Though high-end Android tablet options have all but died off, at the budget end there is still a niche for svelte slates.
Enter Acer, one of the most enthusiastic manufacturers of these cut-price options, with its Iconia One 10 (2017).
It has a 10.1-inch 1,200 x 1,920 screen, front-firing speakers and a £180 price tag (around $230/AU$290 but with no word on a US or Australian release) attached – but is this enough to ensure a place in your living room set-up?
A media mogul
- 10.1-inch 1,200 x 1,920 screen
- Two loud front-firing speakers
- 5GHz Wi-Fi for fast data speeds
The key feature of any tablet looking to succeed in a big way is its screen. While people may use smartphones in various different ways and settings, tablets are primarily used on couches – they must succeed in this one scenario.
Luckily, the screen on the Acer Iconia One 10 is big and sharp, measuring 10.1 inches across and with a resolution of 1,200 x 1,920 – which amounts to 222 pixels per inch. It’s an IPS panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio, and as such is almost perfect for widescreen viewing.
The screen is an LCD, rather than the punchier AMOLED variants, but that is to be expected at this price point – it isn't on the level of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3.
The Iconia also has another trick up its sleeve, one that many manufacturers have dropped in recent years: front-firing speakers, two of them. The beauty of these is the sound comes from the direction most useful to the average listener i.e. towards them.
These are boosted by ‘DTS-HD Premium Sound’, which appears to be a mysterious automatic-equalizer that certainly has no negative impact on the sound produced.
Lastly, the Acer features another feature that is often woefully absent from sub-£200 devices, full 802.11ac 5GHz Wi-Fi. This inclusion allows for blisteringly fast connectivity when paired with compatible routers and a reliable internet connection. It should certainly make Netflix buffering a thing of the past.
Design and display
- Two micro USB ports
- Heavy at 530g
While phones have seen a design revolution at the sub-£200 price point, tablets have not. Plastic still prevails across most devices, with only a few hints of flair here or there. The Iconia One 10 is no exception.
The rear of the device is constructed from a soft, grippy matt plastic that won’t slide from a table without notice – unlike many glass-backed slates. Acer’s logo is picked out in a glossy chrome accent that doesn’t look too tacky, and there is the generic regulatory information towards the bottom.
Our only hint at individuality comes from the odd little glossy black coin near the top, bearing the ‘Iconia’ branding and protecting the rear-facing camera. Its head slides away to reveal a microSD card slot and (oddly) a micro USB slot that doesn’t allow for charging, only data transfer.
The right side and bottom of the device are flush, the left side hosts another micro USB port that does indeed allow for charging, and the top features a power button and volume rocker.
In all, this is an unremarkable device – especially the black version – but this isn’t really an issue in itself. A ‘couchable’ device doesn’t need to win beauty awards, only to be comfortable to hold, and that it is. For those who prefer to prop their tablets up on a table, it comes with a separate 'Acer stand'.
At 9.15mm thick the Acer Iconia One 10 (2017) is slim enough to feel premium without being so thin as to feel insubstantial, but one factor that does count against it is its heft. Weighing in at 530g, this chunky monkey can put a little too much strain on the hand when used for extensive binging sessions.
The display itself is a cracker. It has a good maximum brightness, even if the lowest brightness isn’t quite low enough for a pitch-black room. As it is an IPS panel, viewing angles are very good, and there is little to no brightness drop off.
Even if it isn't quite as good as the new iPad, it still more than holds its own in the quality stakes, especially at this price point.
One criticism, though this will only matter to a few souls, is that colors are just a little too cool for our liking, with whites tending towards the blue. Luckily however, there is a built in “Bluelight Shield” from Acer which does a decent job of warming the display up in the evening to protect your beauty sleep.
For watching movies, and at this price, it is really hard to do better.
Interface and reliability
- Runs Android 7.0 Nougat
- Comes with a suite of pre-installed apps
The trend recently, whether with Lenovo or Samsung, has been towards the simplification of the Android user experience. Manufacturers have been removing or winding down their custom heavy interfaces, mostly to the benefit of the consumer.
