is more than capable of providing satisfactory performances
  2. Browsing: Comes with IE 10, but you can install any browser available for the Windows platform including Chrome.  Browsing is smooth unlike the Atom processors in the netbooks, though it can slow down if you open too many tabs.  This is maybe due to the a combined reason that it only has 2GB memory and the Atom processor is not power horse.  However while i could not test the benchmarks personally, referring to several reviews indicated that the browser performance was actually far superior to the Android devices and Windows RT based devices, and even bests the performance of the King of tabs, the IPad 4 in some tests!
  3. PDF viewing: I used the Windows PDF reader as opposed to Acrobat.  The PDF rendering was pretty good, and i would say it performed better than quad-core Android tablets i have tried including the Tegra 3 on the Nexus 7 and the Exynos quad-core on the Note 10.1.  The PDF rendering was also superior to the IPad 2 i had a while back.  However the stability of the PDF reader bundles with Windows 8 seems a bit poor as it crashed out once when using.  

I currently run Windows 8 on my work laptop which is a 3rd Gen Core i5 with 8GB RAM, but with a standard 5400rpm hard disk.  Compared to this machine in the above applications the Atom based W510 performed decent enough, however things that i could not try, but which i found on the web were,

  1. Very poor performance when unzipping and zipping files (directly attributed to the poor Atom processor)
  2. Very poor performance in video and music conversion (Again due to the poor Atom processor, and also due to the fact that the PowerVR graphics is only used with the Atom, hence the third party app support for acceleration is non-existence for this graphics core)
  3. Poor multi-tasking performance (this is more due to the 2GB limitation of the SoC platform, there is no way you can upgrade memory for these units)
  4. Gaming capabilities is practically non-existent, check out Anandtech where the frame rates were checked of the PowerVR on the CloverTrail to other platforms including Android and Apple devices. It comes last in most cases.

How does it work with Windows RT applications

Unlike Windows RT devices, the Windows 8 devices can run both native Windows apps as well as RT apps.  Further currently most RT devices running Windows are using the Tegra 3 based SoC though some such as the unit from Dell use the Qualcom Krait based solution with the Adreno 225 graphics.  However it seems the Atom combined with  the PowerVR unit can do better than, indicating that even the “rock bottom” processors in the Intel line up are more powerful than the cutting edge mobile units from Qualcomm, and Nvidia however sadly the Intel units cannot match the miserly power consumption of the Arm based devices other than with the Atom based units.

I only tried one RT app which was a game, and it played quite smoothly however as more powerful games roll out for the RT market, the Atom and the PowerVR chip are unlikely to be able to sustain this, so don’t by this if you are thinking this is going to be storming gaming platform, and not that the Windows RT store has any large number of good games!

Multimedia experience

The tablet comes with stereo speakers that are astonishingly loud, much louder than any Android tablet i have used, now that is great.  However the speakers are beautifully placed such that its the place you keep your hands when you hold the tab in landscape mode, which means you end up blocking the speakers and muffling the sound.  Good job speaker designer, bad job tab layout designer for Acer.

I played some music and found that the speakers were pretty decent with the sound quality, which was impressive.

I then tried some videos including 720P and 1080P.  I had read in many reviews the Atom processor and the PowerVR graphics chip were not very good at 1080P, however with the Windows 8 video player the unit played 1080P videos pretty darn fine.  However it seems MKV format was not supported by the native player.

The owner of the tab had installed KM player, but this player definitely does not support hardware acceleration for the PowerVR chip, and was struggling to play even 720p videos smoothly. I could not try the VLC media player, possibly this may do a better job.

The Dock

Acer did well to make a dock that also had an additional battery that would make this tablet one of the longest running devices in the market with over 18hrs of usage time combined.  Once the tablet is attached to the dock, an auto lock is enabled to avoid the tab from falling, and it looks and feels like a proper laptop once its attached.


However it seems if the dock is not powered, the dock will not charge the tablet battery, but the tab will use the battery in the dock.  If the dock is connected to a power source, then the dock will charge the tablet battery while it powers the tablet.

A cool design that the Acer engineers have done for the W510 is that when you rotate the laptop keyboard backwards so that you can use the laptop like a picture frame or use the keyboard as a stand, the keyboard is auto disabled so that the keys facing the surface will not cause any interferences.

W510-photo frame mode

The dock provides only one full USB port, to be more precise an USB 2.0 port 😦  Acer could have done better by including an additional port so that you can use a mouse, etc and preferably a USB 3.0 port for fast data transfers.

Acer designers seem to have set their priorities to make the combined dock and tablet very light weight, but in doing that they have done a criminal mistake in that the dock is lighter than the tablet since all the PC hardware now resides in the tablet. 

This uneven balance means that unlike a proper laptop the W510 when connected to the dock tends to tip back very easily and is nearly impossible to use if you are seated and want to have it on your lap.  For all such use, you are better off using it in tablet mode.

The next IMPORTANT bit that the designers have screwed up is the keyboard, the feel is very cheap and plasticky and the keyboard has very poor feel, and is rather slow.  The ability to type fast as in the case of a normal laptop keyboard is practically impossible, so don’t for one moment think that this dock is going to make this a full fledged laptop.

The touchpad in the dock does not have any of the multi touch capabilities that new laptops have, and it merely provides basic capabilities. However compared to the rest of the ill fated design, this performs acceptably.

The dock does not have any fancy features such as a providing the ability to attach a hard disk so in the dock, which is a cool feature you see with the ASUS transformer Windows convertible.

A lesson that convertible designers have to get is that while low weight is important, by making the dock super light you mess up the balance, and then any advantage of the convertible format is gone. For buyers you are recommended to try out the device with the dock to see if it works for you, and if you are buying purely based on online, see the reviews as well as the weight of the tablet and the dock separately, if the tab weights more its most likely that tab will not balance well with the dock and provide you pure laptop capability.


Here is something that you have to know.  The tablet convertible in all essence is a laptop with the hardware on the screen than under a keyboard.  Which means if you want to recover you have to do it like a laptop. 

The Acer W510 64GB version comes with a separate recovery partition, which allows you to recover it just like a laptop. However the 32GB version is to small to have a recovery partition which needs almost 11GB, so the recovery is provided as 3 DVDs.  if you by any chance delete the recovery or have to recover the 32GB version things are not simple.

Based on my findings on the Acer forums its quite “complicated” and includes the following.  This is because its a laptop in tablet format, the Windows RT devices feature recoveries similar to what we see with Android and Apple devices since the platform is smaller and pure tablet type.

  1. Connecting a proper USB keyboard to the device with the provided micro USB to USB adapter.  You cannot use the provided dock keyboard since it uses a proprietary port which Windows cannot understand.
  2. You have to then boot in recovery mode
  3. Once you have booted to recovery mode you have to attach an USB DVD drive and insert the recovery disks to get back to the original state

Useful links if you are recovering or want to install Windows 8 Pro which is not bundled with the W510 usually include,


To start off, the important thing to realize is that these full fledged Windows 8 convertible tablets, are not really a competitor to the IPad/Android tablets, as that is supposed to be handled by the Windows RT OS devices. These devices are in reality an alternative to an ultrabook or laptop, with the added advantage that you can use it as a tablet if you desire.  However the OS is the one we are all to familiar and hence don’t expect any real touch friendly assistance.

What you get is that you can run all RT based applications assuming the graphics can be be handled (the Tegra 3 and Adreno 225 units are far more capable on the 3D area than the PowerVR unit on the Atom SoC), plus that you can run normal Windows applications in one single device. 

You also get the ability to run normal Microsoft Office (though unlike the RT version, you don’t get a free license!) along with other download tools that are not well supported on the tablet OS platforms such as iOS and Android.

So to me these devices bring what Windows users have been craving for many years, and were not able to get hold of such devices and had to opt for twist type screens on the laptops.

But the story is not a great one for the Cloverleaf Atom + PowerVR graphics unit that is featured in the Acer W510 and other similar rival devices.  The key reason is not the processing power of the Atom processor, but rather the limited capabilities of the PowerVR graphics core, and more so that fact that its an interim solution until Intel got out its HD graphics based solutions which should give the ideal platform.  This can already been seen on the similar but massively greater performing Intel Corei5/i7 ULV based convertibles.

