After my middling feelings about Acer's Iconia W700, the Iconia W510 comes as a nice surprise. It's in roughly the same vein as the HP Envy X2: a tablet PC that docks into a keyboard, with batteries in both the keyboard and main unit. The Envy is unquestionably the better product, but the W510 should not be dismissed out of hand. It's worth a close look.
The W510 packs an Atom Z2760 processor (1.5GHz, burstable to 1.8GHz) in a 1.27-pound chassis, sporting a 10.1-inch 1366 by 768 display. The Pro version of the W510 has a few differences: Windows 8 Professional instead of the consumer edition of Windows 8, along with a stylus and a two-year warranty (instead of one year).
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Even with the keyboard attached, the whole thing weighs no more than 3 pounds, making it a great grab-and-go machine. Also, it doesn't depend solely on the dock for connectivity. Micro USB, Micro HDMI, Micro SD, and a direct charging connector (which uses the same plug that connects to the dock) are all available on the body of the unit. The second battery in the keyboard/dock gives the W510 tremendous battery life. I got 15 and one-half hours in my Netflix battery rundown test.
Apart from adding a keyboard and second battery, the dock provides a full-sized USB port and a sturdy hinge that allows the whole unit to fold open and shut like a regular notebook PC. The dock is made of ABS plastic as opposed to the Envy X2's aluminum, and the dock connector itself looks somewhat cheap -- I've heard it condescendingly referred to as "the taco shell". Also, be forewarned that if you open the laptop too far, the weight of the dock isn't enough to keep the unit upright. That said, you have to open the hinge at a very wide angle before it topples over.
I'm finicky about keyboards, but the one on the W510's dock isn't bad. The keys may be a bit small, but they have a good feel to them, with a spacebar that responds all the way across and not just at the middle. Sadly, the touchpad is subpar. Instead of buttons, there are click zones at the bottom that can be a little hard to feel out at first. Also, the touchpad doesn't support multi-finger gestures. Although you can't disable/enable the touchpad by tapping one of its corners -- something I see in a lot of touchpads these days -- you can disable the touchpad with a function key combination, which is handy if you find yourself using the touchscreen for most things anyway.
As with the other Acer notebooks I've looked at, the W510 features the company's Live Updater technology, which downloaded and applied a system BIOS update and a number of driver fixes in the time I was using it. All were applied without trouble. I did notice one peculiar problem involving the keyboard, which I'd expected to be fixed with an update: the Ctrl-Home and Ctrl-End keystrokes do not seem to work properly. They work fine if you use an external keyboard, but not with the dock keyboard. (Acer is aware of the problem.)
Ordinarily, I wouldn't choose Acer's Iconia W510 over the HP Envy. The Envy is better built, and though battery life isn't as good, it's still great (11 hours 15 minutes in my Netflix test). But if the price is right, the W510 is a worthy alternative.
This article, "Review: Acer Iconia W510 just keeps going and going," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in computer hardware and mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, followInfoWorld.com on Twitter.
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