Mention the words “budget tablet” and you can see — well, almost sense — people getting prepared for a device whose sole virtue is its (low) price. Not that you can blame them for it. There have been low cost tablets in the Indian market for more than a year now, but in most cases, you can spot the compromises that have been made to keep that price low — less than solid build quality, older versions of operating systems, poor support, buggy performance and the like.
The Acer Iconia B1 could change that. Not only does the B1 represent the first effort by a really big tech brand to break into the four figure tablet category, it pretty much redefines the budget tablet section as we know it so far. For, it does significantly more at a Spartan Rs 7,999 than any of the sub-Rs 10,000 tablets in the country and even some of the sub-Rs 15,000 ones, do.
It is, in fact, that price tag that one has to keep fixed in one’s mind when one looks at the tablet as a whole, and resist comparisons with the likes of the iPad Mini or the Nexus 7 which cost more than twice as much. At its price, the Iconia B1 serves up a 1024 x 600 resolution 7-inch display, 512 MB RAM, 8GB of onboard storage (expandable using a microSD card), a front-facing camera, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, all of which is driven by a dual core 1.2 GHz MTK processor. And running on top of this is a relatively recent version of Android — 4.1.2, or Jelly Bean.
No, it is not perfect. We bet some people will complain about viewing angles, the lack of a radiantly bright display, the plasticky build and the absence of 3G connectivity (you cannot even connect a 3G dongle to it). The stark fact, however, is that for its price, the Iconia B1 delivers a lot of bang.
Acer has refrained from mucking up the interface with its own skin or too many apps and the result is a tablet that just works. Web surfing was smooth, most videos played well (provided you did not get into full HD territory), e-mail and social networks worked like clockwork, and in a very pleasant surprise, even a relatively ‘heavy’ game like Dead Trigger played without too many lags.
Apps are available in plenty from the Google Play store, ranging from the basic to the complex. GPS works in offline mode once you have downloaded maps, sound quality was reasonably loud and the battery lasted us a good five to six hours of constant Wi-Fi use.
All of which makes the Iconia B1 very good value for money in our book. Yes, we would have preferred a slightly jazzier looking tablet — the plain front and back with a blue strip running along the sides will not turn heads. But then which budget tablet does? And this one feels reasonably solid, notwithstanding the hump on the back caused by the battery.
We are not put off by the absence of a camera at the back either, for taking pictures using a tablet still is far from convenient, especially when you have a smartphone handy. We are not even going to complain about the absence of 3G connectivity out of the box — we know some very expensive tablets that don’t have that either.
What’s more, Wi-Fi access is no longer as rare as an oasis in the Sahara — most smartphones today let you create a Wi-Fi hotspot with minimum fuss. What really counts for us is the fact that the Iconia B1 is lightweight (at 320 grams, one of the lighter seven-inch tablets around) but solid, runs a very recent version of Android (we have lost count of the number of high profile, uber expensive devices waiting for an Android 4.1 update) and until you really start burdening it with heavy-duty apps, works at a perfectly decent clip. And that for us counts more than all the cutting-edge looks and loaded spec sheets in the world.Worth purchasing? Absolutely, if you are on a tight budget and want an Android experience without making too many compromises!