If you really need one of these devices save up and get the i5/i7 based convertibles is my advice, or wait for the Intel HD graphics based Atom SoC that should provide far better performance, and assured driver support.

The Acer W510 offers much, and has many design decisions that are truly great, and its battery life is something that shows Intel based chips and Windows can compete against the others in battery life and general performance, but its the next gen Atom with the extra juice which is going to be the real steal, and that may come in the form of the W520 🙂 Get that when it comes….


Things to consider when buying an USED phone

With the luxury of provider subscribed phones being a rarity in markets like Sri Lanka, many power users will opt to purchase used phones due to the hefty pricing for brand new phones by the official suppliers and even by smaller retailers.

However buying used phones, the buyer carries a few more risks mainly,

  1. The phone could be stolen phone
  2. The phone could be a locked phone
  3. The phone could have some serious technical or software problem
  4. The phone may not be what it supposed to be!
  5. The phone can be a fake

However some of these may also apply for new phones!, since smaller retailers who sell “NEW” phones are well known for selling used phones which have “repackaged” to look new.  Hence the only way once can be truly safe is to buy new, but seriously take this example,

New price of a Galaxy S3 is 95K, and yet in one year the phone can only be resold for around 50,000 at best.  You can buy a near new used S3 for around 55-60K right now, and you can still use and enjoy all the goodies and only loose out on 10K, that to me makes a lot more sense.

So how you prepare yourself to ensure you can minimize the danger of buying a lemon when buying an used phone.

Here are some best practices that may apply, if you have any more please comment 🙂

Only buy a phone that is COMPLETE and includes the original box

  1. Never buy a phone if the phone does not have the original box.  The IMEI no of the phone and the IMEI no in the box must match.
  2. Make sure the model no in the box and the phone match
  3. Make sure the color indicated in the box and the color of the phone match

If the phone does not have a box, the possibility of the phone being a stolen phone is very high.  With the growing collaboration between telcos of blacklisting stolen phones, and telcos hungry to sell phones to clients than have them use cheaper used phones, getting such a phone may only be useful as having a music player if its blacklisted.

The problem more than the black listed is if the phone had been stolen and reported to the police.  The police now can easily work with telco to track the phone when it gets used, and by law regardless of the paperwork you have, you the buyer will be deprived of the phone (= your money), and spend time at the cop house, along with other issues.

So if a guy says he brought it without a box to avoid taxes, etc, you have to decide if the price reduction is worth the risk. Also note that if you buy an incomplete phone (with no box) , selling it later can also be a problem, so my best advice, avoid buying without the box.

If the phone has a different color, or model no, it means it either has been repaired, customized or running a custom firmware, all danger signs.

Avoid buying phones which have the logos of big telcos on the phone or start up screen

In most countries such as US, Europe, Australia, Singapore, Korea, etc phones are part of the package, so you don’t pay for the phone much but you get “lured’” into it buy paying sizeable monthly charges for call and data use. However the problem is that these phones provided are locked to a telco (e.g. AT&T, Sprint, etc), and if you put another SIM this phone will not work.

Ingenious sellers and even small retailers work around this buy replacing the firmware of these phones with global/international versions which in many cases make these phones unlocked.

HOWEVER there are situations where when you run an update, the update service of the phone manufacturer detects your IMEI and updates it with the new correct firmware, effectively locking your phone once again.

Apple users in particular have to be vary of locked phones, as many sellers will sell phones with different approaches that make the phone work now, but the very next update will lock the phone.

Do some research and see what firmware versions come on the phone

With phone manufacturers specially for Android not wanting to upgrade phones to the latest Android versions mainly to make you buy a new phone, rather than because your current phone hardware is incapable of running the new versions, the customized ROM/firmware market has become big business.  XDAdeveloper, CyanogenMod are popular places for such ROMs.

However these custom ROMs may work out well for many techie users, but for the normal smartphone users, the quirks and dangerous of using a custom ROM has its complications.  Custom ROMs also have a tendency to make your phone go faster by speeding up the processor and graphics more than the standard (called overclocking), or by using tweaked software, the side effect of this is that the phone can be running a lot hotter and can reduce the lifetime of the phone and battery by a great margin.

Avoid buying “GREAT DEALS”, as these can be fake

The growing high quality clones are another scare.  Earlier a fake just looked like the original but did not behave, but thanks to the Android platform, Chinese clones now look physically like the original and also feature the software that are near identical.

One of the biggest fakes going around is the Samsung S3 Vietnam version, supposedly with 8GB and only support VGA recording! However the phone is identical in looks and in software for most non-techie users, until they find that they are running a pretty low end smart phone that has been designed to mimic Samsung’s flagship!

Make sure the important accessories are included

Some phones are expensive not just for the phone but for the accessories, E.g. HTC headsets from Beats Audio.  So make sure you are not being suckered of by accessories.

Accessories include the original USB cable (clones don’t last long, original cables are super quality), original charger, spare memory card, headset, etc.

More to come 🙂

Acer Iconia A500 Official ICS brief review

Acer was haggled and hassled over the delayed availability of the ICS build for the Acer A500.  However when you look at the market for devices that originally came with Honeycomb 3.0 (and subsequently updated to 3.2), only a handful of manufacturers have rolled out their updates for tablet devices.  Samsung for instance has yet to roll out their update.

One of the first to provide this was ASUS for the TF101 Transformer, and oh boy did they screw it up.  The tablet to this date after many patches is still having a big problem where the device goes into a continuous restart loop when left idle so much so that the  power drains overnight.   In addition the cool feature of the TF101 transformer was the keyboard dock, but it seems the critical bug where once the dock battery had depleted, and the dock starts using the tablet battery has not had a proper fix and also requires you to return the dock for some part replacement.  I nearly went to get a TF101 tab as a stop gap purchase until the new quad core devices became “affordable” but sadly this issue put me of big time.

With this in mind, I was a bit skeptical updating the tab since it was owned by a friend of mine.  While i saw many providing sufficiently positive responses on the update, i went ahead and i was pleased to say Acer definitely has done a fair job with the ICS update that i have not had any issues.

Will post some screen shots and benchmarks, but here are some initial impressions.

1. The interface is now a lot more nippy compared to Honeycomb, with swiping now being super smooth.  Another friend who also brought the A500 and update from 3.2 to ICS was extremely pleased how much more smoother and nippy the device was with the ICS update.

2. No issues of battery drain when left idle with WIFI switched off.

3. No issues with WIFI signal loss which was an issue for some, turns out this was for the folks who manually updated their tabs with the US firmware for devices used in Europe and Asia.  Channel 12 and 13 are disabled for US devices by regulations and this was causing the problem based on the forum feedback.

4. Some of the cool features such as the Acer Ring which available with the ICS for the newer Acer tablets is not included with the ICS build for the A500.

5. The new stock browser is a lot faster, though i prefer to use Opera Mini or Mobile for my light browsing and opting for stock or Dolphin for any more complex browsing purposes.

6. Benchmarks have improved, and so has the real life usage performance.  The good news is that the Acer A500 is not impacted by the more demanding ICS on hardware.  The larger memory and dual core configuration definitely being more than adequate for ICS.

7. No restarts since installing ICS, which is great since it has been over 2 weeks since i ran the update.  This is truly great since none of my other devices had this level of stability after installing ICS.

Vellamo a test run to see how the scrolling and web performance, indicates with ICS the upgrade has improved and so has the driver maturity for Tegra 2.  Even with a higher screen size it is able to out perform the Galaxy Nexus and the Note which are running newer hardware.  What is also interesting is how close it it performance to the quad-core Transformer Prime!


Here are some screens with the Acer A500 running ICS.  Unlike the updates for the Huawei MediaPad and the Sony Arc, Acer has modified the release to restrict some of the developer options in the settings menu.

Huawei MediaPad ICS official build now available for download

Unlike many other bigger name manufacturers Huawei has been pretty involved in providing updates to their device and though slightly late than the original planned day, they have now made available the official release of ICS for the MediaPad.

