Here at CES, you'd expect little 'ol Tegra 2 to get lost in the mix amid the Medfield prototypes, Windows 8 samplers and quad-core Tegra 3 devices. Not necessarily -- not if the price is right, anyway. The Acer Iconia Tab A200 packs NVIDIA's last-gen SoC, and no, it's not the slimmest or lightest tablet on the block, but for $330 you get a 10-inch slate on the brink of an ICS update. That counts for something, right? We'd say so, especially if Ice Cream Sandwich does indeed correct some of the sluggishness that's plagued Honeycomb tablets (even Tegra 3-powered ones).
We got a few minutes of hands-on time with it today, and though we can't speak to potential deal-breakers like battery life or everyday usability, we came away feeling that all of the sacrifices Acer made in order to hit that $330 price are quite reasonable. Take the build quality, for instance. Although the A200 trades the A500's aluminum backing for plastic, it still has a soft, slightly textured finish that feels pleasant to touch and also makes cradling the thing that much more comfortable. It's noticeably chunkier than the Transformer Primes of the world but then again, it's also one of the few tablets with a USB 2.0 port, which would help explain the thickness. The 10.1-inch (1280 x 800) display is the same middling one you'll find on the A500; it doesn't compare to the A700's 1080p screen, but its relatively narrow viewing angles won't be an issue when you're streaming Netflix by your lonesome. It's missing a rear-facing camera, but do you really mind? (At this price, we don't.) And though you don't need the so-called Acer Ring for launching apps, it's an easy to use UI that manages not to get in your way.
For now, this could be a tempting deal for people who don't have $500 to spend, but after seeing other companies tease their wares here at CES, we're concerned that the price wars haven't yet hit a plateau. We know, we know: there's always going to be something faster, thinner and better, but in this case, that something better might cost less too. Take ASUS, for instance: the company is readying a 7-inch, quad-core tablet that will cost just $249. If this is where the market is headed (and recent remarks by NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang suggest it is), who knows how inexpensive Tegra 2 / 3 tablets will get over the coming months? The A200 seems fine for what it is; we just wonder if perhaps it's a transitional product, with a transitional price.
Update: To clarify, the A200 starts at $330 with 8GB of storage, as previously reported. The higher-end version has 16GB, and will sell for $350.