The iPad may have the lion’s share of the high-end market, but there remains a massive market for a low-cost tablet. Android of course has also matured into a viable tablet operating system, especially for 7-inch tablets. In 2013 we have witnessed a number of decent options in the market. The Acer Iconia B1 is perhaps one of the notable models considering it hits price points that are comparable to many a local OEM made tablet, but the difference being that it comes from Acer, one of the largest laptop OEMs in the world. We have given it the full Monty, read on to find out if it’s any good. Also Read - Google boss warns employees of insufficient productivity, tells them to pick up the slack
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At such a low price point, some design finesse goes out of the question. It is a pretty bland blue and black slab which is made of pretty cheap plastic. The build as one might expect with such a low-cost tablet is pretty questionable, and in some respects one will be better off going for an indigenous tablet because we have seen better build quality at such price points. Also Read - Google Meet: Top 5 feature that you need to know now
The biggest advantage of the plastic build is the super lightweight. At 320 grams, it certainly is super portable, but then again it feels pretty fragile. It starts creaking even on applying the slightest bit of pressure to the chassis. The facia of the Iconia B1 is a pretty standard affair. Acer maintains the button-less ethos as all the Android UI controls are software based. The bezel is pretty narrow for a tablet of this class. Personally, we are not big fans of the glossy blue and black, but that’s not a deal breaker.
As far as the ports are concerned, the micro-USB slot is on the bottom end of the device along with the microSD card slot which is covered with a plastic insert. The volume rockers and the power button are on the right hand side of the tablet. There is a VGA front-facing camera that will come in handy for video chatting purposes.
Specs-wise the Iconia B1 is not a trend setter. It has a 1024×600 pixel 7-inch display which is okay for the price, and it is powered by a dual-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.2GHz. Additionally, there is 512MB of RAM, and there is 8GB of internal storage.
The display is our opinion was a tad washed out, and one could argue that Acer could have provided a slightly better quality panel. Just to be clear we are not complaining about the resolution which converts to a decent 170 PPI, but just viewing angles and general color reproduction of the panel. That said, if one plans on using it for reading purposes then it will more than suffice, though consumption of video will be problematic. But that’s what one gets at its price point.
The Iconia B1 runs a pretty stock version of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which is always a good thing in our opinion. Obviously, considering, it’s a low-cost tablet, any added bloat of a software skin will be detrimental to the user experience. Apart from some extra shortcut menus in the drop down notification menu, we did not notice any customization.
Software-wise, it will appeal to the Android purist, but if you are looking for extra software goodies then this is clearly not the tablet for you. That said, Google Now offers a number of apps of its own that can be downloaded from the Play Store that can make the Iconia B1 experience pretty enriching. For instance, now on Google Play users can download the very awesome Play Books app for e-reading, but if that’s not enough then the Amazon Kindle app is always a safe bet. Furthermore, Play Movies are also now supported in India, and there is a lot of video content to be had from there.
Obviously, with Android Jelly Bean, one also gets access to the fantastic Google search experience, which combines the power of voice search, the Google Knowledge graph, and the contextual information system, Google Now.
That said, considering the limited hardware, one does wonder if it will receive an update to Android 4.2 or maybe even Android 5.0.
After a point of time, running synthetic benchmarks on a low-cost tablet becomes a futile attempt. Why? Because, the user experience is what matters, and benchmarks especially for low-cost tablets do little to prove the real world utility of the product. That said, we ran a few like Quadrant, which unwittingly crashed on us. That said, the performance is passable for something that costs south of Rs 8,000.
It’s not that it hanged on us incessantly, but it was a little lazy in opening apps. Sometimes the touch response would be a little unresponsive, but all this is normal for a device of this class. Our major pickle was with the way the web browsing experience was little too slow for our tastes. Plus pinch to zoom was almost always a hit or miss affair. Perhaps, this was an issue with our unit only, but other than this little glitch, the performance was comparable to any tablet in the price point.
Battery life was also pretty good. By no means it was iPad like, but we could browse the web for about 5.5 hours at a stretch and this even involved bit of video.
The Acer Iconia B1 offers solid software, decent specs and decent performance in a package that costs Rs 7,999. However, the build quality of the product is questionable. If one is in the market for a low-cost tablet, then looking at the Acer Iconia B1 is prudent considering it comes from a reliable company like Acer, but at the same time one should remember that at this price pont it’s possible to get a slightly higher specced and better built tablet from the likes of Micromax, Wickedleak, Karbonn and Spice. Additionally, if you are willing to spend a little more then the Asus MeMo Pad 7 is a decent option at Rs 9,999 and that product certainly is superior to the Iconia B1 in terms of build quality.
Photographs: Rohit Sharma