Acer's Iconia Tab W500 is a Windows 7-enabled tablet that can't decide whether it wants to be a full-fledged tablet or a touch-screen-enabled laptop.
launched the iPad in 2010, it sparked off an industry-wide game of follow the
leader. Companies ranging from Samsung to Research In Motion all leapt into the
fray with tablet plans of their very own. Many of those tablets ran some
version of Google Android; other manufacturers, notably RIM and
Hewlett-Packard, decided to take the road less traveled and either build or
acquire a mobile operating system of their very own.
Even as these
other companies rushed into the space, though, there remained one conspicuous
absence: Microsoft. This was particularly ironic, considering how Bill Gates
himself advocated tablets as the device of the future during a November 2001
speech at Comdex. (At the time, he also demonstrated a prototype device running
Windows XP.) Despite some efforts to integrate touch controls into Windows-most
notably, Windows XP Tablet PC edition, followed by a touch-enabled version of
Windows 7-Microsoft over the last decade had failed to drive a broad consumer
revolution in tablets.
That brings us
to the Acer Iconia Tab W500, the new tablet PC from a company more known for
its netbooks. Like a handful of other tablets on the market, it runs
Windows-specifically, the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. It also
comes pre-loaded with Office 2010, which the owner needs a purchased product
key to activate. Under the hood, the device rocks an Advanced Micro Devices
dual-core processor and a 32GB solid-state hard drive.
screen definitely makes this a two-handed device along the lines of the iPad or
the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It feels hefty but not unduly burdensome
in your grip, although the slick backing and rounded edges will make the
clumsier among us paranoid about dropping it by accident. The 1.3-megapixel
Webcam, lodged in the top-center of the rear-panel, is serviceable for most
The good thing
about the Iconia Tab-at least for some people-is that it runs Windows 7. The
bad thing about the Iconia Tab-at least for some people-is that it runs Windows
full functionality of the Windows platform with the tablet form-factor, at
least in theory, means heightened portability for proprietary Windows
applications that haven't yet found their way onto a rival tablet platform. But
heightened portability compared to...what? A regular laptop? A netbook?
decision to include a QWERTY keyboard dock merely adds to the overall
confusion. Plugging the tablet into the dock is a snap, and the keyboard itself
is a thin but sturdy piece of hardware inlaid with additional ports. Hey,
presto, you have a laptop-one that won't close without popping out its screen
by design. The keyboard and tablet will sandwich together for travel, courtesy
of a hook clasp and a set of mildly magnetic points along the frame.
Windows 7 is
an operating system built primarily with keyboard-and-mouse input in mind.
Especially on a 10.1-inch screen, many of the icons and buttons are too small
to tap easily with a finger; the touch interface at moments seems to lag; and
gestures that have rapidly become the standard on other tablets-i.e.,
pinch-to-zoom-do virtually nothing in this context, frustrating to anyone used
to iOS or Google Android. The virtual keyboard, once opened, swallows virtually
every pixel of screen real estate, making it hard to judge at some moments what
you're typing. The screen will flip between landscape and portrait modes, but
only after a few disconcerting moments' worth of black screen.
don't come into play with passive whole-screen activities, such as reading
documents or viewing multimedia. When using the tablet for actual work, though,
the inclination in the face of these petty frustrations is to pull out the
keyboard, plug the tablet in, and rely on physical controls to navigate and
input data. In which case, why aren't you simply carrying a notebook?
words, the Iconia Tab isn't sure whether it wants to be a tablet or laptop.
Owners may find their own usage scenario where a Windows 7 tablet is vital to
their day-to-day lives, but others could be left wondering why they didn't opt
for either a full-on tablet or notebook-and wondering when exactly Microsoft
will release its next, supposedly tablet-optimized version of Windows