When you can spend as little as £100 or over £600 on a tablet, deciding how much cash to splash isn't easy. Do you go for a bargain browser or superior slate? Maybe neither, as the Acer Iconia A100 has popped up with a strong to claim the middle ground.
It's a 7-incher, so that keeps the price down a bit, but otherwise it's generously loaded. The tablet-specific Android Honeycomb 3.2 is the first surprise; at this size you're normally looking at the phone-centric Android 2.2 or 2.3. Although you won't notice much difference once you're in an app, Honeycomb makes navigating the tablet a far more enjoyable experience.
It's a shame that the dinky form doesn't accommodate any full-size USB ports, because otherwise you'd be able to hook up USB keyboards and game controllers directly for even more fun, but perhaps that's an unlikely scenario at this size.
Otherwise it's fairly well connected, with a microSD slot (but no SD card slot for easy copying of digital camera snaps), an HDMI output and a dock connector. It's the tech you can't see that makes the difference though, specifically the Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. This gives it ample power to sashay its way through Android's homescreens and bestows upon it impressive 3D skills. It's worth suffering the cheesey plot and voice acting of Galaxy on Fire 2 just for the graphics.
Along with the virtually identical Viewsonic 7x, the Acer Iconia A100 is the best made, best-specced 7in Android tablet on the market right now. It has a premium feel, and while it's not cheap, it's a lot easier on the bank balance than the high-end 10-inch options.
It's better size for many things too: dual-thumbed gaming is comfortable, hitting a sweet spot between spacious play areas and portability. E-reading is also better suited to the 7in form. Even the camera is a realistic option. Holding it aloft to shoot 5MP stills or 720p video doesn't feel strange – in fact the large preview on the screen is quite refreshing. The resulting pictures are OK so it's disappointing to find the video is blocky, fuzzy and jerky with poor colours. Terrible, in fact. Is that important in a tablet? We think not.
See it from my angle
Where the Acer lets itself down is the viewing angles of the screen. Place it on a table, spin it round and you'll notice it has one good side, one unviewable side and two portrait views that will just about do. Not ideal, and depending on how you use it this can be incredibly annoying. Hand-held it's fine, but problems can arise if you prop it up beside you.
So hardware connections and viewing angles aside, this is a great tablet, and for this sort of money it's just about unbeatable.