Acer Iconia W5 (W511) – Doubling up on battery power

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Great,another one of those products that attempts to weasel out of our classification system for technological device. Meet Acer’s Iconia W5, also known as the Iconia W511 in South Africa. It’s mostly a 10.1-inch tablet, a side of this computing alternative that carries the most weight as it were. But, attach it to the included keyboard dock and it goes from Windows 8 tablet to netbook in very short order. It’ll travel in the other direction just as quickly, a single catch unlocks the tablet/display and renders the W511 portable enough to be used as a tablet – which it really is, truth be told. It just happens to ship with a keyboard dock that makes this tablet multi-purpose.

So we know that it can perform in a variety of circumstances. It functions as a tablet and a notebook replacement, albeit a very small, cramped one. It can also be a presentation device of sorts, thanks to the wide movement angle that the keyboard’s docking hinge is capable of. It turns nearly 360 degrees, allowing the keyboard to act as a stand while you point out items of interest on the touchscreen. You won’t be using this for a large-scale presentation but it’ll suffice for a more intimate business meeting.

Iconia W5 splitBut what’s inside the W511? In the case of the keyboard and dock, a battery, charging port and a USB port along with a little touchpad and a hand-wracking keyboard. There’s a separate battery in the tablet/display (obviously), which is itself a 10.1-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1,366 x 768, and an Intel Atom Z2760 processor running at 1.8GHz. This leaves the W511 a bit underpowered compared to other tablets we’ve used but it’s still extremely usable if you’re not knocking Intel’s chip too hard. 2GB of system memory lives inside the display and files are taken care of by 64GB of eMMC storage, on paper at least. The test unit that Stuff had had only 50GB of space showing up and around half that available (though it did arrive in our offices with a LOT of other apps pre-installed). There’s space for a 64GB microSD card however so storage woes are optional, though fixing them will cost extra.

WiFi support is available out of the box, as is 3G via a SIM card slot set into the right-hand side of the tablet. There’s also the tablet standard, a rear camera (8MP) and a front camera (2MP). These are good enough for Skype chats and the odd image if you happen to be holding the tablet instead of a decent smartphone when the snapping opportunity arises but it’s not going to replace your phone or a compact digital shooter at any point.

Acer’s Iconia W5 has its problems, some of which we’ve mentioned in passing. The keyboard is an issue due to its small size, we thought that the days of netbooks killing our hands were long gone. The touchpad is a bit of a nightmare as well, being too small for effective navigation and horribly oversensitive to the point of being frustrating. Makes for a nice game of Spot the Cursor as it flies across the screen though. Most navigation while docked, aside from keyboard inputs, should probably be restricted to the touchscreen. Storage could be better and the processor is also lagging behind competitors, though it does confer a full Windows 8 experience to users. Whether you want that is another story. Also an issue is the tablet+dock setup, the tablet portion is much heavier than the dock and it constantly feels like it will tip over. Not a train smash but it’s a bit worrying.

In its favour is the versatility, there’s nothing wrong with having a highly-compact Windows 8 machine that is also a tablet – it saves space all around. The presence of batteries in the dock and the tablet also mean that the Iconia W511 features a massive battery life, more than enough to get you through the day and through at least part of a sleepless night as well. If you need to save space with a device that won’t quit on you and don’t mind some lower specs and a few hand cramps, the W511 makes an attractive case.

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