27
Aug
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"Unique" is the name of the game with the Archos 101 XS. Just about every design decision goes against the status quo. Most tablets are made out of aluminum or plastic, but Archos went with stainless steel and a plastic rim. It's a tablet-laptop hybrid, but there's no hinge, everything is held together with a kickstand and some magnets. The included keyboard dock also doubles as a magnetic cover. At a time when some Android OEMs are accused found guilty of doing little more than firing up a photocopier, some out-of-the-box thinking is very much appreciated.

It's only $400 for the tablet and keyboard, so we're firmly in budget territory here. Being a budget Android tablet is tough these days. It's a tablet-laptop hybrid, so the 101 XS will be going toe-to-toe with Asus' venerable Transformer line, the closest competitor being the (freshly Jelly-Beaned) TF300. If you also spring for the optional keyboard attachment, the Asus will run you about a hundred bucks more. Below it on the price spectrum is the Nexus 7, which is even more stiff competition. Archos has its work cut out for it.

Specifications

  • 1.5GHz dual-core OMAP 4470
  • PowerVR SGX544 GPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB ROM (Partitioned as unified storage) with microSDHC slot
  • 10.1 inch, 1280x800 LCD
  • "720p" Front Camera (no rear cam)
  • WiFi A/B/G/N
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Dimensions: 273mm x 170mm x 8mm
  • Weight: 600g
  • Android 4.0.3


The Good

  • Stock Android. No skins, no bad software decisions, just pure Android. It's great to see a manufacturer that actually gets it.
  • Micro USB charging. Everyone else locks you into a proprietary cable, but I'm charging this with my phone charger right now. Charging is faster with the bundled charger, but if you accidentally forget it, you won't be stuck without a way to juice up.
  • A front-facing speaker. There's only one, but it faces your ears. This is another common sense thing that not many manufacturers get right. Sounds are loud and clear.
  • Good performance. The tablet runs smoothly, so long as the touchscreen isn't freaking out, and it can power though more complex apps like Google Earth with ease.

The Bad

  • The plastic touchscreen. The particular type of plastic they used for the screen is grippy - much grippier than Gorilla Glass. The added friction makes using the touchscreen feel like a chore. It's also buggy, too much force will cause it to stop detecting touch all together or produce phantom touch input on the opposite side of the screen. When the part you interact with isn't any good, it kind of ruins the whole tablet.
  • The screen is grainy and it's pretty easy to distinguish pixels.
  • The keyboard is totally flat. Typing on it kind of hurts. People that want a keyboard will be heavy typers, but typing on this is probably bad for your wrists.
  • In laptop mode, the screen is supported with a kickstand - there's no hinge. This means you're stuck with 1 screen angle. Most of the time I find myself wanting a shallower angle.

Hardware

Design

wm_voltron angle

So here it is, all connected together in laptop mode. The tablet and keyboard both come in the box for your $400, so I guess that makes this a mid-range tablet. Things are certainly different than the usual Asus Transformer design. For starters, there's no hinge. The top and bottom are held together with a kickstand and some magnets. I'm serious.

wm_voltron back

The kickstand is actually attached to the keyboard dock and folds up. 2 magnets in the kickstand hold it to the back of the tablet, and prop it upright, while matching magnets on the bottom of the tablet and the dock hold everything together. It's sturdy enough to get the job done, and you can even pick the whole thing up by the screen.

When not in use, the kickstand folds flush with the rest of the keyboard bottom, and the same magnets that were gluing it to the tablet are now securely holding it in place. The disadvantage of this versus an Asus-style hinge design is that you can't pick your screen angle - you're stuck with whatever angle Archos chose for the kickstand, and that's it. I'd prefer something a little shallower.

wm_magnets1wm_fridge

Did I mention the magnets? This thing is absolutely covered in them. There are 2 below the space bar, 2 flanking the dock connector, 2 above the Archos logo, 2 on the kickstand, and 2 more on the bottom of the tablet. If you don't need the keyboard for typing stuff, it will easily hold a note to your refrigerator. The inner 4 magnets, as I mentioned, are for holding the tablet and keyboard together while in laptop mode. The outer four make the keyboard double as a screen cover! That looks like this:

wm_covered

At the bottom of this stack is the tablet, and the top is the flipped-over keyboard. The magnets hold everything together pretty firmly, maybe a little too firmly, as separating the pieces when they are lined-up requires a little strategy. Remember: Magnets. You're going to want to slide them apart, not pull.