Direct download is available at

Please see my article on the MediaPad to see how you should backup your device.  In addition Google now has the feature to backup your apps and data.  Do note though that when you enable this, you may have issues if you are running apps that you installed “personally”, so be cautious since Google ain’t very nice on the way they go about things.  Recently they had removed over 50 apps that had violated their store policies (including apps that allow downloading youtube applications), and they have even gone ahead and removed it from all devices that had downloaded it from the store!

Interestingly Huawei also have an updated Honeycomb build.  This seems to be mainly because the amount of ICS devices in the market is still rather low (less than 5%) with the key players Amazon, Samsung still yet to roll out ICS for most of their popular devices.  Hence application compatibility with ICS is still a problem.

Huawei MediaPad ICS first impression

Could not resist waiting for the official update, and plunged in and installed the March release of the ICS International release from the xda forum.  Installation went very smoothly and remembered to back the apps prior to the update using HiSuite, and the restored back up after the update.

First impressions

Initially felt a bit of lag in the UI, when i was expecting lightning fast responses that i encountered using ICS with a friend who had a Google Nexus phone.  However found that the ICS build downloaded being still not fully final had logging enabled, and disabling logging improved the overall smoothness immensely making the device very usable.

The build is definitely close to final as the camera, video, wifi, 3G all work fine.  The device now officially has the phone and messenger.

Strangely the theme and look and feel still remains very much like Honeycomb, that you don’t feel a WOW factor from the ICS update is something that let me down.

The new option where you can change the font size available in ICS is very useful as you can select high res mode and customize the font size to suite your visual preference.

Screen shots

Start screen nothing very different, notice the “emergency call”, which is because the phone is airplane mode.

The interface here is not the standard, as i am using the APEX launcher since default ICS launcher is rather unattractive and feature limited.  However APEX launcher itself is something hard to understand since it has so many configuration settings.

The version in case you have a doubt what is running on the device 🙂

Settings menu for display, notice the font option. Also nice is the power saving option available under settings.


Attached a few benchmarks to give you an idea on more where the MediaPad stands compared to current devices.

AnTuTu 2.7.2

Competes well with similar configuration devices, though all seem to be blown by the Transformer Prime here!


Quadrant seems to having some issues with there benchmarks, and are unable to show against the latest crop, i am awaiting the update to rerun the benchmarks.


My Internet connection was very slow, and noticed this test ran slow, i am not sure if this impacted the networking score.  However here the device is very competitive.


Huawei MediaPad review, 7″ Dual-core 3G Tablet S7-301u

The MediaPad was launched by the local Telco’s.  However Huawei’s past record with the S7 and S7 slim had been poor, and many still think MediaPad is the same device.  The MediaPad in contrast seems to evolution of the S7 Pro devices with similar hardware but with HoneyComb 3.2 rather than Gingerbread as the base OS.

The MediaPad however has been available in the US much earlier, though with some slight changes to the design as the T-Mobile Springboard.

I had been waiting for the Asus Prime to be launched, but the device had been delayed once again, and decided I will try out a new device until the Prime was freely available in the market.

A device that caught my eye was the Galaxy Tab 7.7, however Samsung once again continues it long delay from launch to available in the retail market.  The MediaPad caught my eye because it had very similar specifications for less than half the price.

The decision was made easier when my Telco offered me a 15% discount for long term clients, and here is a brief review of the device that I currently have.

 The device

The device sadly has no unique design and looks like a shrunken IPad device in look and feel.

However the device is fairly light, and definitely much lighter than the long service Galaxy Tab 7 and slightly slimmer as well.

Unlike the Samsung devices the external cover is made using Aluminum that makes if look and feel more like an small IPad.

The main change is in the rear of the device, where there are two black plastic covers at the top and bottom.  The bottom one is removable and contains the SIM card slot and the MicroSD slot.  The top is purely for design, and my personal opinion is that they could have skipped the black on top as it ruins the design of the device.


 Unlike the old Huawei Android tablet devices, this comes fully in line with what the current market has.  The key notes of the hardware are,

  • Dual-Core 1.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor
  • Adreno 220 Mobile graphics with 1080P video playback
  • 7” Capacitive Multi-touch IPS LED LCD touch screen with a very high resolution 1280×800, with a PPI of 216 making it very sharp (yes the pixel density is much higher than an IPad)
  • 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage
  • 5MP rear camera with auto focus and zoom (digital) feature and 720P HD video recording
  • 1.3MP front camera that will allow video calls
  • Large battery for a 7” (4100mAh) compared to devices such as the Acer A100
  • Sensors: Light (for auto brightness) and Accelerometer sensor
  • Built-in 2G/3G with HSUPA (5.76Mbps) and HSDPA (14.4Mbps) support
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • Dual-speakers with SRS

The hardware definitely is in par with the latest crop of Android tablets.  While most are familiar with the Tegra based devices on tablets, the Snapdragon is more commonly seen on phone devices.  However with the Adreno 220GPU is more than capable for gaming, and has the advantage that it can play 1080P video natively.

Screen quality

For any tablet the screen is important, and specially for a 7”.  The screen on the MediaPad is pretty good, which very good sharpness and brightness.  For most times I have the brightness at 30%, as its more than good enough!  The light sensor also means you can set it to auto brightness.

The viewing angles are good, which is expected for an IPS type screen.  With a PPI of 216, the text is sharp and clear, and is very good for browsing and reading.  I had no problems reading PDF magazines with no zooming even for small fonts, something that was hard to do on the Galaxy 7” tab with the lesser resolution.

The device also strangely comes with a feature that says standard resolution and high resolution.  When I ran software to see if the resolution changed, I noticed  no difference but what seems to be done is the image, fonts are scaled down lower when set to high resolution.

In standard resolution the multi-touch is good, though I have noticed that you have to give the odd double touch once in a while, a problem with several Android devices I have used, something you never come across with the Apple IPad which definitely has a superior touch experience.  Hopefully Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream with its UI acceleration feature (a first time on Android) will resolve this problem.

In high resolution the icons are much smaller and can be problem for the chubby fingered folks (such as myself!).  However the screen is definitely sharper in the high resolution mode.  The captures below are scaled down, and the actual is much sharper.  I will try to attach a higher res capture at the end of the review.

A common question is how good is it to a Samsung Galaxy series which is fast becoming the most spoken of the Android tablets, though the sales figures may indicate that other devices are selling in equal share!

  • The screen is much bright than the older 7″ Samsung Galaxy tab, and with the higher resolution much sharper
  • Compared to the new 10″ Galaxy tab, this screen is not as good, and lacking in the color vibrancy.  However to be fair the Galaxy 10″ and 8.9″ screens are considered the best in the market, beating even the Apple IPad screen.  Hence the screen in the new Galaxy 7″ Plus will definitely be more vibrant, though it may not be as sharp due to the lower resolution.   The Galaxy 7.7″ due soon however may be the reference model with its super AMOLED screen, but with a price that is over 2 times this device its market placing is very different
  • Compared to the Acer device i tested which was  TN based LCD, this screen is on par or better.

Build Quality

The device build quality is quite good and feels very solid with no noticeable squeaks.  However the metal cover means it is easily prone to dents and scratches and hence a case is compulsory.

I would have preferred if Huawei had stuck to the T-mobile Springboard scheme of white covers at the back, and avoided the plastic at the rear top.

Software and Updates

The device comes pre-installed with Honeycomb 3.2 and has the over the air update feature.  Interestingly it has two options update via Google server and Huawei server.  I am a bit curious why the Google update feature is there, since Huawei has dome some minor customizations on top of the standard Honeycomb.

The device also comes with Huawei’s HiSuite Software, which does provide some decent features though the user interface is rather old-fashioned!

Features include,

  • Ability to install software by dragging and dropping into the interface
  • Backup contents and restore
  • Take images of the screen being shown of the tab onto your PC (screen captures)

I also found on the net that the device has been rooted, which should make things a lot more flexible.  .

Bundled Software

Unlike many tabs, this does come bundled with a file manager that is very good news, though you will definitely replace that with File Manager such as File Expert or Astro.

The device also ships with Google Market, so you have access to all the Google software, that definitely makes it a better proposition than generic tablets.

Complementary you also get the following softare,

  • Games: Angry Birds, Asphalt 6 and Let’s Go Golf
  • Yoko Office

Video Multimedia formats and Playback

[Under testing].


