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The screen clarity on the Acer Iconia Tab A500 makes it a good choice for media, and the fact that this model came out well after the Motorola Xoom means that Acer benefits from a slightly more mature Android 3.0.1 operating system. Still, like the Xoom, movie playback is a bit laggy at times. When testing the film Fair Game, playback chugged along slightly during scenes shot over a skyline.
For music playback, there's a new player in town. The Music app now supports Google Music, and while some have called the cloud portal yet another Napster clone, it's perfectly suited to Android 3.0. Once you load all of your music on the service from the desktop, you can then play songs without having to download them on any Android device. (Google: give us local download from the site.)
Photo playback on the Iconia Tab A500 looks clear, and pictures flowed smoothly in slideshow mode, both from the gallery app and when using the built-in browser and viewing a Picasa photo album.
One of the most important things against the Acer Iconia Tab A500 is that there's no way to rent or purchase videos. When we reviewed the Motorola Xoom, we had the same fault, although some noted that you can consume media fairly easily through the browser. The problem is that, if you salivate over the latest blockbuster release every Tuesday, you're more interested in rentals that are reliable (and cheap).
The Motorola Xoom recently added a new service for renting movies, and the Samsung tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1V provide a similar feature. We expect Acer to follow suit as well, but for now you have to load your own on the Iconia Tab A500.
The Clear.Fi service we mentioned does help you set up a streaming network, but that doesn't help in those situations where you're unplugged from everything and riding on a bus somewhere.
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John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.