OCD-types (me) are going to be in for a little more work. The keyboard will just kind of stick anywhere to the tablet - there's nothing that makes them line up properly. So you're going to want to tap the pieces on a table or something to get them to line up just right. The keyboard will only stick to the front of the tablet, if you're getting ideas about sticking it to the back when you're in tablet mode, stop. The back has a plastic rim that the magnets won't stick to.

wm_topwm_bottom

It's about time we examined the tablet part of this tablet. The top is completely devoid of any buttons or ports, while the bottom has the aforementioned pair of magnets and the dock connector.

wm_io side

Along the left side there's a MicroSD slot, a Micro USB charging port, a headphone jack, and a Mini HDMI port. It's really awesome they managed to get the 101 XS to charge over Micro USB. The bundled charger is 5v, 2A, so it's more peppy than your normal, 1 amp phone charger, but if you find yourself sans-charger and in need of juice, any old phone plug will work. It is also cool to have a direct line to the HDMI out, as opposed to having to pack a crazy MHL dongle. More manufacturers need to start designing like this. Dongles and proprietary cables are bad.

They did, however, put all these ports in the worst possible location. The left side toward the bottom? That's where my hand is supposed to go! It's not just this side, either. Holding the tablet naturally covers just about every important item on the tablet.

wm_power side 2

On the right side there's a volume rocker, power button, and a power LED. How quaint. It will actually tell you a bit about what is happening when the screen is off. It will stay lit during a light sleep and turn off completely after about 2 minutes, when the tablet is in a deeper sleep. The oddities continue to the right of the power button, where there are instructions reading "(RESET 10 SEC)." It will probably save you some Googling if your tablet totally freezes, but it's not exactly confidence-inspiring.

wm_voltron-front

There's more bad placement of things in the front of the tablet. On the left side, right about where your thumb would rest, is the camera and light sensor, and on the right side is the single, front-facing speaker. The camera is basically useless in landscape mode, people will be chatting with your left shoulder.

Port Placement

wm_port-lulz

Just how bad is the placement of everything? Very bad. Everything is pretty much is the worst possible location it could be in. Here's a handy chart of just what to expect when you're actually holding it. Everything is covered with human parts.

Some of these, like the power and volume buttons, aren't a big deal, but just about everything on the left side is an issue. It's not crazy to charge a device while using it, and I would think using headphones while holding the thing would be a pretty normal use case.

Perhaps placing everything on the side is a concession to making the laptop mode less awkward. When docked, the usual top-mounted headphone jack would be pretty strange, I get it, but why not put everything on the sides, but up a little higher? Right now, holding it upside-down is a significant improvement. At least then, the mini HDMI port, headphone jack, and charger will clear the top of your right hand, and the volume rocker and power button can easily be hit with your left index finger. So really, if you're a glass half-full person, they didn't screw up the placement of every single I/O component, they just put the logo on upside-down. Auto-rotate handles being upside-down just fine, too. If I owned this, that's probably how I would use it.

I really just don't understand the camera position. It's centered above the screen on laptops, and it's centered above the screen on tablets. That makes perfect sense - you want it pointing at your face. Archos decided to put it on the left side, under my thumb. If my thumb isn't in the way, it's pointed at my left shoulder. The only way to salvage it is to do all your video chatting in portrait mode, which is just strange on a 10 inch tablet.

Keyboard

wm_front keyboard2

So here's the keyboard, which Archos is actually calling the "Magnetic Coverboard." I don't really have an affinity for marketing speak so I'll just keep calling it "the keyboard."

Here you can see the kickstand in the top right folds totally flat, and it even has a little rubber pad to add a little cushioning when it snaps onto the back of the tablet.

The keyboard keys are absolutely packed with symbols. The top row has some really handy function keys. Back is intelligently placed where an escape key would normally be, and the one between search and Wi-Fi will open the notification panel. The rest of them you should know. I'm happy to report that the media buttons work with Google Music.

The Alt key will allow you to type all the crazy characters in the bottom right corner of each key. I asked, and Archos said this is the layout they're going with for America. It's certainly... different. The bottom row has even more specialty keys, after Ctrl we've got the Home and Multitask keys, and to the right of the spacebar after "AtlGr" is a menu button. The menu button works great. In legacy apps it opens the menu, and in modern ICS and above apps, it opens the action bar overflow menu. As an added bonus, it opens the app drawer on the home screen.

My biggest complaint about the keyboard is that it is perfectly flat. Most keyboards have a slight downward slant to them that makes all the difference when it comes to comfort. Laptop keyboards are always angled, and even the Transformers have a little slant to them. It would have been nice to have little collapsible feet, or really any built-in way to use the keyboard at an angle. This is just uncomfortable to use. You can't just throw a keyboard layout on a flat surface and call it a day, there are all sorts of subtle ergonomics that go into a good keyboard, and this doesn't have any of them. Using this hurts.

