June 16, 2012, 7:55 AM — Hybrid designs are not new in the world of tablets, but they aren't exactly common either. The Acer Iconia Tab W500 tablet is a slate-style machine--all of its guts are behind the screen, and it can stand on its own as a tablet--but it also comes with a keyboard dock for occasions when you want a laptop-style experience. Unfortunately, rather than offering the best of both worlds, the W500 presents you with a lot of compromises.
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For this tablet, Acer chose an AMD processor rather than the standard Intel Atom, and this decision yields some performance benefits. Paired with 2GB of RAM and an AMD Radeon HD 6250 graphics chip with 256MB of dedicated video memory, the 1GHz AMD C-50 does an excellent job of running Windows; the tablet was responsive, and it outperformed the Intel Atom Oaktrail-based Fujitsu Stylistic Q550. This processor-and-graphics combo also provided strong multimedia playback. It capably handled all of my 720p video files, and even my PowerPoint with an embedded video.
The 32GB solid-state drive, on the other hand, feels parsimonious, especially in view of how much space Windows 7 Home Premium occupies. An SD Card slot provides additional expansion room, which is likely to be useful especially for storing files.
A huge bezel frames the 10.1-inch display, which runs at 1280-by-800-pixel resolution. The Iconia Tab W500's large bezel, above-average thickness (0.63 inch), and substantial weight (2.14 pounds) make this one of the chunkiest tablets we've looked at recently. In my experience, 2 pounds is the limit beyond which a tablet feels just plain heavy. This Acer unit isn't a machine that I'd want to hold in one hand for any length of time, or even in two hands for an extended session. Its best use would be either plugged into the keyboard dock (to prop it up), or parked on your on knees when you're in couch-surfing mode.
Aside from its heftiness, I found the tablet reasonably comfortable to hold. The curved edges feel comfortable, and the brushed metal back provides a nice texture to prevent the tablet from being too slippery.