Acer Iconia A3 review

Acer Iconia A3 tablet
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
180

A big tablet for not much money, but performance is poor

Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 1.2GHz MediaTek MT8125T, Screen size: 10.1in, Screen resolution: 1,280x800, Rear camera: 5 megapixels, Storage: 16GB, Wireless data: No, Size: 260x175x10mm, Weight: 560g, Operating system: Android 4.2.2

The Acer Iconia A3 is a 10.1in tablet with an entry-level price to match its rather basic design. At 560g, it's pretty hefty for a 10in tablet, and and this is something you really feel when holding it in one hand.

As the tablet is a chunky 10.2mm thick, we're not surprised it's heavy. As it's a budget Android tablet, we were also unsurprised to find the Iconia A3’s chassis is almost entirely plastic, which disappointingly has some flex when you exert any pressure to the back of the tablet. Still, you wouldn’t expect premium materials at this price, and the Iconia A3's weight and girth does at least make it feel robust.

The Iconia A3 is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz MediaTek MT8125T system-on-a-chip (SoC) paired with 1GB RAM. This chipset has slightly lower performance than the Nvidia Tegra 3 we often see in similarly-priced tablets. In our SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, which is a good indicator of web browsing performance, it managed to complete the test in a rather slow 1,503ms. The tablet could be slow to render web pages and had some hesitation when scrolling around, but web browsing performance was generally acceptable.  

The Iconia A3's graphics are handled by a PowerVR SGX 544 GPU. In our 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test, the tablet scored 2,553 and 1,539 in Ice Storm Extreme. This is considerably less than the Google Nexus 7 managed, with its score of 7,154. The Acer Iconia A3 handles less graphics-intensive games, such as Angry Birds, fine, but it will struggle to run more taxing titles such as Real Racing 3 at decent graphics settings.

The Iconia A3 has 16GB of built-in storage, which is expandable through a microSD slot located on the left of the tablet. In fact, the left side is where you'll find most of the controls and ports, such as the power button, Micro USB charging port, headphone jack and Mini HDMI socket. The right side of the tablet only has the volume controls.

It's a shame the connections aren’t better balanced, as it can make the tablet a bit fiddly to use; for example, the charging port is located so close to the power button that unlocking the device is tricky when the tablet is plugged in to charge.

There are stereo speakers on the bottom-left and right of the tablet, but these are placed in such a way that it’s easy to cover them with your hands when holding the device, muffling the sound. The speakers are at least quite loud, so you might not always need headphones for Skype calls or YouTube videos.

The Iconia A3 also supports Dolby Digital Plus, which can create virtualised 5.1-channel surround from normal headphones. We found it created a wider soundstage for music and generally preferred to leave it switched on. It made music sound a bit warmer than we would have liked, but when we turned it off our test tracks suddenly sounded flat and lifeless.

When watching films, Dolby Digital Plus also made dialogue clearer and dialled up the overall punch of sound effects and explosions. It also increased overall volume, both when using the built-in speakers and with headphones. This isn’t the ideal tablet to use to watch films on a long journey, however, as we saw just 7h 20m of continuous video playback in our video battery rundown test.

One of the Iconia A3's weaker aspects is its screen, and this certainly feels like an area where Acer has made compromises to keep the cost down. While it would always be difficult for the A3 to compete with more expensive tablets in terms of screen quality, we still found the display underwhelming.

The panel has a fairly low 1,280x800 resolution, which when paired with a 10.1in screen size makes for a pixel density of only 149ppi, so you won’t get the smooth text you see on tablets such as the Google Nexus 7 and iPad Air. Disappointingly, there is also no ambient light sensor, meaning you’ll need to adjust the brightness manually. At the display's maximum brightness setting, it was also difficult to see the screen in bright sunlight. We measured the screen's contrast ratio as 781:1, and our tests showed it could cover 66.4% of the sRGB colour gamut; neither of these are spectacular results. It's a fair screen for an inexpensive tablet, but is generally underwhelming.

The tablet runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, which is no longer the latest version of Android, but is common among cheaper models. It's not as pretty as 4.4 and you'll miss out on some fancy features such as Google Now integration, but 4.2 is still a perfectly fine operating system. Acer has not strayed far from the standard Android experience, aside from pre-installing a number of apps, some of which are more useful than others. It comes with a free version of McAfee Mobile Security which frustratingly you can’t uninstall and regularly prompts you to upgrade to a premium version; as you'd expect, this is deeply annoying. Even third-party uninstallers weren't able to touch it, at least not without root access.

Acer has included some of its own handy tweaks, however. Acer IntelliSpin detects when the tablet is lying flat, such as on a table, and can still detects when you rotate the device to adjust from portrait to landscape. With standard Android, you have to pick the tablet up from the table to make the screen rotate. You also get the Acer Remote Files and PicStream apps. The former lets you access files on your computer remotely, and the latter automatically backs up photos and syncs them with your home PC.

It may be low in price, but the Acer Iconia A3 feels cheap and has a mediocre screen. However, if you really want a 10in tablet for well under £200 than you'll be hard pushed to find much on offer. At this price you'll have to make sacrifices and the Iconia A3 isn't a bad tablet, although it's also worth considering the smarter-looking Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10, which has a great design but is saddled with an unusual Android interface. While you can still get the excellent Asus MemoPad FHD 10 for as little as £200 from Expansys

Hardware
Processor Quad-core 1.2GHz MediaTek MT8125T
RAM 1GB
Screen size 10.1in
Screen resolution 1,280x800
Screen type IPS
Front camera 0.3 megapixels
Rear camera 5 megapixels
Flash No
GPS Yes
Compass Yes
Storage 16GB
Memory card slot (supplied) microSD
Wi-Fi 802.11n
Bluetooth 4
NFC No
Wireless data No
Size 260x175x10mm
Weight 560g
Features
Operating system Android 4.2.2
Battery size 7300mAh
Buying information
Warranty one-year RTB
Price £180
Supplier www.argos.co.uk
Details www.acer.co.uk
Part code A3-A10

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