Even if you rig up something to get the keyboard at the proper angle, the screen has one tilt angle because of the kickstand, so you're kind of screwed.

wm_keyboard VS

If you do commit to using this keyboard, it's definitely going to take some getting used to if you aren't familiar with something this size. If you've used a netbook keyboard, you've got a good idea of what to expect. The key action is similar to a laptop's, and there don't seem to be any egregious layout changes. The right shift key did get shrunk down, though.

The keyboard is really a weird addition. Anyone who wants a keyboard is going to be someone who types a lot, but someone who types a lot is going to want a keyboard with good ergonomics. The flatness of this kills my wrists, and I never considered my wrists to be overly-sensitive to that kind of thing.

Materials & Build Quality

wm_front

We've got a stainless steel body, a plastic screen, and it's all held together with magnets. How's that for materials bizzaro world? Archos certainly gets points for thinking outside the box on this one. You might hear "stainless steel" and think "heavy," but, somehow, the 101 XS clocks in at 600g - the same as the all-plastic Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, and a little lighter than an iPad. Archos says this is due to the "paper-thin" 0.1mm steel.

Everything is color coded for easy materials identification, anything that is silver is steel (I checked with a magnet), and anything that is white is plastic. The "paper-thin" phrasing in Archo's PR is a little worrying, but the tablet is actually pretty solid. Everything fits together well, nothing squeaks or creaks, and the plastic doesn't make my skin crawl. The volume rocker does wiggle around a bit, though.

In laptop mode, the screen will move a little when you poke it. It's not going to fall over or anything, but it's not rock-solid.

wm_not-durable

Durability is a huge concern. This is the back of the keyboard/cover, which, keep in mind, is supposed to be slid around on a desk - seeing how it's the bottom of the keyboard - and it can't even stand up to the gentle treatment I give to review units. When I initially picked up my loaner from Archos, I was given a quick demo, and their demo unit was beat up, too. So it's not just me.

The screen has some serious build quality issues, but I'll address that in the next section.

Screen

Archos has seen fit to equip this thing with a 1280x800 screen and a plastic touchscreen. A tablet is basically all screen, so if they skimped out on it, that's an instant deal-breaker.

wm_screen

They skimped.

The touchscreen is plastic, and while that normally wouldn't be a huge deal, the problem is that this particular type of plastic is grippy. You can't swipe your finger across the screen as easily as you can on Gorilla Glass. Your finger grips it, gets stuck, and wants to skip across the screen, like a bad windshield wiper. The extra friction between your finger and the screen makes it unpleasant to use. If you're a big Android gamer, the finicky, sticky touchscreen will drive you crazy. Something like Angry Bird is significantly harder on a screen like this. Swiping, scrolling, and generally just using it feels worse than a normal, glass touchscreen.

The interesting (and gross) thing is that the dirtier the screen gets, the better it feels. Finger grease acts as a lubricant and really helps things glide along. If you're like me and incessantly clean your devices, you're going to be unhappy with the touch screen most of the time. I'm going to go wash my hands now.

Also, being plastic, it can't stand up to that much stress. If you apply too much pressure (not a crazy amount of pressure, just some) things start to go haywire. At first, it just stops recognizing touch input altogether. Then, when you let go, it will randomly press on another part of the screen. As usual, I've brought evidence:

This is the most easily replicated touchscreen flaw, but in general, it just seems possessed. Sometimes torque will trigger a touch input. The same goes for setting it down on something the wrong way, or applying pressure to the back. You'll just occasionally get touch input that wasn't from you. I don't think mine is defective, this is just what you get when you go with a plastic touchscreen. Plastic isn't as rigid as glass, so any force the tablet encounters could get applied to the touchscreen, which could make the touchscreen touch the internal components and start triggering touch events. Capacitive touch screens require contact with something conductive to work, yet I can trigger glitchy touch events with a 100% plastic sharpie. So it must be contacting the internal components.

I know the specs say 1280x800, but the difference between this and a normal 1280x800 screen is astounding. Everything looks pretty grainy, and it's fairly easy to make out pixels. I guess the dot pitch is really high. Gradients have sharp banding, even in places where I thought things were a solid color, like the white background of Gmail. I have a Xoom, Galaxy Note 10.1, and 101 XS on my desk right now, and the Archos' screen can't hold a candle to the other two. If you've got good eyes, this isn't the screen for you.

