All the talk in Tabletland is of quad-core processors, but right now they're still thin on the ground. The Acer Iconia A200 is driven by a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2, so it's not the most powerful tablet around but it's still a great performer, and runs on the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich.
Acer A200 – substantial
First impressions might suggest there's little to get excited about. It's chubby, although not that heavy, with a coloured, soft plastic rear panel and flat edges left and right, rather than the tapered extremities favoured by more expensive rivals.
Acer A200 – camera
We should also break the news now that it doesn't have a rear-facing camera, only a front-facing 2MP webcam. Normally that wouldn't be much of an issue, but it is a little disappointing here as Ice Cream Sandwich comes with some nifty new camera tricks built-in. See the Instant Expert panel on this page for more on what's new in Ice Cream Sandwich.
Acer A200 – 3D skills
Still, inside this 10in tablet is that Tegra 2 brain, and it's a clever thing, capable of working out lots of hard sums in a very short space of time, and that makes it fast. Fast enough to swoop around the 3D solar systems of Galaxy on Fire II HD with ease, browse at a pace that keeps up with you and your connection, and make smooth transitions as you switch from landscape to portrait mode.
Acer A200 – screen
Moving between the homescreens could be slightly slicker, but that aside there are no complaints in terms of power. The screen isn't the brightest you'll find and is quite reflective, so for outdoor use it's not a great option. Indoors it's fine, with good colours and viewing angles. As a sofa-based video viewer it does a fair job. It drops the occassional frame on high quality 720p footage but it's still watchable. It can't handle 1080p, dropping far more frames than it shows, although a future update to fix this is promised.
Acer A200 – USB port
Back to the hardware, and as well as a microSD slot beneath a cover, the A200 has a rare thing on its flank: a full-sized USB port. Most tablets don't have space for one, which is a shame as Android and USB go together like bananas and cheese on toast (try it, you'll be surprised). The obvious thing to do here is plug in a USB memory stick and shovel over some movies and music. Fine.
Acer A200 – USB possibilities
That would be too easy though, so we pushed it further. Add a mouse, and an on-screen pointer appears as if by magic. Add a keyboard and text entry (another improved feature of Ice Cream Sandwich) becomes even easier. A big USB hard drive? Yep. A wireless USB keyboard? Again, yes. All at once through a USB hub? Oh yes. We did try two USB storage devices at once, which it didn't like, and just for fun hooked up a USB audio interface, but as expected, no dice with that one.
You might ask why you'd do such a thing with a tablet, but that's the beauty of Android. Unlike iOS, given the right connections you can do what you want with it.
So not a world-beater by any means, but the Acer A200 is yours for under $500, and you do get a lot for your money.