Acer aces the Surface

Jan 06, 2013, 10:53 IST | Nimish Dubey

Although Microsoft's much-hyped Surface tablet hybrid has not come to the Indian market yet, Acer has delivered something very similar with its tablet-keyboard combo, the Iconia W510. But does it deliver the same magic?

Microsoft’s Surface RT was one of the most high profile devices launched in 2012. A tablet that came with a keyboard that could also be used as a cover, it was considered one of the flagship devices for the company’s new Windows 8 operating system. And although the market has not quite warmed to it, there are many who love the concept of a tablet that can also double up as a notebook — witness the convertible device flood.

However, while most tablet-keyboard combinations cost a fair bit and pack in high specifications, Acer has decided to tread a different path with its Iconia W510, a device that might have relatively modest specs but does not cost as much either.

In entirety, the Iconia W510 comprises a 10.1 — inch display tablet and a full keyboard dock. You can buy them together or independently. The tablet itself is surprisingly compact — a 10.1 inch gorilla glass scratchproof display of 1366 x 768 resolution dominates the button-less front, which only has a soft key for Windows 8. And at 580 gm, it is actually lighter than the iconic iPad, although it is unlikely to turn as many heads. In terms of specs, it is relatively lightweight — it is powered by a dual core Intel Atom Z2760 1.8 Ghz processor (mostly seen in netbooks), has 2 GB RAM and comes with 64 GB of flash memory.

However, it packs in a stack of connectivity options including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI, micro USB, NFC, and also has a microSD card slot, as well as an 8.0-megapixel camera on the back. At 8.8 mm, it is slim enough to be carried in one hand and unlike the Surface which runs the watered down Windows 8 RT, this one runs Windows 8 in all its glory.

And runs it well too. The W510 boots up very quickly — in around twenty seconds — and we had no problems navigating the tiled interface of Windows 8, browsing the Web or playing multimedia files on it. Mind you, the processor does limit its utility for heavy duty tasks like HD gaming and video editing, but as a tablet for those wanting to do a lot of Web surfing, playing casual games (the Angry Birds type) and keeping in touch with their social networks, it does a very decent job indeed. It even ran Windows 7 software in Desktop mode without any problems.

Top that off with a battery life in the vicinity of 8-9 hours, and we would called the W510 a decent tablet in its own right, although the camera is ordinary at best and the sound a tad on the tinny side, if loud enough.

A whole new dimension is however added to the tablet when docked with the keyboard. No, it is not as snazzy as the Surface’s magnetically attached keyboard cover nor as thin or colourful — this one is a mixture of steely grey and white. It nevertheless is a proper keyboard and the tablet docks into it via connector, which might seem a tad loose (the tablet rocks a bit in it, if you shake it) but actually holds it steady enough. The dock is flexible and you can rotate the tablet all the way to 295 degrees and use it as a stand if in the mood. The keys are well spaced out and a bit bigger than you would find in a normal netbook, although the trackpad could have been more responsive.

But it is what the keyboard adds to the tablet that really catches one’s eye — it throws a full USB port into the mix and more importantly, almost doubles the battery life (yes, it has a battery of its own) of the tablet. Docked into the keyboard, we got about fifteen hours out of the Iconia W510. All this without adding too much weight - the total weight of the W510 with a keyboard was about 1.3 kg, which is about as much as an ultrabook. Oh and the charger comes without a brick, making it one of the most portable we have ever seen.

All of which makes the Acer Iconia W510 above being just a Surface clone. Yes, it might have a similar form factor, but it runs a complete version of Windows 8, performs at a decent clip and has infinitely better battery life. Some might frown at its price of Rs 36,999 price for the tablet and Rs 48,598 with the keyboard dock, but it is not too bad a deal when you consider the level of portable computing performance the whole unit delivers.

You can choose to carry just the tablet around or carry both tablet and keyboard as one unit when typing beckons and power outlets are few and far between. It might not be as sleek or as hyped, but in terms of performance, the W510 aces the Surface RT. A good option for those who want a device that can work as both a tablet and a notebook, and without making a hole in their pocket. 

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