Like I said, this is the main part of a tablet, and cheaping out on it is just a terrible idea. Using this tablet is like playing a video game with bad controls. Nothing else matters when you screw up the basics. Swiping on this feels like a chore, so using it feels like a chore. The screen is ugly and pixelated, which makes you not want to look at it. Even on a budget tablet, you've got to get the screen right.

Performance

wm_2012-08-22 17.40.12wm_2012-08-22 17.36.02wm_2012-08-23 12.09.26

Here's a performance issue I've never run into before: This thing takes forever to wake up. After tapping the power button, the screen takes several seconds to turn on. Sometimes the delay is so significant, I hit the button again, thinking I missed it the first time - which, of course, causes the screen to turn off (insert rageface here). It's frustrating when you want to just use the thing.

Here's a wake up time comparison between the Archos and a Galaxy Nexus.

As you can see - particularly the in last one - sometimes the 101 XS takes almost 3 seconds to turn on. Also, check out the second time I turn it off, around 14 seconds. The screen turns off, then flashes on and back off all by itself. It does that sometimes.

Other than that, performance is decent. I find it really hard to separate the processor stuff from the feel of the touchscreen, it really seems to slow things down. Scrolling feels choppy, but really isn't, it's just the input surface, if that makes any sense. It has enough grunt to run Google Earth at a respectable speed, and that's easily the most processor intensive app out there, especially when you check out the new 3D areas, like San Francisco.

Things That Are Missing

wm_Screenshot_2012-08-25-14-40-19

While I'm not saying that any of these are a big deal, you do deserve to know that a few components that are normally in a tablet (or should normally be in a tablet) aren't here. There's no rear camera, which I might actually agree with. There's also no NFC, which I definitely don't agree with, and there's no light sensor, which means there's no auto-brightness. Thankfully, ICS has a brightness slider in the notification panel, so this is less annoying than it would normally be. Auto-brightness is usually terrible anyway.

Software

clapguyBONE STOCK ANDROID. I'm not kidding.

Good job, Archos. Somebody finally gets it. The 101 XS is rocking a completely unmodified build of Ice Cream Sandwich, and it is beautiful.

This means I have very little to write about in the software section, and that's a good thing. Now all we need is a Jelly Bean update, which is supposed to be out by the end of the year.

In case you've somehow forgotten what stock Android looks like, here are a few screenshots. Yes, there is some crapware, but, thanks to ICS, it can all be disabled.

wm_2012-08-22 15.19.48wm_2012-08-22 15.19.57

Well, ok, there is one thing they changed - added, actually.

wm_2012-08-22 14.52.47

This is it. 1 additional settings screen with some pretty scary options.

The usefulness of these are pretty questionable, especially since many of them are duplicates of things that are already in settings. "Touch screen calibration" immediately makes me question the robustness of the touch screen controller, because most tablets calibrate at power-on and don't need this option.

Battery Life

2012-08-25 15.02.03

This is going to be another one of those battery life sections with 1 picture and not much else, because the battery just lasts forever. Granted, this is with light usage, but the 101 XS lasted a good 2 days before dying. Tablet batteries rule. However, It does seem to turn off too early. Twice I've had it shut down on me at 15 and 7 percent.

Conclusion

The 101 XS is just full of quirks. The touchscreen flakes out and starts touching itself if you press too hard, it takes forever to wake up, and the ports are in the wrong spots. The keyboard is flat, and you can't angle the screen to your liking. The screen is grainy-looking, and covered in grippy plastic. It looks and feels worse than just about every other tablet display out there.

It is only $400 for a tablet and keyboard, though. You also don't have to put up with a half-baked skin.

But you've got other options. You could pay $100 more for a TF300 with the keyboard attachment. The Transformer has a glass touch screen, a better IPS LCD panel, a larger battery, a more ergonomic keyboard, and Jelly Bean. For me, it's worth the extra cash just for a more useable keyboard and touchscreen. If that's too expensive for you, maybe it's time to look at a Nexus 7 and Bluetooth keyboard.

That's really the problem I have with this device, line up good Android tablets by price, and this is stuck between the N7 and TF300. I'd rather have either one of those over the 101 XS. It's also hard to justify a purchase of this with "I need a keyboard" when the the keyboard isn't any good. When you're shopping on a budget, there's a sweet spot for price vs. performance, and this isn't it.

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472221411 Daniel Alba

    Im surprised this one didnt get a garbage can picture......

