When it comes to tablets, Windows is likely the last option you’d ever choose.

Windows tablets started as slates and convertibles around the beginning of the millennium, but due to the bulky nature of the hardware and Windows’ awful performance with touch technology they’ve never really taken off.

Recently though Microsoft has introduced its newest version of Windows, which includes a brand new start-menu replacement, Metro.

Metro is a touch-optimized interface that includes everything we’ve come to expect in mobile operating systems, including a marketplace.

With Windows 8 Beta just around the corner, now is a great time to start looking around for the right tablet for both testing purposes and ultimately the upgrade to the full commercial version of Windows 8.

Today we take a look at the Acer Iconia W500, a unique hybrid that includes a 10.1-inch tablet and a separate keyboard dock, which together gives users a netbook-like experience.

The W500 includes the following specifications:

  • 10.1-inch LED-baclkit TFT LCD with a resolution of 1280×800
  • an AMD Dual-Core C-50 1066MHz Processor
  • 2GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM
  • 32GB SDD with mini-SATA
  • 2-in-1 memory card reader
  • Dolby Advanced Audio
  • ATI Radeon HD 6250
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • HDMI
  • RJ-45 port
  • 3-cell li-ion battery (capable of up to six hours life)
  • Weight: 2.14lbs
  • Dimensions: 10.83×7.58x.063-in

I personally am a huge fan of the Iconia Tab a500 Android tablet, and so I was hoping to find just as great of an experience with the Window-side of Acer tablets.

I understand that Windows 7 isn’t the best touch-experience but I still had great expectations for the hardware.

Unfortunately, the W500 has plenty of great ideas but is plagued by a frustrating design. Docking and undocking is ultimately a difficult situation that makes it hardly worth it, and the overall slate/dock combination is a bit on the bulky side.

While in the docked/hybrid mode, you get the form-factor of a netbook but honestly the performance in this tablet is highly more refined than what you normally would see in a netbook.

First off, you have a Dual-Core AMD processor versus the lower-powered Atom and the Radeon HD 6250 provides a much better graphics experience than most budget tablets.

Of course if you plan to switch back and forth between tablet and ‘hybrid’, good luck. The dock doesn’t come on and off without a bit of difficulty and you will have to resist the natural urge to want to fold the unit shut.

Looking at the unit without the dock, it actually is a pretty impressive piece of hardware. Again. The specs are much better than what you would expect from many other basic tablets and even with heavy use of multiple videos and browsing you can expect about 3 hours of battery life.

The W500 is well-rounded and feels very comfortable in your hands, though the downside is that it runs Windows 7 Home Premium and not a truly touch-optimized experience.

For those that plan on putting the Beta on the hardware, this likely isn’t a deal breaker. If you are interested in getting the tablet now though, you will have to get used to using Windows 7 on a tablet.

Luckily, Acer has included several custom programs that are designed to make the experience much better than you would expect, but it is still no Android, iOS, or Metro.

Overall, the Iconia w500 is a good option if you are looking for a device that can be used for productivity in a docked mode, but also has a full tablet experience for those situations when portability is a must.

While the docking feature might not be as intuitive as I would like, it is worth putting up with if you really need a machine that can provide the best of both worlds.

The Acer Iconia Tab w500 is available from the Microsoft store for just $549.

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  • ECM2

    I scored a slightly used Acer Iconia W500 from eBay 2 months ago for $300 and replaced the pre-installed windows 7 with W8DP. This allows me to create native Office docs (as well as do most of the things I do with my Android tablet) while lying in a supine position on the bed or on the floor.  Due to chronic back pain, I must constantly switch from sitting, to kneeling, to lying … the tablet gives me the flexibility to be “productive” away from my desk.  Good buy but only if you say good bye to win7.