Need a lightweight work slate that won't break your budget? Acer's new Iconia Tab 10 A3 won't wow you with a memorable design or powerful performance, but it is a pretty well-rounded tablet for the price. And while it's not the fastest or longest-lasting device in its category, it does offer a sharp, bright 10.1-inch display and a sturdy, surprisingly light build. Those features make it a viable choice for business users who want a decent slate that costs a lot less than an iPad.
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The Iconia Tab 10 looks conference-room-ready, with a basic white frame around the display and a plastic back with a matte-silver paint job. I like the slate's rounded corners and the soft-touch strip at the top of its back that makes it easy to grasp.
The bezels around the display are a bit thick, but that's expected in this price range. My review unit came with a white bezel, but black and dark-blue versions are also available.
If you already lug your laptop on your daily commute, you probably don't want to add a heavy tablet to the mix. That's why the Iconia Tab 10's lightweight construction is one of its key selling points. At 1.12 lbs., it's noticeably lighter than the Asus Transformer Pad TF103C (1.25 lbs.) and the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (1.36 lbs.) That also makes it more comfortable to hold it up for extended periods of time. For comparison, the iPad Air 2 weighs just 0.96 lbs., though it also has a smaller, 9.7-display compared to the 10.1-inch Iconia Tab 10.
Although it felt snappy enough for basic tasks, the Iconia Tab 10 isn't the best choice for heavy multitaskers. Still, the tablet is powered by a 1.5-GHz MediaTek MT8127 quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM, which performed pretty well in everyday use. Apps opened and closed pretty quickly, and most apps ran smoothly. However, I noticed a short delay while switching between apps.
Performance test results reflected my experience, showing that the Iconia Tab 10 isn't as fast as its closest competitors. On the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, the slate scored an unimpressive 1,371, which is significantly lower than the tablet category average of 2,522. Both the Transformer Tab (2,376) and the Yoga Tablet 2 (2,396) also easily outperformed the Iconia Tab 10.
The Iconia Tab 10's best asset is its excellent 10.1-inch display, which is much nicer than the tablet's budget price tag would suggest. It's nice and sharp, with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels, so text is crisp and images look sharp. You also get wide viewing angles and accurate colors.
The display on Acer's tablet is also brighter than average, topping out at 369 nits of brightness. That beats the category average (346 nits) and the Transformer Pad (361 nits), making Acer's slate easier to use outdoors or in direct sunlight.
Acer sells the Iconia Tab 10 in a couple of hardware configurations. Our Iconia Tab 10 came equipped with a 1.5-GHz MediaTek MT8127 processor with 2GB of RAM, 32GB of flash storage and a 1,920 x 1,200-pixel display. It costs $249.
Acer also sells a lower-end model that has the same processor but only 1GB of RAM, 16GB of flash storage and a lower-res 1,280 x 800-pixel display for $199. We didn't get a chance to test that model, but given the middling performance of the pricier model, we don't consider the lower-end version to be a viable option for productivity tasks.
While most new Android slates launch with Android 5.0 Lollipop — the latest version of Google's mobile operating system — the Iconia Tab 10 runs on the older Android 4.4.2. Acer says the tablet will receive an upgrade to Lollipop at some point in the future but hasn't provided a timetable for when it might arrive.
Unfortunately, that means users will miss out on some nice new features that were added with Lollipop, at least for a little while. Those include things like native wireless printing and Priority Mode, which ensures your meetings aren't interrupted by unimportant phone calls.
Android 4.4.2 is still a capable platform for light productivity, especially with the recent release of full mobile versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which are nearly as full-featured as their desktop counterparts. A handful of other productivity apps come installed on the Iconia Tab 10, including Google Docs, Slides and Sheets, which are nice alternatives to Microsoft's apps for creating and editing documents, presentations and spreadsheets, respectively.
Acer also included some useful apps of its own. My favorite is the abFiles cloud storage app, which lets you remotely access files on your Windows computer, and includes the ability to convert files into PDFs or office documents with a couple of taps.
Although the Iconia Tab 10 is compatible with any Bluetooth keyboard, Acer actually sells one that's specifically designed to match the size and dimensions of the tablet. It sells for $60 separately, and doesn't have any mechanism by which it can be physically attached to the Tab 10, so you'll probably need to buy a case with a kickstand to make the most of it.
The Iconia Tab 10's closest competitors have more elegant solutions. The Transformer Pad TF103C actually ships with a snap-on keyboard, and the Yoga Tablet 2 uses its built-in kickstand to prop itself up with a magnetized keyboard. Either tablet is a better option than the Tab 10 if keyboard support is important to you.
One trade-off of the Iconia Tab 10's lightweight design is its below-average battery life. The slate ran for 7 hours and 57 minutes on our battery-life test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's probably long enough to last through the end of the workday, but it falls short of the tablet category average (8:32). However, it was better than the Asus Transformer Pad (7:18). The Yoga Tablet 2 is still the battery-life champ, running for an epic 12 hours and 37 minutes, but it's significantly heavier than the Iconia Tab 10.
Asus' Transformer Pad TF103C ($299) is pricier than the Iconia Tab 10, but it also comes with a snap-on keyboard and offers slightly better performance.
Lenovo's Yoga Tablet 2 ($249) is the same price as the Iconia Tab 10, and offers a handy kickstand that props the tablet up on your desk. It also lasts much longer on a charge, but it's a lot heavier and has an awkward asymmetrical design.
It's not the most impressive 10-inch tablet around, but Acer's Iconia Tab 10 A3 is a reasonably solid option for business users on a budget. It offers a bright, sharp display; a nice-looking design; and a sturdy but lightweight build. Competing slates like the Transformer Pad TF103C and Yoga Tablet 2 offer a bit of extra oomph in terms of processing power, but they're pricier and a bit heavier than the Iconia Tab 10.
It doesn't do much to distinguish itself, but for very light productivity tasks like editing documents and managing your email inbox on the go, Acer's tablet is a decent choice.