Consider the device has a back camera and front camera, but don’t expect too much from the back facing 5MP camera. The camera is rather low end in nature and the picture quality is noisy.  No LCD means that it will not be very useful in low light situations.

The video quality is acceptable, but just like the stills it is noisy.

Audio Quality

The dual speakers are decent, and quite loud, an issue I had with the Galaxy Tab 7”.  The sound is a match in volume to my IPad2 in sheer loudness.

Music playback is pretty good, though the speakers are definitely not very good on bass.  While it does not distort, it can be bit shrilly.

Being a 7” if you were to hold the device with your hands in landscape mode, you could end up blocking one of the speakers, which is a problem for such speaker placement. However there is very little option for such devices to locate it elsewhere.

Connectivity Ports

For a 7” this device comes with a rich set of connectivity options, which include,

  • Micro USB, you can connect a micro USB to USB connector and then connect a flash drive if require as the device does support USB on the go
  • Micro HDMI
  • 3.5” headphone jack
  • MicroSD card slot

Hence compared to the very popular Galaxy Tab devices the presence of the Micro USB and MicroSD provides greater flexibility.

The MicroSD is definitely needed since the tab only has 8GB of internal storage.  However while you can hot swap the Micro SD, you need to pop the rear cover.

One weak point similar to the Galaxy tab is that the device cannot charge over the micro USB.  You have to carry the bulky adapter that is given.  However unlike a Galaxy Tab, adapter is a 6V, which means Huawei could have made this charge of the Micro USB.


An area for controversy for me at least.  According to official Telco banner and many sites the device was supposed to have 8GB internal storage.  However I found it only has 5.8GB, and popular mobile review sites have varying configurations on this area.  Huawei in their official site DO NOT MENTION the size of the internal storage, which adds to the mystery.

Over 2.5GB of the internal storage is used at the start and the bundled software definitely is not that large.  Need to check with another Honeycomb device to see if the base OS actually takes such a large size!


Here is a capture from Quadrant indicating the detected sensors.

Battery life and recharge time

Since my reviews are purely on feel, I don’t have measures to prove this but I am sure you can find reviews from sites on actual facts.

For a start any device with 3G enabled is going to drain battery, but what is important is how it performs with this feature disabled.

With 3G disabled the overnight loss in battery is around 2%.  The device definitely can last a few days without charging.

But as a user I feel the battery drain is much greater than an IPad on regular use such as browsing, video playback.  The recharging time is not slow as was the case with the Samsung Galaxy tab (that takes hours which is very painful), and is more akin to an IPad charging, which is bearable.

However the good news I that the battery recharge times are not as long as the Samsung process, and you can recharge the device in around 2-3hrs to full capacity.

I also found a charger on ebay that can be connected to your PC USB port, with the other end compatible with the Huawei Media Pad.


Quadrant Standard – 1901

LinPack (Single/Multi) – 46.088MFLOPS / 53.224MFLOPS

NenMark1 – 52.2 FPS

AntTuTu (2.4.3) – 5362


I tried out the some racing games including the bundled Asphalt, ROC, Drift Mania.  Seems my device has a hardware problem, as the steering using tilt does not work properly (refused to turn to the right).  I posted on the Huawei Facebook wall, and i got a response that i should get the device checked.  Will update if this is a problem with my unit or if this is an incompatibility with the device once i take it to the service center.

Firmware updates and ICS upgrade

The good news is that Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) is in the works for this device 🙂 and seems the next batch of the devices will be shipping straight with ICS, making this device among the first to be shipping with ICS after the ASUS Transformer Prime tablet.  The updates for existing devices has been scheduled for March 2012, hope it comes earlier!.

The device has two options one to update from Huawei and the other from Google server.   Each time i tried it says the version i have is the latest. However i went Huawei site and found  more newer version that what i had.  The direct link for downloads from Huawei is

I noticed the following improvements with the HUAWEI_S7-301u_FIRMWARE_adroid3.2_C232B016_General_VersionForUser_05010SJR  (9-Jan-2012) update.

1. Fixed the issue where the device switched to 2G far to easily, now it works better.  However sadly it does not have the features that we find standard on the Gingerbread (GSM, GSM/3G, 3G only) which is far more simpler.

2. The update also has improved the touch implementation and i find the experience a lot more smoother.

3. Has updated versions of the bundled apps

4. Built-in file manager now detects the external SD card properly and seamlessly

5. Issue with games involving the tilt has been fixed.  Now i can play my racing games!

On the negative side i noticed the following,

1. WIFI connectivity does not work properly (big bummer, since some apps and games insist on using a wifi connection to download larger downloads)

However the update using the download had some quirks which one should watch out,

1.  Remember to back up your data and apps using the HSuite and also app backup, because if you update using the download it clears the local storage contents and the tablet is back to new state with the updated firmware. No such warning is mentioned in the Huawei guide for updating the firmware!

2. If you run the update and don’t remove the SD card, the device keeps updating on each re-boot.  So make sure you remove the SD card after the update, and then re-insert the card back.

3. Once the update is done and OK comes on your screen the tablet will reboot, but the update is not done yet.  It will then start the bundled app updates and then reboot again while showing the startup screen.  the messages come in an ugly yellow DOS-like font 🙂


The device is definitely well built, and also very competitive priced.  Currently its priced below even the older Galaxy Tab 7”, but is much higher configuration with faster 3G, higher resolution and brigher screen, better battery life, faster processor and graphics and greater flexibility in connectivity ports.

Another very important upgrade is that it is running Honeycomb and should be getting the much sought after Google Ice Cream update soon.

On the device per say, the screen and multi-touch are good and making it ideal portable device for your internet and video playback.  The screen is very bright and the video is very crisp and clear.  The audio is sufficiently loud for such a small device.

The connectivity options are great and giving you several options to easily transfer files into and out of the device. The connectivity options are far better than the popular Samsung Galaxy tab series which is hell bent on following Apple strategies, though the new 7” devices are now offering more options.

The cameras may not be great, but they will do their job, and the front camera makes it ready for video calling.

The battery life is decent, and based on some professional reviews it can do over 6.5 hours of non-stop video, which put it above the older Galaxy 7” tab, and far better than the Acer A100 which has less than 3+ hours in similar tests.

The device is better than generic chinese tabs since the hardware is more standard.  My only hope is that Huawei who are now getting serious with their devices under their own name, will improve their software support services.

MediaPad and Google ICS update

Installed the near final ICS firmware, see my comments and benchmarks at

Where can I buy it in Sri Lanka and the experience when buying it

Currently only the Telcos are selling it, and the local supplier for Huawei (MiTech computers) is only getting shipment in January 2012. They have indicated they will bring down accessories for this device as well.

The local supplier also mentioned that the Telcos were getting these devices in bulk, and that pricing was much cheaper than the retail prices since they seem to be keen on pushing tablets to benefit from the eventual data usage!

Comparison with other popular 7″ tablets

Did a quick chart for the spec crazy group.  The prices of the tabs are very different, and also differ from market to market.  Selected them more with an Asian availability (devices from Motorola, Acer and Toshiba for example are hard to find here).

MediaPad vs other 7in tablets 2012

Accessory links

Finding accessories is something that is harder compared but that applies to most Android devices.  Sadly Huawei has not yet got into the full thick of things by selling original accessories as done by other tablet vendors.  The source hence is ebay, and the well known PDair case manufacturers.

I ordered some, will update the review once i get the goods.  But here are some that caught my eye.  I ordered a matt finish anti glare screen protector and microfiber case in addition to the USB charger.  While many don’t like the matt finish specially since impacts the gloss of the screen, i find it more easier to use and like the non-glare feel.

Microfiber case :

Silicon case :

Acer Iconia A500 Android Honeycomb Tablet review

Two of my friends decided to join the tablet bridge, and wanted my advice starting with the perennial question Apple IPAD or Android tablet.  I gave them an update based on my ownership of both IPad and Android based devices.  After much thought they decided that they really needed more control over their tablet device than the apps, and since the user of the tablet was mainly for business use, the apps available in the Android market should be more than adequate.

