Review by Dan Seifert on Thursday August 09, 2012.
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The A700 offers the standard Android 4.0 Gmail and email apps out of the box, both of which provide solid email experiences. Both apps have a two-paned display for navigating through the inbox and reading messages, and both also have scrollable home screen widgets to preview messages. In addition to the email apps, the A700 comes with the standard Google Talk app for video chatting and instant messaging, as well as the Google+ app that provides its own messaging system. Fans of other instant messaging services will have to head to the Google Play Store to find apps to support them.
Acer has included a handful of pre-installed apps on the Iconia Tab A700, as well as portals to the Wild Tangent repository of games and NVIDIA's Tegra Zone. There is a custom file browser, custom music player, a wireless print utility (only compatible with a handful of printers, unfortunately), and the Polaris Office suite, among others. Acer's custom apps don't really do much other than duplicate the functionality of the standard Gallery and Play Music apps available to Android 4.0, but they are there nonetheless.
In addition to the Wild Tangent and Tegra Zone portals, the A700 has full access to the Google Play Store, which offers hundreds of thousands of apps to users. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those apps are designed for smartphones, and either don't work or look ridiculous on the A700's 10.1-inch display. It is still difficult to find high-quality apps designed specifically for tablets in the Google Play Store, and the A700 suffers compared to the competition because of that.
The A700 comes with the default Android 4.0 browser installed. The browser is snappy and loads pages quickly, but it struggles when using gestures to pinch-zoom or double-tap to zoom. Scrolling is acceptably smooth, however, and the A700's high-resolution display means that you have to zoom in far less frequently than you would with a lesser screen. The A700 also support the Google Chrome browser, which can be installed from the Google Play Store.
The A700 is equipped with two cameras: a 5 megapixel unit on the rear, and a 1 megapixel camera on the front. Cameras on full-size tablets usually aren't very good, and the A700's rear camera doesn't do anything to change this impression. The camera interface is the stock Android 4.0 camera app, which offers quick access to zoom controls and a handful of settings. The camera does autofocus rather quickly, and shot to shot times are respectable, but that's where the positive aspects come to an end.
The camera's narrow lens makes it hard to capture a vista of any sort, and images taken with the camera are quite noisy and grainy - even in good lighting. Likewise, the 1080p HD video is pretty choppy and unimpressive.
Fortunately, the front-facing camera is bright and sharp enough for video chatting, though it too could stand to benefit from a wider angle lens.
As noted earlier, Acer has equipped the A700 with a custom music player, but you can use the standard Google Play Music app as well, since that is also installed on the tablet. Play Music can play back music stored on the A700's 32GB of internal storage, or stream tunes from a Google Music account. Despite carrying DOLBY Digital branding, the A700's external speakers aren't that impressive and don't get particularly loud. Bass response is pretty poor, which isn't a huge surprise, but the speakers do resist distortion even when the volume is cranked to the max.
The A700 comes equipped with a 9800mAh battery that is not user-accessible. That shouldn't be a problem for most, however, as the tablet easily lasted for a full day or more under normal usage. Acer claims that the battery is good for 10.5 hours of continuous video playback or up to nearly 8 hours of web surfing, and my tests showed those to be accurate estimates for its battery life.
The Acer Iconia Tab A700 is an appropriate upgrade to Acer's earlier efforts, but it doesn't really go far enough to make it a viable choice for new tablet buyers. Its sluggish performance and cheap feel make it hard to recommend against the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity or the Apple iPad. Acer is selling the A700 in either black or silver for $449.99, which is a little bit cheaper than the competition, but I think that the extra money spent on the other options goes a long way towards providing a better user experience.
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.