Acer has clearly received the memo, with the interface relatively stripped down compared to what it shipped its devices with in recent years. Users are presented with a mostly stock version of Android 7.0 Nougat, minus an app drawer and with an omnipresent (non-removable) ‘Iconia’ button on the bottom ‘shelf’.
When pressed, this leads to a suite of Acer apps which are universally rubbish and can be safely ignored.
The tablet also comes with its fair share of bumph installed, various apps from Microsoft, the whole Google ecosystem, Pocket and Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire among others clog the system. Luckily most of these can be promptly uninstalled without a second thought.
This light layer of customisation allows for a mostly fluid user experience. Scrolling through the interface, swiping between screens and the like never presents any unforgivable lag. More importantly, during the testing period there were no app hiccups, which points to the UI being well optimised on the back-end too.
One thing to note is, as with many other manufacturers, there is no guarantee as to whether this device will be updated to future versions of Android. Whether this matters to you is something else altogether, but it may prove to be a black mark for some.
With all of the apps that Acer sought to include however, the omission of a dedicated Gallery app is somewhat jarring, as the in-built Google Photos doesn’t allow for some simple options such as sharing to apps it doesn’t support. This can be promptly amended by a trip to the Play Store, but is odd nonetheless.
Movies, music and gaming
- Great front-facing speakers
- Performance isn’t up to high-end gaming
As a device designed to excel in delivering a great media experience, the Acer Iconia One 10 (2017) is generally a pleasure to use.
Whether listening to podcasts or jamming in the shower, the dual front-firing speakers produce a nice volume and a reasonable stereo separation, with a dedicated EQ app included for those who like to fine-tune their listening experience. It's good, if not quite at the room-filling level of the iPad Pro 10.5.
The 32GB of on-board storage along with the microSD card slot mean that there is plenty of space for your files, no matter how much you have.
The device comes with Google Play Music pre-installed as a default music player, and the app is quite fully featured. It also offers the somewhat nifty ability to upload your music library to the cloud and play it back wherever you might be, for free.
As for video, there is no dedicated video playback app installed – but there are plenty of options on the Play Store. Regardless, playback is smooth on the likes of Netflix and YouTube, even at higher resolutions, no doubt a result of the faster Wi-Fi module used.
Though not quite as immersive as the likes of the supersized iPad Pro 12.9 (2017), the Iconia One 10 is certainly good enough for marathon sessions in bed or on the sofa.
Gaming is another story however. Although the screen and speakers lend themselves well to immersion, the included 1.5GHz quad-core MediaTek MT8167A chipset paired with 2GB of RAM is unfortunately not quite fast enough to be considered a powerhouse.
It is enough for a quick spot of Angry Birds, but marathon sessions of Asphalt 8 are beyond it.
One thing worth noting is that the slightly sharp corners of the tablet don’t lend themselves well to anything more than short gaming sessions, as we found they dig uncomfortably into palms.
Performance and benchmarks
- Handles most basic tasks fine
- Can run hot and struggle with more demanding tasks
If there is one area in which the Acer Iconia One 10’s budget roots are thoroughly exposed, it is in its performance.
While fine for day to day use and streaming, this device doesn’t cope well with intensive apps or games. Chrome particularly struggled even with only a small number of tabs open.
Powered by a MediaTek quad-core MT8163 chipset and 2GB of RAM, the Acer is at least equipped for the basics of Android. The chip may be two years old by this point, but is still fairly competitive at the lower end.
One thing to note though is that it gets very hot under the collar when dealing with heavy tasks.
This is reflected in the Geekbench scores, where the device achieved a single-core score of 577 and a multi-core score of 1,503, respectable if hardly world shattering.
Though it isn’t quite on the same level as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, for the purposes of catching up with iPlayer it is more than sufficient.
Power users may wish to look elsewhere, but for people whose use cases are more simple, this will more than suffice.
- 6,100mAh battery
- Average performance in our tests
While tablets might primarily be used on the sofa, for many a traveller they also provide entertainment while on the go. Indeed, for many parents with young children, having a tablet handy with some cartoons is the difference between peace and an utter hell storm.