So the next decision was to decide which tab. Here in Sri Lanka the tablet market had limited options, and options were Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9 (3G version), Toshiba Thrive and the Acer A500 and A501 as branded Honeycomb devices.

Though they were initially tempted by the sexy slim design of the Galaxy Tab, they realized the benefit of the full USB and Micro SD capability, and decided to go with the A500 (they were going down the MIFI router path so the 3G version the A501 was not considered).  The Thrive was instantly discarded, since the local Toshiba agents price it way higher than the Acer A500, when it’s the other way around in other markets!, talk about stupid agent pricing.

Initial experience

I joined the two to go check out the A500, which strictly was to be a hands-on trial to aid the purchase decision which at the end of it became an immediate purchase by the end of the session.

Reading all the reviews, and loaded with Android experience as a former owner of an Xperia  X10, and then an owner of the Galaxy Tab 7” I felt confident I could easily demo the unit to the friends, since they had no experience of using any Android device, and were hard core Blackberry phone users!

Was I in for a shock with Honeycomb, it felt so very different to the phone OS version, and looked very much like a simplified version of Windows OS.  However one thing was sure, it definitely was not simple to use without some reading, and one can understand why many find the Honeycomb experience a bit daunting.

Fortunately for me, one of my buddies said why not take his device for a few days and play around and then update him, saving him time on learning. This means I got a chance of writing another review to my blog, and saving me the trouble of having to actually buy a device which has become a key limiter for articles.

Also featured this time are photos taken from the Nikon D5100, using the 35mm lens 🙂

The device

The Acer A500 was my initial choice before I then reverted to a buying an IPad2, main reason being the bug with the battery leak which was a concern initially.  This bug was fixed with the 3.0.1 update.

Now that I had the device with me, I was surprised how very different a 10.1 wide screen layout felt compared to the 4:3 format IPad device.  It felt much smaller though in fact it was not really.

While the Acer A500 was heavier than an IPad2, it was not something you call heavy, and once you do add the usual case, all tabs are pretty much too heavy for long time use, so I would not take that as a major reason unless you want to use a your tab for hours and hours.

A comparison photo with my IPad2, IPad 1 and the A500.  The topmost is the IPad2, right below is the Acer A500.  Below the Acer is the IPad1.  Resting under all this is the silicon cover for the Ipad1 🙂


Well with a spec that is a match to any dual-core Tegra-2 based tablet, and considered one of the most powerful currently in the tablet market, it definitely has the horsepower for current and future tablet computing.  The main lag I feel is the Google Honeycomb OS itself and possible that the drivers by Nvidia are still being optimized and improved for the Android platform, considering Nvidia has been an relative late entry into the Android space, though it came out fighting with an awesome spec for the Tegra-2 platform.

Build Quality

The device is VERY VERY well built with a lot of metal being used.  The device passed around to many nearby colleagues in office!  One of them actually told that it looked like a big Nokia N8 in shape and build.  A Samsung Galaxy 7” tab user actually felt very envious by the gun-metal finish of the Acer, compared to the real plasticky feel of the Samsung tab.  It definitely felt classy and rugged.

Screen quality and use

Yes its may not be an IPS screen, and all the reviews talk about the viewing angles, etc.  However most users will find this screen more than good enough for personal use, considering the screen is way better than most laptop screens!  As an IPad user you also notice the extra resolution specially when looking at the small fonts on PDF files.

Being a capacitive screen, the multi-touch implementation is good and quite fluid.  However a common complaint by a person who has used an IPad is that that fluid-ness of the Google implementation is definitely not in par with the Apple implementation.

Also remember the screen has a Gorilla glass coating making it rugged.  However don’t forget a screen protector, as Gorilla glass does not mean scratch proof 🙂

One factor that was very evident was that in direct sunlight the screen is impossible to view, using a matt finish anti-glare screen protector may improve things, but it did not have a screen protector when I tested it.


When I connected the device, it first updated to 3.0.x and then updated to 3.1 and then to 3.2.  My friend who brought this device over the Samsung 10.1 was quite happy, since the Samsung had yet to give this update.  Kudos to Acer for giving the updates fast.  Oh yeah the other thing I forgot to mention is that the updates are OTA (over the air), and you don’t have that dreadful Samsung Kiev like software to work with.

Bundled Software

The device is bundled with several apps which I felt were actually messy to use, and there were much better free and paid ups on the Google market.

One crazy omission for a tablet that is actually having a full featured OS is the lack of a file manager as standard.  I am quite surprised why Google does not include this as a standard.  However Astro for Honeycomb tablets available free in the market provides a super file manager experience that may even have Windows users feeling a bit jealous.

Acer also does not bundle any Office application, which is a shame since the users of this tab would definitely like a complimentary copy of a Office application.  Samsung has this well covered, and so does many of the other Android tablet manufacturers.

Video Multimedia formats supported

Most reviews talk about it, but it’s worth noting that the default player provided by Acer does not have support for Divx/MKV which is disappointing.  However you can easily download free players from the Android Market that will help play these formats.  However one expects support for such formats considering these are standard formats in the present day multimedia playback needs.


Consider the device has a back camera and front camera, but don’t expect too much from the back facing 5MP camera. The camera is rather low end in nature and the picture quality is very noisy.  The positive is that the camera also has a LED flash which means you can take photos indoors as well. However the Android default camera software is quite featured, something I felt very lacking in my Nokia N8 which has such a great camera but poor software.

The video quality is decent, but not mind boggling.  The quality I felt was bit worse than the quality of the video that was produced by the Galaxy Tab 7”.

Audio Quality

A key reason that I sold the Galaxy Tab 7” which was more used by my son to watch videos and try out the pre-school apps was that the speaker volume was not very great, especially when used in an place where other people were speaking.  The IPad in contrast has a very loud and clear speaker that works quite well under such circumstances.

The Acer with its stereo speakers with Dolby was much louder and better than the 7” Galaxy tab but still not as loud as the IPad speaker.  The speakers being located in the behind also meant it could be muffled depending on use.

Picture below shows one of the speakers.  Looks cool 🙂


The most irritating thing with an IPad is that you have so many limitations in storing content into the device.  Default browser does not allow you to save any kind of video or music file, and while you can use other alternative browsers it still not a very intuitive way.  In most case you have to depend on ITunes to sync contents with your PC / Mac to get content into the tab.

Android is capable of being just like Windows with support for loading storage devices on the fly in the likes of SD cards, flash drives, portable hard disks and even USB mouses, as long as the device has the ports.  However not all Android devices have these ports, specially the most popular Samsung devices which are cool designs but skip on these and you have to use adapters to work around for some.

The acer has most of the required ports a FULL USB, very cool, a micro SD  which is very useful too (no full SD card like thrive the swiss knife of Android tablets).  It also has a built-in micro HDMI (sadly the cable to connect to a HDMI device has to purchased separately, only Nokia is well known for providing all cables!) and it also has a micro USB as well.

Battery life and recharge time

Since my reviews are purely on feel, I don’t have measures to prove this but I am sure you can find reviews from sites on actual facts.

But as a user I feel the battery drain is much greater than an IPad on regular use such as browsing, video playback.  The recharging time is not slow as was the case with the Samsung Galaxy tab (that takes hours which is very painful), and is more akin to an IPad charging, which is bearable.


Sadly did not get much time to install any games and test, but tried out one racing game and found it very fluid and jerk free.  The accelerometer and Gyro are definitely things that make gaming on tabs a cool feature.  The Tegra-2 has the GPU power to handle gaming well, so in case you are looking for gaming in addition to the normal business usage of the tab, this is a match to any other Tegra-2 Android device.  Just in case you want to know where the Tegra-2 falls currently, it’s much more powerful than the one in the Apple IPad1, but is not in the same league as the IPad2.  However this is purely on the GPU capability as the gaming experience is based on many more factors than pure GPU capability.


I will write my story of Honeycomb on a separate blog, but these are my takes on the Acer A500.

