- Review Date: 01/31/2013
- Bottom line: The Acer Iconia W510-1422 goes all day long and most of the night, with a highly portable design, and a docking keyboard that lets you choose between laptop and tablet.
- Pros: Seriously long battery life. Immensely portable. Windows 8.
- Cons: Atom processor is slow. Webcam lags. Limited storage space.
Hybrid laptop and tablet designs can work by either shifting between tablet and laptop modes, or separating the tablet from a docking keyboard. The Acer Iconia W510-1422 is the latter, a 10-inch tablet running Windows 8 (32-bit), with a docking keyboard for those times that you want to use a keyboard and mouse. Equipped with an Intel Atom processor, the Iconia W510 may be a bit underpowered compared with your regular laptop, but it's efficient enough to give you all-day power—enough to not only last you through a full workday, but long into the night.
The Acer Iconia W510 is a detachable tablet laptop, similar to the HP Envy X2, meaning that it can be used either as a standalone tablet, or docked to a keyboard for use as an ultrabook, with the familiar clamshell form factor. Acer also adds a third mode to the mix with a hinge that flips around 295 degrees, letting you keep the tablet docked in stand mode. You won't be able to use the keyboard, but the tablet will draw power from the keyboard's second battery.
The tablet half of the W510 is a slim and light tablet, in the same vein as the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 (Intel Atom Z690), with a bare metal backside and white plastic trim around the bezel of the touch screen. The 10.1-inch offers the same 1,366-by-768 resolution seen on the 11-inch HP Envy X2, and the system measures 0.35 by 10.18 by 6.6 inches (HWD). Compared with last year's Atom-powered tablets, like the Dell XPS 12 and the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550, the Iconia W510 is lighter—1.3 pounds, as opposed to the 2.1-pound Kupa X11 Pro Tablet or the 2-pound Fujitsu Q550. The display offers the same capacitive touch sensing and 5-finger tracking, but doesn't include any sort of stylus. Built-in stereo speakers provide okay volume, but the sound is pretty buzzy, and you'll definitely feel the vibrations when holding the tablet.
The docking keyboard uses this same metal construction, with a locking tablet dock built into the hinge. The dock and hinge are made of white plastic. The keyboard itself is a nearly full-size chiclet keyboard, but unlike the keyboard on the HP Envy X2, there is very little slope to the keyboard, and the typing experience feels hemmed in. It also has a small trackpad for navigating without using the touch screen. Neither are fantastic—the keyboard is a little cramped, and the trackpad is downright tiny—but it's a big improvement over the onscreen keyboard, and will get you through those times that you want to do something more than mere consumption. Inside the keyboard is a secondary battery, which joins the first to double the total battery life. Naturally, the docked keyboard will also add some thickness and weight—0.39 inches thick when the system is closed and 2.78 pounds altogether.
Two issues presented by detachable tablets that you won't experience with a traditional laptop—first, the weight distribution is different. With the majority of the hardware built into the tablet half of the system, the system is a bit top-heavy, and can be frustratingly out of balance, tipping backward when the screen is opened too far. Then there's the matter of the detachable keyboard—you've likely never misplaced half of your laptop before, but detachable hybrids suddenly make it very easy to misplace an entire half of the system. If you're the sort to leave your AC cable in the office, or to set down a portable drive and forget about it, you'll want to figure out a way to keep the two halves of your laptop together even when they are physically apart.
On the tablet you'll find a headphone jack, micro SD/SDHC card slot, and micro HDMI and micro USB 2.0 ports, in addition to a docking port which doubles as a power connector. Included with the Iconia W510 is a micro USB to full-size USB 2.0 adapter, but it's a small cable that can be easily lost or damaged. What we would have liked to see, but which wasn't included, is a micro-to-full size HDMI adapter for connecting to an HDTV. Unfortunately, you won't get that, not even with the docking keyboard, which boasts only a full-size USB 2.0 port. The tablet is also equipped with 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and an NFC sensor in addition to standard tablet sensors like a gyroscope, accelerometer, e-compass, and ambient light sensor. A 2MP front-facing camera should do the trick for Skype and similar video chat tools (though the camera does lag considerably) while an 8MP rear-facing camera lets you grab the occasional snapshot.
The tablet is equipped with 64GB of internal flash storage, which isn't much—you may want to supplement it with a second card in the Micro SD card slot. Fresh out of the box, with just Windows 8 32-bit and a handful of programs installed, the available memory is already whittled down to a mere 28GB of available space. Eating up a lot of this space is a collection of preinstalled software, like Microsoft Office Starter 2010, apps like Amazon Kindle Reader, Evernote, HuluPlus, Netflix, Spotfiy, and Skitch, and Acer's own apps and utilities, like Clear.fi Media and Photo sharing, and Acer Cloud. Clearing off a few unneeded programs will help a bit, but 64GB isn't much storage space to start with. Acer covers the Iconia W510 with a one-year limited warranty.
The Iconia W510 is built around a 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760 processor—it's a step up from the previous-generation Atom CPUs used in the Kupa X11 Pro and the Fujitsu Stylistic, but it can't compete with the Intel Core processors found in more expensive convertible hybrids like the Sony VAIO Duo 11 (D11213CX) or the Dell XPS 12. This is clear when looking at performance based tests like Cinebench, where the Iconia W510 scored 0.3 points, ahead of the 0.19 points that the Fujitsu Q550 (with its Intel Atom Z690) scored, but miles behind the Sony Duo 11's 2.19 points. The difference is just as stark when comparing results of Handbrake, which the Iconia W510 completed in 6 minutes 25 seconds; the Sony Duo 11 finished the same test in 1:26. Graphics performance isn't even comparable, since the Atom CPU and integrated graphics processing can't even run our gaming and graphics tests.
Despite the gulf in processing power, the Atom processors do shine in battery life, an arguably more important metric when judging a mobile device. The Iconia W510 tablet alone lasted 10 hours 27 minutes when run through our video rundown test—more than double the time of the Dell XPS 12 (5:09) and miles beyond the Sony Duo 11 (3:09). Even the tablets of last year topped out around seven hours. Again, this result was for the tablet alone—the docking keyboard has its own battery, which can either supplement a full battery or replenish the charge of the tablet. With the docking keyboard attached, the Iconia W510 lasted an impressive 17 hours 50 minutes.
The Acer Iconia W510-1422 may not be the fastest tablet—it's pretty slow for anything beyond Web browsing and document editing—but it does offer portability and unparalleled battery life. But while the ability to pick up and go for hours and hours on end will definitely spark some interest, the Iconia W510 is still underpowered and lacking in features. That said, if you want something portable and convenient—and that works with a range of Windows software—the Acer Iconia W510-1422 is worth your consideration.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.