Acer Iconia B1 prototype reviewed in Bulgaria, CES announcement now a certainty

January 7, 2013
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    While we have to admit that we traditionally used to get excited about high-end Android devices and high-end Android devices alone, you don’t have to pack a gadget with the fastest CPU in the world or a display with the highest pixel count to grab people’s attention.

    We learned that the easy (and fun) way, when Amazon’s Kindle Fires and Google’s Nexus 7 managed to achieve the apparently perfect balance between performance, looks, reliability and affordability, beating loads of top-tier 10-inch tabs to the punch in sales and popularity.

    Naturally, we predicted this was going to start a new trend in the Android universe, so, besides 1080p smartphones, we figured budget-friendly 7-inch tablets would be the scene stealers at this year’s CES. And while the trade show is not officially underway yet, the first such gadget is bound to debut in Vegas this week.

    Acer’s Iconia B1 has been the subject of a number of rumors and leaks lately, but by far today’s story is the highlight. A Bulgarian website seems to have scored a prototype of the B1, which it has taken for a quick spin revealing almost everything there is to know about it.

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    Before getting down to what we can read between the lines of the preview (our Bulgarian is a bit rusty), let’s first list the tablet’s spec sheet:

    • 7-inch capacitive TN (Twisted Nematic) display with 1,024 x 600 pixels resolution
    • 1.2 GHz dual-core MediaTek 8137 processor
    • 512 MB of RAM
    • Power VR SGX531 GPU
    • 8 GB of internal memory
    • MicroSD support for expanding the storage space
    • Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
    • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS
    • VGA front-facing camera
    • 10 Wh battery
    • Accelerometer, proximity sensor, micro USB
    • 10.78 mm thickness
    • 308 grams weight

    Okay, so we can’t say we’re very surprised about any particular spec or feature revealed, right? Which means the price, officially unknown at this time, and the tablet’s feel, will be the tie-breakers here.

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    The design, as it’s reported by Tablet.BG, doesn’t seem to be a winner. The 7-incher feels plasticky and not very elegant, although the blue strip around the screen frame seems to be a nice touch, which could also reduce the effects of a drop.

    The display is noted to be “slightly disappointing”, mostly due to the using of a TN matrix instead of a high-end IPS (In-Plane Switching) one. Viewing angles are therefore pretty low, as is brightness. The sound, on the flipside, is “relatively strong and clean without noticeable distortion”.

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    The tab’s previewers have unfortunately not been able to test the Iconia B1’s battery very thoroughly due to their tab being an early prototype and not a final commercial version. On the other hand, they have taken the B1 through a series of benchmark tests, so the hardware might have been done on the reviewed model.

    Unsurprisingly, the B1 got pounded by the Nexus 7 in both SunSpider Javascript, which measures browsing speed, and AnTuTu (CPU, RAM and GPU performance). Still, you can’t say Acer’s tablet performed too miserably, at least in SunSpider.

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    Finally, in software terms, the tablet was reported to run smoothly, without any noticeable lags. We can’t really tell if Acer skinned Jelly Bean too much from the Bulgarians’ pics, but we think we’ll be seeing a rather clean version of Android on the tab, very close to “vanilla”.

    All in all, there are some good, but also pretty bad signs in this preview, which makes us think the Iconia B1 won’t be a worthy competitor for the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fires. Then again, maybe Acer will lower the rumored price bar, which might make everything nice and dandy. Do you think the B1 will be a hit?

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