  1. It may not be an IPad2 or Galaxy Tab in the slim feel, but it definitely is not thick and I am sure most could be very happy.  It is definitely a balance between coolness and actual usefulness.  The Acer A500 is quite cool but is superbly useful.  The built quality is super and really oozes class.
  2. The screen may not be IPS screen but is definitely a very high quality LCD screen, and is more than good enough.  However it’s very reflective, so make sure you get a good matt finish anti-glare screen protector.  The Gorilla glass coating also means the screen can take a degree of punishment, something an IPad user will be hesitant on.
  3. The built-in device connectivity features are awesome and makes this one of the best Android tablets for geeks, and power users.  You can simply transfer and load content in every conceivable way USB flash, portable hard disk, micro SD, Bluetooth.  IPad users can only sulk on this propositionJ, and even Galaxy Tab owners will be red faced unless they have an USB adapter to get some level of equality.
  4. The battery life is decent, though not in the league of the IPad device.  Based on reviews it’s a bit low compared to the Galaxy 10.1 Tab as well.  However it definitely is sufficient for over 4-5 hours of use, which makes it suitable for most tab owners, is my feeling.  The quick recharge counters the Galaxy Tabs longer battery life.  If you want more juice get a Sanyo enelope charger that can overcome this limitation easily!
  5. Having both a front and rear camera is useful, as you can take a candid photo, or use it for video calls.  However don’t expect the camera to replace your point and shoot or DSLR.
  6. The audio quality from the speakers is good, but its not very loud.  Compared to my older Galaxy Tab 7” it is way louder, but not a match for the single speaker IPad 1 or IPad 2.

Where can I  buy it in Sri Lanka and the experience when buying it

The Acer is only sold by the agents in Sri Lanka, but the pricing is very competitive.  The only issue is that the agent has ridiculous way of selling.

  • They don’t have this device in any showroom, and you have to go to their head office.
  • The sales lady draws the tablet from her desk and then you had to stand around her desk and use the device!
  • Since we were considering the wifi version, there is no wi-fi to connect to the Internet and test the device.
  • The person selling has no idea of using the device or the configuration (we had to find out how much storage it had)
  • The agent only sells the tab, they do not sell any of the accessories.  So you have to find a way to get them down from overseas, or depend on eBay for the screen protector, case, and other goodies!
  • Once you pay for the device you are given a receipt and told to go to the basement of the building (a dark and gloomy place) to pick the device from the warehouse

This is indeed sad, considering the Acer A500 is a very good Android tab and sells over 10K less than the Samsung Galaxy 10.1.  I also feel in the local context, the connectivity options in the Acer makes it more applicable for most users if they are going Android over the Samsung tab.

I do hope the agents realize this and make this tab available among their retailers (the retailers sell the Acer laptops but not the tab, puzzling) and also bring in some of the popular accessories that are a must (screen protector, case at the minimum).

Cheap (Chinese) Android Tablet devices any good?

 or  or  

While the expensive IPad and Android based tablets from Samsung, HTC, Toshiba, Asus, Acer fight it out for sales in the markets that people can afford, the allure of the tablet in the year the tablets outsold the PC’s in US has effected many of us as well.

This has seen an explosive rise in various Chinese tablet devices, that have found nirvana with Google Android, a full fledged open OS that they can use on a compatible device.  These devices sell well under $100 even in the US markets, but when the come to markets to which they are originally intended (for people who have lower budgets), the prices sadly are more closer to the 200-300$ mark.  Still very cheap when you consider that the expensive devices are even more expensive in these markets.  E.g. The IPad2 16GB WIFI that sells at 499$ in US sells close to 800-900$ locally from small dealers who bring them in small numbers since Apple only sells there products in selected markets.

Sadly the market for Android tablets have not seen the popularity as much as the IPad, since these are purchased by many more for design than for their use.  The lower cost tablets of course are a different ball game, and the expectation from the purchases it seems that it will do the same as the expensive counterparts for a lot less money.

But is that correct, or are there things we need to watch, or could these devices be actually better than their expensive counterparts?  Let me share some of my thoughts, you work it out if it makes sense for you.

Can these in-expensive devices be better?

The expensive brands are fighting it out for “slimmest tab”, “most featured tab”, “longest battery life”, “best screen”, “fastest CPU” and also try to sell you accessories.  So that means you can find most devices don’t have,

  1.  A full USB port, some don’t even have a mini/micro USB port
  2. Some don’t even have any expansion ports (microSD/SD cards), so you are stuck with the storage that is internal to the device
  3. Most don’t have 3G or you have to fork out more for the 3G version.  There too you may have the CDMA vs GSM versions, and now the LTE versions to stop you using it in all markets.

Strangely the low budget tablets have loads of features,

1. They usually have a full USB port, or if not they definitely have an micro USB port.

That means you can hook up a USB or card reader and access stuff on flash drives, memory cards.  Since they run Android 2.2 in most cases or newer, you can access these storage and increase your storage space.  Something you definitely can’t do with an IPad, and for that matter with a lot of expensive branded tablets.  For instance the currently IPad2 challenge the Samsung Galaxy tab 10.1 has no expansion slots or USB.  You need to buy an accessory that is hard to find that fixes to the proprietary slot to connect an USB or card reader.  Makes the whole idea of slim design so less practical.

2. Wifi is standard, but 3G is prompted by saying simply use a 3G USB dongle!

Since these devices have a full fledged USB device, they can use a 3G USB modem directly and the latest modems have support for Android.  You can do this only with a very few branded expensive tablets such as the Toshiba Thrive, Acer A500.  None of the Samsung Galaxy tabs have this directly on the tablet, and definitely the IPad can’t do this 🙂

3. They come with all the accessories

These devices come bundled in full kit.  The package will usually consist of a basic carry case, and for devices with an micro USB connector, the adapter that connects a full USB devices, etc.  Such consumer oriented thinking sadly is not there with the expensive brands, they want you to spend spend and spend..

So that’s the nice part of the story.  Part 2…

What should one be vary/careful when buying?

Less price does sometimes means a bargain good buy, but in this case i have dug deep and have to say you have to be a tad cautious and also see what kind of use.  In the event the usage model is suitable then these devices are the thing for you.

1.  Don’t be deceived by the specification

We all love specifications.  The chaps who sell this know this well.  Which is why they prominently state the CPU speed,  Screen Size, Connectivity Options.  A bit lower in font you see the Android version.  The other points are either not listed or hard to find.  Why ? Let us see.

2. Android support and upgrades

Android is developing at an unbelievable pace, and with it just like desktops the expected hardware capabilities to support the newer operating system and applications are also rising steeply.   Google and rest don’t seem to be too bothered about backward compatibility, though in recent times Google has started to apply more regulations on the standards to ensure the app market grows, which has been on area that has ensure Apple still was popular, as even their older devices can run the newer operating systems and applications.

Read carefully and see what features are missing in the Android OS that your devices ships with, since some features are very necessary such as USB tethering, support for mass storage devices, multi-touch support, etc.   In addition some of the new applications won’t run on older versions as they depend on the new operating system to work better.

These in-expensive tablets have poor software update support, so you will have to rely on custom ROMs, the popular place for that is

The forums on this site are also good to find which of the in-expensive tablets are the one’s are less risk or less problematic.

3. CPU speed alone is not enough

The reason these devices can run Android is that all the mobile tablets are ARM based.  Hence if they comply to these standards the devices are technically compatible to run Android.  However 1GHZ speed is not the only thing, just like in a desktop / laptop CPU, you have different manufacturers, and you also have different versions.  You have the low end, mid level and the high end.  Most of the Chinese devices are using the older (1-2 era’s in mobile terms) chips. These support less features and hence the performance is a lot slower.  This will be definitely noticed when you run power hungry apps or try to multi-task.

Also Chinese tablets are very well known to “lie” about the CPU.  Dig around the Internet as you will find that though the brand various many originate from the same manufacturer.  The manufacturer usually states the correct spec, but the companies that brand it and sell these devices spice it up.  They sometime indicate higher speeds than what is running, or say its an newer version of the processor when its actually based on an older ARM spec.

Another danger that has been found was that these vendors used binned processors (processors that failed quality tests) or overclock the processors above the maximum threshold.  This can mean your device can fail in a short period of time, or can get warm or unpleasantly hot when used for even short periods of time.

