Acer A500 Tablet Review and Total Commander

Having got fed up waiting for supplies of the iPad2 to become available, I bought myself an Acer A500 Tablet about 3 weeks ago, so here are my first impressions.  Remember that I’m very much a tablet newbie, who still uses dumb phone technology, so my first impressions may not be that accurate.  (There is a more authoritative review here.)

The Acer A500 is an Android V3 based tablet computer with a 10″ screen and currently comes with 32 GB and wi-fi only.  My main use for a tablet is to be able to read documents while travelling, and at meetings, without having to lug a heavy 17″ screen lap-top around everywhere.  For that purpose the Acer seems a good choice, with the following benefits:

  • The built in USB ports provide a convenient and fast way to transfer data from a Windows based PC.
  • There is a (beta version) of the file manager Total Commander available, which makes file transfer/management even easier (see below for details).
  • The screen is slightly higher resolution than iPad, and allows A4 documents to be read full screen in reasonable comfort.
  • Applications for reading Office documents and pdf files are bundled and work well
  • Other applications (picture browsers, music, video) also seem to work well.
  • The screen is bright and has been easily readable everywhere I have tried it, including planes, trains and bright rooms (but it’s late Autumn here, window seats in the Summer could well be a problem).
  • External view orientation lock and volume buttons are useful.

Aspects that I was not so happy with:

  • I’m not that keen on the interface, but that’s probably unfamiliarity, and I’d probably like the iPad even less.
  • The screen does seem to attract finger marks quickly, but more so than other screens? I don’t know.
  • The formatting of Excel files in both of the applications I have tried is often way out.
  • The battery life is allegedly less than the competition (but it was plenty for a 17 hour flight from Dubai, allowing for meals and a bit of sleeping).
  • Selecting small links is often difficult (but again I have no benchmark to compare with other machines).
  • When Internet browsing it goes into “mobile” mode by default, which is just silly for a 10″ high resolution screen.  So far the only fix I have found reverts back to the mobile setting when the machine is switched off.
  • In stand-by mode it seems to switch itself on every 15 minutes or so, so if you want to conserve the battery (or sleep in the same room!) you have to switch off.

In spite of the quibbles, I am generally happy with it, and it does what I bought it for well, especially with the Total Commander file manager.

I have been Total Commander user and fan since its introduction in 1993.  It is a twin window file manager similar to the DOS based Norton Commander, and in its Windows version is a mature product that I am lost without.  It is share-ware, with a not very annoying nag screen, but is well worth the modest asking price (especially with unlimited free upgrades). The Android version is available for beta testing only through this link.  Please note that it is a beta version, and comes with a warning that if it eats all your data, don’t blame the author.

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