Archos 101 Internet Tablet November 2010

Slimline Android touchscreen tablet

Available from a fairly wallet-friendly £270, the Archos 101 Internet Tablet is Archos' answer to Apple's iPad. Archos has packed a 10.1-inch screen and a host of hardware into a sleek and slimline Android tablet that weighs a surprisingly light 480g. While the Archos 101 waits to be fully tested in the Which? labs, we've given it an initial once over.   

Archos 101 Internet Tablet

First impressions

Many new tablets that have tried (and largely failed) to mimic the look of Apple's iPad. Rather than imitating the solidity and single-button navigation of the iPad, Archos has opted for a distinctive light and slimline look, swapping actual buttons for fully touch-screen navigation. It even manages to fit a webcam into its narrow frame. 

Archos 101 Internet Tablet First Look video

 

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Despite the 10.1-inch widescreen touchscreen, the 101 Internet Tablet weighs just 480g – only 100g more than the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab. It's only 12mm thick, too, and in spite of this it doesn't feel flimsy – though the combination of a plastic cover with aluminium panelling on the back gives it an odd, patchwork look.

Archos has built an adjustable kickstand into the back of the tablet, so you can set it down with the screen at a comfortable viewing angle. We loved this feature - it demonstrates what a big difference little design touches can make. With other tablets we've looked at to date, unless you invest in a docking station, you must choose between either holding on to them or setting them flat to peer at the screen from above - neither of which is ideal for video viewing on the move.

Battery and storage

Archos claims impressive battery life for its flagship tablet, promising:

  • Up to 36 hours music playback
  • Up to 10 hours web browsing
  • Up to 7 hours video watching

We'll be testing these claims when we send it off to our test lab.

The Archos 101 has a 1GHz processor (ARM Cortex A8 at 1 GHz with DSP) and comes in 8GB and 16GB versions costing £269.99 and £299.99 respectively – but both versions include a built-in micro-SD card slot to expand the memory cheaply.

Connectivity and internet

Unlike other tablets we've seen, all the connection ports are handily gathered along one end, and Archos certainly doesn’t skimp on connectivity. Alongside the micro-SD slot and the expected headphone jack and microphone, there's a standard and micro USB port and a mini HDMI video output, so you can stream HD video to a compatible HD TV (though the cable has to be purchased separately).

The Archos 101 Internet Tablet comes with Bluetooth and wi-fi as standard, but – like many other Android tablets, including the Toshiba Folio 100 – frustratingly there's no 3G to help you get online on the go. You can use Bluetooth or a USB cable to tether a mobile phone and use its data allowance, if your mobile plan allows this.

Capacitive touchscreen and user interface

The 10.1-inch capacitive touchscreen on the Archos 101 Internet tablet is pretty responsive to finger touches and swipes, though there's sometimes a bit of a lag when scrolling between screens - especially when you're dealing with a lot of data. 

The interface is clean and attractive and navigation is intuitive, so we found it easy to find everything we were looking for without needing to check the manual.

At 1,024 x 600, the screen resolution is reasonable, though images and icons aren’t as crisp and clear as we'd like to see – the animated wallpaper, for example, suffers from pixelation. The screen viewing angle isn't bad, but the screen suffers from a slight oddity that we haven't noticed on other tablets - as you'll see in our First Look video, above - when viewed at a certain angle, you can see diagonal gridlines criss-crossing the screen.

Music and video playback

Archos is well-known for its media players, and the Archos 101 internet tablet has a cracking interface for its music player, and the speakers produce fairly decent sound. Of course, you can always attach your own speakers or headphone if sound quality isn't quite up to your standards. 

The Archos supports most popular video formats, although it only supports 720p HD playback, not the higher quality 1080p. 

Archos says its 101 Internet Tablet will come with Android 2.2 Froyo, and therefore support Flash video, but the press sample we tried out only ran Android 2.1 so we couldn't confirm this claim.

AppsLib - the Archos 101 app store

Like other Android tablets we've looked at that lack 3G connectivity, Archos has forsaken the Google Android app store and its 100,000+ apps for its own app store dubbed AppsLib. As app stores go, it's nice looking and easy to search through - but we couldn't find a YouTube app we could get to work, and there were less apps available than in the official Android app store. This could be a deal breaker for some. 

The Archos 101 Internet Tablet is available to pre-order now, but won't ship till nearer Christmas. Despite the slightly poor show on the apps front and the absence of 3G, if you're looking for an ultra-portable tablet with a host of multimedia options, we reckon the Archos 101 Internet Tablet is one of the more slick and stylish tablets around right now at an affordable price.

Of course, we'd never fully recommend any tablet till its been put through our full Which? lab tests, so keep an eye out on which.co.uk for our full review of the Archos 101 soon. 

Update - 2 December 2010

Archos has released a firmware update for the Archos 101 Internet Tablet which upgrades the OS to Android 2.2 Froyo. This will make the Archos 101 compatible with Flash, although Archos is waiting on Adobe certification before it is possible to distribute the necessary Flash plug-in. Our news story on the Android Froyo upgrade has more details of the benefits of the new OS. 

Pros Distinctive, sleek design; large screen; light and portable; packed with features

Cons No 3G; odd 'gridline' effect on screen at certain angles; no Flash support on the model we tested

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