To find the ARM processor types see – , ,

For vendors who make processors,,2/

Remember ARM is standard, and different manufacturers make processor that comply with these standards including Samsung, Qualcomm, VIA

4. Don’t have GPU acceleration (no dedicated GPU, your CPU has to do the GPU work)

While your every day usage of the tab can live without GPU acceleration if you are patient, even these apps such a wall papers, document viewing, email viewing, browsing all would do with some GPU acceleration. And with an Android tablet would you not try out Angry Birds at least 🙂 No GPU acceleration means lots of apps will either not run, or will be bog slow, and will also drain your battery.

You can find more details on the GPU configurations for devices from this Wikipedia article –

5. Battery life can be low to pathetic

This is another area where these devices can be great downfall.  They are packaged with batteries that have 50-100% less capacity compared to the branded tablets. That means while the branded expensive devices can happily run for 6-10hours or weeks on standby mode, these cheap tablets can barely run for 2-3hours or stay on standby for more than a few days.  This can be big issue for some.  Definitely a big issue for me.

The next area is the battery origins are not known, finding replacements are not going to be easy.  Most tablets are designed where the battery is sealed unlike mobile phones, and battery replacement is not simply buying and inserting the new battery.

6. Screen resolution, quality,  pixels and TYPE

One of the biggest issues is that most of these devices are still resistive touch, not capacitive.  Resistive means you can use a stylus, but you have to really thump into the screen.  The low smooth scrolling you get when you use an IPad/IPhone, or the new Android/Symbian devices are only possible with capacitive touch devices.  However the good news is that some of the newer devices are now moving into these type of screens.  However again be careful, as the marketing literature will say it is but the true hardware maybe not.  One quick way is to try the famous pinch and zoom, which can only be done with a multi-touch capacitive screen technology.

800×480 or 800×600 might seem a lot, but in a 7″ or 10″ tablet that is way to little and you will immediately notice it any form of usage.  When other devices are going past the 1024×768 into 1280×800 or better, you are going to miss a lot on picture quality when you view on these screens.

Another area is the brightness and clarity, most low end displays will be useless in direct sunlight or indoors under bright light, and that will make the device useless.

Branded vendors will also use technologies that are applied as coatings on top of the glass that will reduce glare, are resistant to finger smudges, and also more resistant to drops (the most popular and supposedly strongest being Gorilla Glass by corningware, yes the same guys who the kitchen pyrex stuff!).   I doubt if any of the cheap tablets have this protection, the list of devices that are shipping with this type of screen is constantly updated at  IPad avoids this glass, and works with another glass company called Akashi glass in Japan, the IPad1 was very suspect for cracking, but the IPad2 is lot more resilient as it uses a technology called DragonTrail glass, that is also fairly tough but not at the same level as the Gorilla glass.

7. Repairs

These items are usually made by companies based on what is available in the market.  Hence the models change from batch to batch.  They may look the same but internally the components can very tremendously.  Hence if you item is out of warranty you may find it very hard to get it fixed, but on the counter argument it might be cheaper to buy a new one than fixing it, something you will not be able to do if you buy an expensive branded Tablet.

8. Codec support

Google Android does not provide codecs for all video formats as standard.  Hence the vendor packaging the device has to included the additional codec and pay royalty to the firm they get the codec from.  Some current popular high dev formats such as MKV, DIVX are not bundled with most tablets in the in-expensive range, and surprisingly even expensive tablets from manufacturers including the IPad does not support this as standard and you need to user other free or paid software to play such formats. One of the manufacturers who does provide most codecs is Samsung.

Though you don’t have the codec you can use players such as RockPlayer, etc to play all formats, but in most cases this is entire software and CPU based rendering, lacking the hardware support which means possible skipped frames, poor quality rendering and drain on the battery. Since tablets are regularly used for viewing video related material, this is also another important area to consider.

Apple IPad vs Samsung Galaxy Tablet comparison

Not an easy topic, and i am sure fanboys from both groups will hotly dispute any negatives that you point out.  Frankly speaking the decision between either is very dependent on the user, since both are very capable (and expensive) devices.  So lets take me give my view on various aspects of usage,

Size and Handling : If we were to say the Galaxy being considered as a overgrown gorilla phone 🙂 is fairly a valid statement considering the Touch UI still has to much phone it in than a true tablet.  However the overgrown gorilla phone is definitely more light and carry friendly compared to the whale like IPad 🙂  Though the larger IPad screen definitely is a superb magazine reader, the fact remains that currently it is tad to heavy for long periods of use, as the balance is simply not there.  The Galaxy tab in comparison is a lot more balanced and ideal for this purpose, though a slightly larger screen would have made this perfect (hint- LG with their 8.9″ G-slate/Optimus Pad may have the ideal solution assuming they have perfected the balance of the device).  Do note that both run the same resolution, so there is no difference in the pixel sizes, though the upcoming range of tablets are all set to boost the pixel size (though the IPad2 rumored specs say the screen res will remain the same, though nothing wrong with the current no of pixels!)

Expansion:  The IPad currently comes in 3 different capacities 16/32/64GB and this is important, as you need to decide how much space you really want, since you cannot load and play content from any external media such an SD card or USB stick.   The Galaxy in comparison has an microUSB slot built-in that supports upto 32GB microSD cards.  So in addition to the built-in 16/32GB memory you can expand it.  However note the issue, even if you expand the Galaxy its going to top off at 64GB, so while the flexibility is there you really don’t get any additional space.  However the advantage is that you can load and play media from any microSD card, so you can have multiple cards, or use cards from your friends to play content, which is gives it the advantage.

Communication: The IPad 3G version comes with the ability to use an microSIM that means you can connect to net without the need of an WIFI router.  While most reviews talk about the fact that the WIFI is faster, this will be applicable for countries where WIFI is freely available.

However for most asian countries this will not hold true, and 3G is more important and accessible.  In my country (Sri Lanka) the speeds on the 3G connections can average around 1-2Mbps, and for the same price you only get 1Mbps on fixed lines, so 3G is a better alternative.  The Galaxy too supports 3G and though both the IPad and Galaxy Tab offer high speed supports you may find that your provider will not be able to provide sustained speeds at these levels.  However the place where the Galaxy out does the IPad is again in the area of BlueTooth, as its has the newer spec, and also has no restrictions.  The BT on the Galaxy Tab is just like any phone (not Apple!) so you can transfer files, explorer, etc unlike the rather limited voice only and limited device connectivity supported by the Apple BlueTooth support on the IPad.

Camera and Communication: Not really a comparison, as the IPad gets slammed big time as it does not even have a front facing camera though it ports a mic to allow voice calls.  While having a normal camera may not be essential for a Tablet, the front facing camera i think is fundamental considering the price of these devices, and that these are pitched as the mobile devices you may have with you.  The Galaxy front cam allows the video calls, and since its a normal phone you can use it for standard video calls over 3G as well.  The back camera is a 3.2 MP pixel and is of average quality, but surprisingly the flash that is included is very powerful and does very well indoors.  However i would have liked a bit more mega pixels in the camera, since you may need to take photos of white boards or books and here the mega pixel is important and 3 MP has insufficient detail for this purpose.

However not everything is sweet, as the most popular call software Skype is poorly implemented on Android, and is also now not available for many devices and regions, while this issue is not there with the Ipad/Apple iOS or for that matter even Symbian!  While Fring is available, the lack of a proper skype implementation i think takes the home advantage of the front camera.

Being able to take calls on your Tablet is something i feel is not that vital, since you would need to carry a mobile in addition to your tablet as the tablet cannot be carried for all events.   Hence while this is an advantage, I think its not vital and would be fine without it.  If samsung could have done this and reduced the price of the Galaxy tab i am sure the number of devices sold would have been far greater.

PDF support:  I included this as a separate criteria as i felt it was important, and maybe its just me as i read a lot of material in PDF format.  Here while the Android platform has many PDF readers the PDF reader on the IPad is far smoother and better implemented.  You notice that you can flip through pages (and the page is rendered) much faster on the IPad, and also the loading time for a PDF is significantly better on the IPad.  In addition the zoom feature is a lot smoother on the IPad, and hopefully the HoneyComb Android upgrade will improve this on the Galaxy Tab (and other Android tablets).   And again here is where i felt the 7″ form factor being insufficient specially for magazines, and the IPad 9.7″ screen a lot more suited as you could read the content with no zoom needs.

