Acer's Iconia A500 has a brushed aluminium back, curved bottom and top edges, and flat sides. It's a rather heavy device that tips the scales at 730g and it can take some getting used to the extra weight. Acer will be hoping that potential buyers will be happy sacrificing a little size and weight for some extra features — while we think many people will be happy to do so, we still have our reservations about carrying the Iconia A500 around all day. On the upside, the Acer Iconia A500 feels sturdy and well built.
The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer and Acer Iconia A500 share virtually identical software, and they also have very similar, capacitive touchscreen displays. Both tablets have a screen that is 10.1in in size, with a resolution of 1280x800.
The Eee Pad Transformer's display produces vibrant colour and crisp text indoors, but its glossy surface makes it very tough to see in direct sunlight, and its viewing angles aren't great. The glossy surface doesn't always feel smooth to swipe your finger across, though the display itself is responsive to touch when in use.
By comparison, the Iconia A500's display also produces vibrant colour and crisp text indoors, but its glossy surface again makes it very tough to see in direct sunlight, and its viewing angles aren't great. Importantly, the Iconia A500's display is responsive to touch.
Internals and cameras
The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer and the Acer Iconia A500 have near identical internals. Both tablets are powered by a 1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, both have a hefty 1GB of RAM, and both have at least 16GB of internal memory, with 32GB models also available.
If you're looking for a tablet to store a hefty amount of digital media on, then the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer's full sized SD card may be a critical factor to consider. Although its only available on the optional dock connector, the full-sized SD card slot can support cards of up to 128GB in size — much more than the current 32GB limit of the microSD card slot in the Acer Iconia A500.
The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer and the Acer Iconia A500 both have a 5-megapixel rear camera for photographs, while both tablets can record 720p HD video. However, the Iconia A500 has a 2-megapixel front camera that slightly betters the 1.2-megapixel front snapper on the Eee Pad Transformer.
Both the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer and the Acer Iconia A500 include a full USB port for transferring and storing files. This means you can plug in a USB thumb drive to quickly access your files. However, the Eee Pad Transformer only has a full USB port if you purchase the optional keyboard dock accessory — ASUS bundles this with the device for $799 in Australia.
The Acer Iconia A500 doesn't come preloaded with a file manager but a free download of one from the Android Market makes it easy to access files on the USB port. The Eee Pad Transformer includes a relatively straightforward file manager. Even more convenient is the fact that you can plug in a USB keyboard into both devices and use it for text input, though the keyboard dock obviously negates this issue on the Eee Pad Transformer.
Along with a USB port, both the Eee Pad Transformer and the ASUS Iconia A500 have HDMI out ports, so they can be plugged directly into a high-definition television with the right cable.
Both the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer and the Acer Iconia A500 are Wi-Fi only devices, but both companies are expected to release Wi-Fi + 3G variants at a later, unannounced date.
ASUS promises 9 hours of video playback on the Eee Pad Transformer, but has an ace up its sleeve with the keyboard dock. This has its own, separate battery that ASUS says offers an additional six and half hours of use. If both the tablet and the keyboard dock batteries are fully charged, the Eee Pad Transformer draws power from the keyboard dock first in order to preserve power for tablet-only use. Acer promises 10 hours of video playback on the Iconia A500.
Disappointingly, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer does not charge through a USB connection. The upside to this is that use of a different port will charge the tablet much faster that a USB connection can. The Iconia A500 charges via a regular micro-USB connection, which although more convenient, is slower.
Pricing and availability
The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer is available through retailers Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi. It costs $599 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, and $799 for the 32GB Wi-Fi model with optional keyboard dock included. The keyboard dock accessory sells for $199 on its own.
The Acer Iconia A500 is available starting at $579 for the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi model, and $678 for the 32GB Wi-Fi model, and is sold through major Australian retail outlets including Harvey Norman.