Acer's $500 Windows 8 Tablet: Real iPad Rival

Iconia W510 priced right, could give Apple's new iPad run for its money in key areas like performance and mobility.



10 Tablets To Shake Up 2012
10 Tablets To Shake Up 2012
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Acer on Tuesday revealed specifications for a generously featured Windows 8 tablet that matches the entry price for the new iPad--a sign that Microsoft and partners may finally have some legitimate answers to Apple's dominant tablet.

The Iconia W510 checks in at $499 for the basic 32GB model, which features a 10.1-inch HD screen that uses Corning's Gorilla Glass 2, dual cameras, a multitude of peripheral ports, and Intel's new Atom Z2760 "Clover Trail" processor, which the chipmaker designed with Windows 8 tablets in mind.

A higher-end version of the W510 is priced at $749. It comes with 64GB of storage and a keyboard dock, which is optional on the less expensive model. Acer said it expects the Iconia W510 to hit U.S. stores on Nov. 9--a full two weeks after Windows 8's formal launch on Oct. 26, but well in time for the holiday shopping season.

[ How low will Windows 8 tablet prices get? Read Windows 8 Tablets For $399? It's Possible. ]

"Customers will enjoy optimized experiences for touch, typing, and viewing on the Iconia W510 tablet PC," said Sumit Agnihotry, Acer's VP for product marketing, in a statement. "The versatility of the new tablet PC and durability of Gorilla Glass 2 display pairs beautifully with the responsive performance to take advantage of the capabilities of Windows 8 for a first-rate tablet PC experience."

Acer W510
Transformers: Acer's Iconia W700 and newly launched Iconia W510 (right) can function as standalone tablets
or full laptop replacements.

At a starting price of $499, the W510 matches Apple's price for the 16GB new iPad. In doing so, it may represent one of the Windows camp's first credible threats to Apple's dominance of the tablet market. Tablets based on previous versions of Windows have been overpriced compared to the iPad, and their performance typically underwhelmed.

But Windows 8 tablets that match the iPad's $500 to $800 price range could be game changers. Those that run on Intel's Atom chips will be capable of running Windows applications built for older versions of the OS as well as all of the new Metro-style apps that are showing up in Microsoft's online Windows Store. The company says the store will be stocked with more than 100,000 apps within 90 days of Windows 8's launch.

Windows 8 tablets that run chips based on the ARM mobile reference design will lack backwards compatibility with existing Windows applications, but they will come pre-loaded with a touch-optimized version of Microsoft Office 2013 that should be attractive to road warriors.

The Iconia W510 includes lots of other features that should appeal to workers on the go. Acer promises 9 hours of battery life in tablet mode, and an additional 18 hours when connected to the keyboard dock, which includes a battery of its own. There are also plenty of options for expandability, as the system has a built-in microSD card reader, Micro-USB port, a Micro-HDMI port, and a full-size USB port on the dock.

Microsoft plans to hold a launch event for Windows 8 and related products on Oct. 26 in New York City.

Upgrading isn't the easy decision that Win 7 was. We take a close look at Server 2012, changes to mobility and security, and more in the new Here Comes Windows 8 issue of InformationWeek. Also in this issue: Why you should have the difficult conversations about the value of OS and PC upgrades before discussing Windows 8. (Free registration required.)

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