Acer Iconia W510 Review: A Weak Windows 8 Tablet with a Dealbreaker Dock

Out of the entire first wave of Windows 8 hybrids that launched late last year, Acer's Iconia W510 was the one that interested me most. It's all the more heartbreaking, then, that it isn't very good.

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Jared Newman / TIME.com

Out of the entire first wave of Windows 8 hybrids that launched late last year, Acer’s Iconia W510 was the one that interested me most.

With a 10.1-inch screen, it’s smaller than all the other hybrids, and more manageable when used as a tablet. When plugged into its dock, the W510 becomes a small laptop (a netbook, if you will), with a keyboard, trackpad, a full-sized USB port and extended battery life. The W510 is also a bit cheaper than some other Windows 8 hybrids, at $750 for the 64 GB version and dock, or $500 for a 32 GB tablet alone.

It’s all the more heartbreaking, then, that Acer’s Iconia W510 isn’t very good. As a tablet, it feels underpowered, unable to play even some basic games like Jetpack Joyride at consistently smooth framerates. As a laptop, it’s even worse, not only because of a weak processor and meager amount of memory, but because of a glaring flaw in the dock’s trackpad, which I’ll talk about later.

The W510 looks cool, at least. The tablet, while not as slim as an iPad or some Android tablets, feels so much more inviting to hold than Windows 8 tablets with 11.6-inch displays. The mechanism by which the tablet connects to the W510 keyboard dock has a clever design: The tablet slides right into the dock’s wide brace, and automatically latches on. To remove the tablet from the dock, you just slide a little latch on the front of the brace, and pull the tablet up. Although the tablet does wobble in its brace if you jiggle it, the laptop hinge is stiff enough to keep the screen upright at any angle.

acericoniaw510latch

Jared Newman / TIME.com

But that’s where the solid design ends. Both the tablet and the dock are made of cheap plastic, and the tablet itself is particularly flimsy. Hold it in both hands and flex gently, and you can watch the whole thing bend out of shape. When the tablet and dock are connected, the entire construction becomes screen-heavy, so if you place the W510 on your lap, it easily tips forward. (It fares much better on a table.)

Also, like all Windows 8 tablets, Acer’s has a home button on one of its bezels, but it’s a capacitive button, so you can accidentally press it just by gliding a finger over it. Yet, at times when I actually wanted to hit it, it didn’t always work on the first try.

In theory, devices like the W510 are what Microsoft‘s dual-sided operating system was made for. When you want to use the W510 as a tablet, you mainly stick to the “modern-style” interface, with its touch-friendly apps and games. When it’s time for work, you pop over to the desktop, where all your existing Windows software is supported.

The problem is that neither side works very well at this point in time. Windows 8’s app selection doesn’t measure up to the catalogs on iOS and Android, though it does have some of the basics like Netflix, Angry Birds and the New York Times. You might be able to scrape by with what’s available, and the W510 is smooth enough for reading, video and basic web browsing; just be aware that other platforms have a lot of cool tablet apps you’d be missing out on, like Flipboard and Pocket. There aren’t even official apps for Facebook or Twitter yet.

The whole point of getting a Windows 8 hybrid like the W510, though, is that it can double as a laptop. But again, the value of having two machines in one is dragged down by the W510’s cheap design and lack of computing power.

Worst of all is the W510 dock’s trackpad, which unlike pretty much every other laptop trackpad on the market today, doesn’t give you any way to scroll through web pages or documents. There’s no two-finger scrolling, nor is there a scroll bar on either edge of the trackpad. To scroll through a document, you must use the keyboard’s arrow keys, use the cursor to drag the on-screen scroll bar or reach up to the touch screen and swipe on it. The trackpad itself isn’t great, either — it’s a small matte pad that gets a bit jumpy at times — but the inability to scroll never stops being a major nuisance. An Acer representative tells me the company has no plans to add multi-touch gestures, so there’s no hope for the W510 dock getting any better.

acericoniaw510side

Jared Newman / TIME.com

The keyboard won’t take home any awards either. As a netbook-sized device, the keys are cramped, and there’s lots of flex around the center of the keyboard. On a couple of occasions, one of the keys got stuck, causing a string of repeated letters until I massaged the key back to normal behavior. My model didn’t even come with correctly sized USB slots – the custom flash drive from USBmemorydirect.com that I got wouldn’t fit.

More frustrations piled on as I forced myself to get some work done with the W510. Performance suffered as soon as I loaded dense web pages or opened lots of browser tabs. Switching between pages caused a moment of stuttering, and scrolling through pages with touch became unbearably choppy.