More than phones, we expect our slates to last days between charges, and this is something that most iPads manage to achieve with some aplomb.
Throughout the review period, we found that we could squeeze around a day and a half of medium use from the Iconia One 10's 6,100mAh cell. That is watching YouTube videos, reading articles and browsing social media, mixed in with a little music streaming over Bluetooth.
Heavier users will have to recharge pretty much every evening, while those who have less demanding requirements will be able to take advantage of the excellent standby time that Android Nougat offers.
Performing the TechRadar battery test (playing a 90-minute video on full brightness from local storage), the battery dropped from 100% to 75%.
This is not a particularly strong showing, with the new iPad for example losing just 15% of its life in the same test, but the Amazon Fire HD 10 lost a comparable 26%, and dropping the brightness level of the Acer’s screen sees endurance increase considerably.
The results seem to suggest that, in this scenario, you should expect around six hours of screen time.
- 5MP rear camera and 2MP front-facing one
- Rubbish results in almost all cases
Much has been said about those who choose a tablet as their primary photographic device, most of it negative.
Devices such as the Acer prove that relying on a 10-inch brick for your image capture needs is a lesson in futility.
While the 2MP front-facing camera and the 5MP rear camera may seem relatively okay on paper, both sensors prove to be highly sub-par.
Both produce grainy, washed out images that look exceptionally poor in every situation. The cameras can only give a remotely usable image in the best of light, and are prone to flaring, fringing, artifacting and any other negative effect you might find.
The camera is slow to launch and use, too, though at least the Acer camera UI is reasonably intuitive in its layout, even if it looks a little outdated. Using the HDR function is a commitment longer than modern marriage.
If good image quality in this form factor is a must for you, it is worth shelling out more for something a little more premium.
Far from its heyday, the budget Android tablet segment is now mostly dead. The likes of Samsung have all but abandoned their quest to produce an engaging large form-factor device at this price point, in no small part due to the ever-growing popularity of phablets.
But smaller companies such as Acer are keeping the budget Android tablet market on life support, and on the strength of the Acer Iconia One 10 (2017) that’s no bad thing.
Who’s this for?
For those hold-outs who have older devices that need an upgrade, or those looking for a solid slate for media consumption, the Acer Iconia One 10 (2017) is a safe bet.
It has a strong IPS 1,200 x 1,920 screen, dual loud front-facing speakers and the ability to take advantage of 5GHz AC Wi-Fi – making it a media powerhouse, if not quite on the same level as the Google Pixel C.
Should you buy it?
The Iconia One 10 (2017) has its fair share of weaknesses. The cameras are both terrible, battery life leaves something to be desired and the design of the device is a little boring – plus the anaemic MediaTek chipset begins to chug when the going gets tough.
These are all things to consider, but at this price the design shouldn’t be a key issue, and if you mostly plan to use it at home battery life needn’t be a major concern either.
Performance remains a problem, but doesn’t hold the Acer back too much as a media machine – so if you’re after such a device on a budget then it’s well worth considering.
However, it’s not the only slate you should consider, as there are a number of other budget contenders, such as the following three.
Vodafone Smart Tab N8
The Vodafone Smart Tab N8 comes with a 10.1 inch 800 x 1,280 display, a quad-core MediaTek MT8735B chipset, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage.
For less than the price of the Iconia One 10 it also packs 4G connectivity, which is a remarkable deal when all things are considered. Still, it has a smaller battery, a weaker display and the speaker performance doesn't come close to the Acer.
- Read our full Vodafone Smart Tab N8 review
Lenovo Tab A10-30
This budget tablet comes with a similar size, a lower price point and a larger battery than the Acer, however that is where the similarities end. The Iconia One 10 (2017) has a stronger screen, design and connectivity and is a better value, even at the relatively high price.
Amazon Fire HD 10
The Amazon Fire HD 10 comes with an 800 x 1,280 screen and the proprietary Fire OS installed. Despite being around the same price, in almost every area it proves to be worse value than the Acer, winning out only in its inclusion of the Alexa smart voice assistant.
Unless you are heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem, the Acer Iconia One 10 (2017) is the better option.
- Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 review
First reviewed: August 2017