Acer Iconia Tab On Par With Apple, Motorola

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Small businesses may have caught a break with the Acer Iconia Tab 500 series (starting at $449 at Wal-Mart ( WMT)).

For all the grand opera theatrics surrounding tablet computers, such as the Apple ( AAPL) iPad, Motorola ( MOT) XOOM or BlackBerry ( RIMM) PlayBook, behind the greasepaint, the truth is no category has crashed into the commoditization deck faster than the tablet PC. Even before these devices have reached anything close to max consumer penetration, the market for small, thin, touch-controlled tablet computers is officially flooded with far too many options. So much so that small businesses now face a real struggle committing to a work-oriented tablet computer.

Small businesses may have caught a break with the Acer Iconia Tab 500 series.

How refreshing, then, that Taiwanese computing giant Acer has come to market with a tablet PC that makes at least a little bit of small-business sense: The Iconia Tab.

Acer sent over a demo several weeks back and, while this device can still be frustrating for small-biz use, overall I have found this Tab offers enough upside to be worth at least a test drive.

What you get
The Iconia is a reasonably powerful, very customizable tablet PC.

I am not sure Acer deserves credit for actually planning to create a small-business tablet with the Tab. But it got there nonetheless. The 12-inch overall diagonal tablet is all about customization. The unit comes in two basic configurations: The A500 for the Android-based mode, and the W500 for -- you guessed it -- Windows-based configuration. Both models can be further outfitted with hard keyboards, travel pack adapters, cases and other road warrior-friendly doodads. The as-you-like-it mantra is furthered by a choice of expansion memory options and several connector types. Acer also deserves credit for preloading these tablets with work-friendly software. My Android-based test tab configured almost immediately with my Google ( GOOG) cloud-based office work tools. And the handy Documents To Go, from DataViz, worked well in managing work files.

Better yet, the Iconia line can be had essentially at most every retailer. Even Wal-Mart stocks these things, which is darn handy.

What you won't get
The Iconia does not come at the lowest possible price for a tablet, and it is not a legitimate substitute for a laptop.

The $450 Wal-Mart charges for the Android unit is about the least you can spend. And the Windows-based W500 will cost you something like $550 from, say, an Amazon ( AMZN). Neither is a tablet steal. And keep in mind, you're going to spend another hundred bucks or so peripherals. And, trust me, you will still miss your laptop.

Considering what this kind of money buys for a notebook computer, the argument for the tablet can get thin fast.

Bottom line
Acer really showed me something with the Iconia. It's clean, well made and has not a whiff of Acer's off-brand past. Both versions of the tablet can play a real role in your company. And you will not surrender a single hipness point to those smug Apple or Motorola tablet users out there. Be assured, the Acer is a dang nice piece.

Just be sure you need a tablet in the first place. Yes, these devices are cool. But tablet PCs really are expensive.

Don't let the tablet siren song overwhelm your common sense.

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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