This is the unfortunate reality for first-generation Windows 8 hybrids. The Intel Atom chip inside the W510 provides great battery life — I’ve been using it for two straight work days now — and doesn’t need a fan to stay cool, but it’s too weak to stand in for a typical laptop processor, especially with only 2 GB of RAM on board. PC makers can instead go with something more powerful, such as Intel’s Core processors, but then the result is lower battery life, bulkier devices and higher prices. That’s fine for laptop-centric devices like Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga, but the tradeoff would be tougher for hybrids with detachable screens.

It’s not an unsolvable dilemma, and my hope is that better processors and more refined hardware designs will make the next generation of Windows 8 hybrids a lot more practical. The Acer Iconia W510, however, is just a rough draft of what Windows 8 hardware could be. For that, $750 is an awful lot to ask.

23 comments
gothicsanta
gothicsanta

Also - Jetpack Joyride works absolutely fine on mine, perhaps the reviewer didn't close other tasks

gothicsanta
gothicsanta

What a shocking review - including a lot of garbage - what is this reviewer on?

I have just bought one of these and it is fantastic, much better than the limitations of an iPad.  Yes ok not as many apps (yet!)  but the ability to run any Windows program you throw at it makes up for that 10,000%.

This review is completely biased and not at all like a real world experience.  I owned an iPad 2 and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 before this and the Acer blows the pair of them away.

I'm a fan of Apple and own an iPhone 4S but when it comes to a tablet that can do anything (access network drives properly, download torrents etc) only a tablet running Windows can cut it, FACT.

In terms of quality - the product arrived in beautiful packaging, I was surprised as it's more like Apple than Acer!  When using the tablet it certainly feels like a quality piece of kit and I have had no problems with the keyboard (or anything else!).

fallinsfree
fallinsfree

i'm sure it fares better than a dell... imho.

HaroldG
HaroldG

Another reviewer with no clue..
(I do not own the keyboard)

IT''S A TABLET AND NOT A LAPTOP REPLACEMENT.  WHY DO YOU KEEP REFERRING TO IT AS A LAPTOP?
Are you just trying to spread misinformation?

With that being said this device is better than many of the netbooks on the marktet.

As for being flimsy, you must really have to twist it to get it to flex.  Why would anyone under normal use flex their tablet? 

The clovertrail chip in the system is limited to 2GB of memory.

I've never had a problem with the device stuttering between pages or loading multiple pages.

The only issue I have is sometimes it takes a while to autorotate.

OVERALL THIS AUTHOR IS AN IDIOT.  He is trying to use a tablet as a laptop replacement, which tablets aren't meant to be.


EinoAnttila
EinoAnttila

Considering the app selection for Windows 8, there are already a lot of awesome apps that are only found on Windows 8, and overall so many apps just look and feel by far more chic, classy and better compared to the iOS or Android ones.

It's pretty much just like Windows vs. OSX - you perhaps won't find the exact same app, on both, but you'll find a different app for the same purpose which may be even better or just plain different. It's not really all that black and white with the app selection anymore. Of course iOS and Android have a larger app selection by far, but it's really not that bad for Windows 8. In my opinion it's better just cause the UI is so beautiful, and I wouldn't change that for iOS nor Android's cluttered chromed up ugly ducklings.

This was written on a MacBook on Bootcamp Windows 8 so I'm not really considering any platform any better, just different.

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GoogleFeed.com

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derekjwa
derekjwa

I have a W510 and I think it's fine!

JennyJones1
JennyJones1

I prefer the Kindle Fire HD. The interface is great and it's very easy to use. Check out its Amazon page(http://amzn.to/11SRHbE) if you want to compare what they bring to the table.

newmanjb
newmanjb

@gothicsanta No, I didn't have any other tasks open. (Although, since everyone's so insistent that this is a tablet, why should the user have to close everything down just to play a game? That's not how it works on iOS or Android, and would be a huge inconvenience if true.) It works fine for about a minute of play, then starts to grind down. I had the same issue on a Samsung ATIV so I assume it's the Clover Trail/2GB RAM combo and not anything specific to the Acer.

spookiewon
spookiewon

@gothicsanta My experience has not included that it will run any Windows app thrown at it. Win8 will not handle many apps I can use on my Win7 boxes and even my Mac runs versions of most of them. This is not, admittedly, an Acer issue but a Win8 issue, but Win8 is simply another Vista--it sucks. By trying to marry the tablet and desktop versions too early MS ended up with an OS that does neither well. Did you think iOS exists because Apple doesn't want to use OS X on tablets? 

newmanjb
newmanjb

@HaroldG I keep referring to it as a laptop because when it's plugged into its dock, it is one. That's the whole point of a hybrid, that it's a laptop and tablet in one. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

To your other points:

-I didn't have to twist it that hard. I think flimsy construction is worth pointing out even if it's not "normal use."

