Acer Iconia Tab 7 (A1-713), a great budget tablet for students

The Acer Iconia tabs.

Back in my college years, learning with tech meant hauling a bag carrying an eight-pound laptop computer on my shoulder to a lecture.

It was painful, but I needed a laptop to do my classwork and homework on. There was no other tech that could do what my Dell Inspiron 6000 could.

Kids have it easy these days; laptops are lighter, phones are smarter and the internet is better.

And then there are tablets, already poised to take over classrooms. Portable, practical and easy to use, tablets are excellent tech for the learning students.

Tablets instantly replace writing pads, photocopied handouts, sketching papers, journals and calculators. They not only make bags lighter, but also make the environment greener.

They also cost less than a laptop computer, making them more accessible to students.

Granted, you can pick up any tablet in the market for just under $400, and you're all set. You don't even need to take a loan like I did back in the day.

If you're on a really tight budget but want a tablet that works, consider the new Acer Iconia Tab 7 (A1-713), which is currently selling for $218 at Concepts Computers in Kiulap.

Released just this year, the Iconia Tab 7 is Acer's latest tablet under its Iconia brand, and is also by far its best yet, with lots of significant improvements over past models such as better build quality and more powerful hardware.

I had the opportunity to test both the Iconia Tab 7 and an older model and I noticed the improvements made. The Iconia tablet is no longer the slouch and sluggish tablet it once was.

For the low price, you get a quad-core processor (Mediatek MT8382) clocked at 1.3GHz, 1GB of RAM for running multiple applications, and a 16GB of internal storage coupled with a MicroSD card slot.

The screen also gets a resolution upgrade at 1024x600 with a pixel density of 169.5, so texts and images appear noticeably sharper. It's nowhere near "Retina Display" quality but at a good distance everything looks just as good, if not better, than the first Nexus 7 tablet released two years ago.

Having installed reading app Flipboard, I had no trouble reading the texts and glancing at the pretty images on screen. Watching movie trailers at high definition also looks good.

The two-megapixel rear camera and threemegapixel front camera, in terms of quality, are mediocre at best, but they serve well for video calls. After all, no one should take pictures with their tablets.

The Tab 7 looks and feels better than past Iconia tablets. The aluminium back of the tablet gives it a more premium look, compared to the old cheap plastic used in previous models.

On the software side, this Iconia Tab 7 runs on an almost pure Google Android operating system supplemented with just a few Acer apps, but the familiar clean Nexus experience is there, unlike Samsung tablets which bloats the OS with its Touch Wiz user interface.

When I ran the Iconia Tab 7 for the first time, it boots up with the old Android Jellybean 4.2.2 OS, though I immediately received a software update notification to install 4.4 Kit Kat on the tablet, which makes the tablet even better then it was out of the box. The buttery smooth performance is there.

I was able to run various productivity apps such as Evernote and a PDF reader app with a breeze.

The Acer Iconia Tab 7 also doubles as a phone should you need it to be, thanks to the built-in 3G connectivity. It's a nice addition, in case you lose your phone.

Overall, this affordable seven-inch tablet meets pretty much all the needs of students or just anyone who wants a tablet for browsing, reading, social media, listening to music or watching online movies.

Those looking for a bigger screen or want a more powerful tablet should look elsewhere (and cough up a few hundred dollars more). Yet it's hard to ignore the $218 price tag of the Iconia Tab 7. This tablet doesn't disappoint, and parents can easily get a few of these for their kids.

The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Brunei Times.