Microsoft Office support:  Again since these tablets are more than simple ebook readers, you will end up having to view and possibly edit MS office documents. Here there is not built-in product provided by Apple on the IPad, while Samsung bundles software that allows you to view and edit documents, so definitely something that again makes the Galaxy a better option.

Multimedia: I covered this in my individual review, as here the Galaxy wins as it supports more formats natively including Divx/Xvid than the IPad.  The Galaxy form factor also makes it use the full space for wide screen content, while the IPad will have the two black streaks that reduces the effectiveness of the larger screen space.

—- to be continued

Apple IPad – Hands on

The same contact who gave me the Samsung Galaxy tab also gave me a 1 day evaluation loan of his Apple IPad, as he senses i was keen on getting a tablet.  While i had several fleeting experiences using the IPad this was the first time i had a complete experience, and coming just a few days after trying out the Galaxy tablet also ensured i had a good idea of what the non-Apple tablet products offered. Note that my comments are mainly using the IPad as a ebook reader and portable computing, and not as a gaming platform where i am sure the IPad may have a far superior set of games available than the Androids (for now). Though the IPad got was the 3G version i could not try out the 3G or the wireless since i did not have a microSIM, and my trusty router gave me trouble.   My attempts at using the X10 as a router failed as i found all the apps on the Android market for using the phone as a hotspot required the device to be rooted.


  • The larger screen definitely made it an ideal magazine reader as you could manage to read a magazine without any need for a zoom.
  • The PDF reader was able to flip through pages with practically no lag which is very impressive, since you sometimes have a lag even on your desktop
  • Built-in mic useful for skype video calls


  • No SD card slot or ability to play video and content from a memory card even with the camera kit which has a SD slot.  All content has to be copied to the on-board memory (which is why you have to decide the capacity you want in th IPad as there is no going back).
  • The lock on file transfer is so tight that even the bluetooth is purely only for voice, and has no support for any file transfers.  Considering we are used to transferring files through BT using our phones (non Apple phones atleast!) this was very limiting.
  • Limitations in syncing on multiple computers – The Ipad already had a load of applications installed, however i could not install any new apps without loosing all that was there, since iTunes sync detects that you have set it up with another desktop and disallows any additions without erasing all existing apps. Another high security feature of the Apple to avoid people misusing the licenses on apps i guess :).  However it does seem to allow upto 5 computers to officially registered for syncing, though the restriction still limits the flexibility you need.
  • No DivX support (officially) – You cannot import DivX videos into iTunes and transfer to iPad directly.  You have to convert DivX videos to iPad compatible videos or purchase an app such as CineXPlayer/OPlayer HD or stream divx content through apps like AirVideo.  The third party DivX players though have many limitations, where some files may not be playable.
  • No front facing camera – Sadly paying $500+ for an IPad just for the ebook reader seems criminal, when other pure ebook readers sell for less and have much longer battery life, albeit that most of these are eInk implementations (grayscale only, bar the Barnes and Noble Nook Color which however seems more tablet than ebook reader!).   However the IPad not having a front facing camera for video calls seems a criminal omission (Bet Stevey J wanted to sell the next gen IPad with the camera, and suddenly now finds that omission is hitting him hard as all the Android devices are featuring cameras and even dual 3D cameras to lure clients away from the IPad).
  • Micro SIM.  Possibly another move by apple to allow their telecom partners to make things harder for the users to use the device with other providers.  Thankfully a simple modification to the normal SIM makes it a Micro SIM to overcome this rather stupid decision.  See in case you want to DIY.
  • No official headset with mic for IPad – unusually though the device has a built-in mic, the headset accessory with a mic is not available officially and you have to try and find an unit that will do this job

Samsung Galaxy Tablet – Hands on

The urge to join the tablet group has becoming increasingly hard, specially with the long term fascination of wanting to read my automobile magazines at my finger tips.   The move to the Xperia X10 with android though not as ga ga as expected, also got me the opportunity to test out a brand new Samsung Tablet.   The contact offered it an awesome price (in local terms), and though i was about to commit, he suggested that i go try it out over the evening and make the decision or return (now that’s what you call trust, thanks Rizwan).


First the device definitely is small compared to the IPad, its like a CR book vs a standard exercise book in local equivalents for size.  The build quality is good, but you don’t see anything that is impressive.

However the Gorilla glass is a practical selection, even though the viewing angles may not be great as the Ipad or Barnes and Nobles Nook Color IPS screens.  To me the screen seems fine, though the reflections are a bit of an issue specially indoors in the night.  The back white cover is supposedly scratch proof too, but seems rather thin, specially at the slots for the SD and SIM card, that seems to be a potential area where the device may potentially crap if mishandled.


Proprietary USB connection seems so ridiculous considering microUSB is now becoming a standard, and i think its also being pushed as the standard in Euro.  Why Samsung wants to make a bit more pocket money selling these cables when the device is already so overpriced seems ridiculous.  Shame on your Samsung (okay okay, we know you want to be another Apple/Stevy J).

The SIM slot and microSD slot are on the right side, and has rubber covers to protect the ports.  Requires you to have nails to pry open, but nothing seriously flawed in the design.

Android OS – Froyo 2.2

Ah to the meat, my first experience with Froyo (android 2.2), since my beloved X10 is on 2.1 (yet to find time to root it and try the XDA ROMs).  The large touch friendly icons makes it seem a bit toyish, and also means a lot of flicking.  Now i know when they say that Android 2.x is not tablet friendly, coz the interface looks like a magnified phone interface. The reviews of the new honeycomb 3.0 android looks more like an desktop OS which may fit tablet computing better.

The interface is quite nippy and flicking through the desktops and loading apps have no noticeable lag.

However one quirky thing which i think was bad coding on google was that initially i could not get on the web or sign-in to my Google account to enable me to get access to the market.   The error was more like my login credentials were incorrect. After while i just had a feeling it was a network issue and then remember that the auto APN setup had not worked on my X10 as well, and i had to create it manually.  However the settings were downloaded a while later.


I downloaded Adobe PDF for Android and loaded a few digital contents, as one of the main reasons for this purchase would be to read my auto magazine collection, and also do my referring up on technology (my actual job of software engineering related aspects!).  Here is where i noticed though the 7″ form factor was more convenient, that reading full page was out, as the fonts were too small.  Switching to landscape helped, but the rather non-friendly approach to page switching on Android / Adobe for Android made it rather messy.  The Adobe PDF reader seems to be in its infancy on the the Android platform on features, as the zoom features were limited, and though you could not set a specific zoom that would stay across pages. However the page switching was quite smooth even for very graphics heavy magazines.

I also tried BeamReader, and though this was a bit more pleasant on usage, thank to the two arrow buttons for navigation, this reader was less smooth and had trouble with large graphics pages with rendering being painfully slow.

On the whole while it might be good for pure text based books, the 7″ form factor could be limiting for specially for PDF compared to the 9.7 or 10.2″ screens.  So make sure you see your usage pattern.


Camera: 3-mega pixel, oh come on Samsung clearly you want the buyer of the Tablet to also buy a phone since that’s just not enough!  One thing i am sure any tablet user might want is to take a picture of a white board, or paper article.  The camera just has not enough detail at the mega pixel, and is also lousy for macro shots.   General outdoor shots seem fine, and the flash is quite powerful that it does sufficiently fine indoors though the photos have a rather dull output.

Camera Video: The video is decent, and the ability to use the flash as a video light useful.

Video playback: Tried out various formats such as MP4 and DIVX and things were smooth.  The standard player played divx with no issues, something that my xperia cannot do.  Maybe the new hummingbird implementation has native support for Divx compared to the Snapdragon processor based implementation on the X10.  The built in speakers are loud enough, though headphones are recommended.


While using it suddenly i noticed it ringing, until then i had completely forgotten that the tablet was also a phone.  Was impressed that you could take calls without even the headset though it felt weird talking to a book like device 🙂


Used the tablet for about 2+ hours, and it was on full charge.  Connected to wifi for about 30mins, and on 3G data for around another 30 mins, the rest it was viewing complex pdf files, a few photos and video trials and general mucking around.  For all this the battery only dropped by less than a bar, so definitely impressive.