-2 GB of memory is 2 GB of memory, regardless of who's to blame. It's not enough in my opinion.

-Better then many netbooks? Perhaps, but also twice as expensive.

-I'm glad you haven't had any problems with performance. I did, and I wasn't exactly pushing the system very hard.

-I am not an idiot.

spookiewon
spookiewon

@EinoAnttila There aren't even "a lot of awesome apps" on Win8, let alone "a lot of awesome apps that are ONLY [emphasis mine] found on Windows 8."

newmanjb
newmanjb

@EinoAnttila Yeah I think the potential with modern-style apps is there, but there still aren't enough of them. I'm also a little torn about it because after a while the aesthetic gets a little tiring. In the future I'd like to see more apps that break the mold a little bit.

gothicsanta
gothicsanta

Exactly.  This reviewer clearly has an agenda or a lack of experience.

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

@newmanjb @HaroldG I agree with Harold. Jared, you are simply trying to apply overly high expectations for this type of device. It has twice as much memory as an iPad and as much or more memory than just about any Android tablet. Most importantly, is it NOT A REAL laptop replacement. The screen size is simply too small. As such, your comparison should not stray any further than any previous experience you've had with netbooks.

In normal use, most people are not going to have more than 2-3 tabs open at any time. Moreover, they are not going to be running more than 2-3 Modern UI apps or desktop apps at once. Certainly, Intel has long been known for scrimping on video processing power, which supposedly is going to be fixed in Bay Trail. But, this device is a dual-core, hyper-threading enabled device that's clocked at about 1.8 GHz. Therefore, there's no way it's under-powered for the "average" user.

I've been using a 1.6 Ghz, single core AMD emachines nettop for two years, and I'd bet this thing would run circles around my system. The difference is that I have the proper expectations. The one thing I do agree with is that it is overpriced as is the Surface and every other Windows 8 Hybrid device out there. It's called the early adopter affect. The 10.1" tablet itself should not cost more than about $375 with the keyboard dock adding no more than $100.

HaroldG
HaroldG

@newmanjb @HaroldG

I must have missed Acer's marketing material where this is a laptop replacement...

The Acer W510 is a tablet with an optional keyboard/mouse/battery accessory.  You do not need these to use the device.  One could also use either a USB or Bluetooth mouse/keyboard as an option

Your logic is similar to comparing a desktop PC to a server.  It looks the same so it must function the same.

My HP ProBook also creaks and bulges when I bend in in an unnatural way, does that mean it is flimsy as well?

The two downfalls to the W510:
1.) You can't upgrade the hard drive
2.) The MicroSD card is limited to 32GB 

Simply stated the Acer W510 is not a hybrid, it's a tablet.

spookiewon
spookiewon

@HaroldG @newmanjb @worleyeoe I think most of us assume that features a company hypes are features they plan to deliver in the final product. This was certainly sold to me as a "laptop replacement." I travel and camp with both a tablet and a laptop, and I was clear that I was replacing the laptop when I purchased this. I later replaced the tablet with a Galaxy Note 8. And the tablet part does flex excessively, though I have not had difficulties with the keyboard dock flexing, though it does fairly frequently, and randomly, duplicate keystrokes, though never more than one extra character. 

HaroldG
HaroldG

@newmanjb @worleyeoe @HaroldG

Use real tech sites, with real users for a better review of the W510:
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=acer+w510+review

The snippet is from October 9, 2012 press release("http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/acer-iconia-w510-tablet-pc-with-windows-8-is-a-triple-threat-convertible-1710410.htm") which was prior to the W510's release (Nov 9th, I believe).

Pre-release press creates hype on a product, not how a product will perform upon release.
With that being said it is quite common in technology for things to change all the way up-to and past manufacturing (that's why there are patches, driver updates, etc.).

Acer's current marketing for this device refers to it as a tablet not a laptop:
http://us.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/series/iconia-tab-w

newmanjb
newmanjb moderator

@worleyeoe @newmanjb @HaroldG

Okay, here's a snippet from Acer's press release:

"Customers get a boost in efficiency using the Iconia W510 in productivity mode. The keyboard dock seamlessly connects to the tablet PC, transforming it into a full-featured notebook for a first-rate typing experience. With it, the Iconia W510 becomes a powerhouse for creating and editing documents, spreadsheets and multimedia content."

Even Acer calls it a "full-featured notebook" and "a powerhouse." I found neither to be the case.

Call it whatever you want. But point remains that as a tablet it underperforms (as I said in the review, it can't even run Jetpack Joyride smoothly) and the dock is terrible.