    • fixxmyhead

      lol

      ron is waaay too damn picky on things. good thing he has a galaxy nexus. to be honest im bored with stock android that i went back to the roots on my s2. i love my touchwiz heres hoping for JB touchwiz soon

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472221411 Daniel Alba

        lol, i guess.
        Touchwiz is alright...I personally prefer my nexus 7 jellybean stock but hey, we are all different

        • fixxmyhead

          its ok on my nexus 7 too just a litte boring feature wise cuz im soo used to slide to call or message, turn over to mute is awesome for the morning alarm when ur half asleep and dont wanna look for the snooze button, status bar brightness slider, toggles built in, badass video player,awesome music player that has the 5.1 thingy,etc. for a tablet stock is ok cuz i only use it for browsing and watching video. i really dont interact with it like i do with my phone

    • Ron Amadeo

      This one isn't $500, plus you get a keyboard. I'm not going to be that hard on a budget system, but call it a flagship and charge $500 and it had better be built as well as other $500 tablets. The Note build quality is inexcusable.

  • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

    So the Asus TF300 is not $130 more expensive with keyboard? Why do you write "with the keyboard attachment, the Asus will run you about a hundred bucks more" if it's $130?

    $30 is 7.5% of the price of the Archos 101 XS with keyboard, your should quote the correct price difference in the review.

    Asus TF300 with keyboard is 32% more expensive at $528.
    iPad3 with keyboard is 50% more expensive at $598.
    Asus Transformer Infinity is 63% more expensive at $648.

    • marcusmaximus04

      The Nexus 7 has WiFi Direct and bluetooth 4.0. It's also capable of
      Upnp/Samba/DLNA via 3rd party apps, and obviously USB Host via adapter.

      I'm also not really sure what you mean by "no full codecs", but even in terms of codecs, there's 3rd party support available for virtually any codec you want.

      Not arguing with your point overall, just pointing this out.

      • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

        The 3rd party video codecs support are probably pretty much never using hardware acceleration. Which means you can't expect to playback all 720p and 1080p MKV video files smoothly on the Nexus7. Also it wouldn't take much to fill the Nexus7 up with those while the Archos can have 80GB of storage with the 64GB MicroSDXC card. I believe the Nexus7 does not have real USB Host, meaning you cannot connect a 3TB NTFS/EXT3 hard drive to it, you may only connect USB keyboard/mice/ethernet on Nexus7, Archos supports any kind of USB mass storage and it can also even support powered USB Hard drives such as some/most of the portable 2.5" USB hard drives that use up to 500Amps, something like that.

        • marcusmaximus04

          Sorry for the crazy late reply, but I just discovered that the Nexus 7 actually natively supports 1080p mkv files, with hardware decoding. Plays flawlessly.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      You're comparing a 32GB TF300 to a 16GB Archos. The 32GB TF300 is $399 on Amazon. The 16GB is $350 http://www.amazon.com/Transformer-TF300-T-A1-BL-10-1-Inch-Tablet/dp/B007YLUOBI. So Ron's estimate is actually over - the total comparable package is less than $100 more.

      • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

        Actually not. That's not a real retailer. That's not sold by Amazon, it's fullfilled by Amazon but sold by some unknown source that supposedly only has 20 units left, probably a dumped price to clear stock. The Asus TF300 16GB is only available at Staples at $399. Asus pretty much does not like selling 16GB capacities and they on purpose make it near impossible to find. They prefer selling the $50 more expensive 32GB capacity. Just as Asus does not want to sell the $199 8GB Nexus7 in all the stores, Asus only wants to sell the $249 16GB Nexus7 in stores, only some stocks are released through Google Play Store but can be switched off (out of stock) anytime Asus wants people to only buy the $249 if Google Play Store becomes too popular.

        Basically Asus practices bait and switch marketing. They want bloggers to write about the cheap price, but they only really make the expensive skew available to consumers.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

          Man, you're trying so hard you'd think Archos was paying you to make excuses for them.

          • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

            Yeah it really is hard to understand Asus's bait and switch marketing. So OK, they may have dumped the 16GB in slight exclusive deals with one or two resellers at $349, it doesn't change that MSRP for Asus TF300 16GB is $379. You can't just compare MSRP of Archos with a street price (dumped price) on the Asus. Asus is $379 + $149 MSRP for the Dock. That's $130 more than Archos on MSRP pricing. If you want to compare street prices then wait for the cheapest resellers to have the Archos as low as $349 with keyboard by November and $299 with keyboard by January.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            But that's not the point right now - with that logic if Archos came out with this in a year instead, and TF300 would be at $200, you could argue that it's not fair to Archos because we're comparing MSRP. Who gives a crap about MSRP - it's all about what you can get the unit for right now, as of this moment if you went out and bought it. Sure, the Archos tablet may fall by $50 in 3 months, but so will the TF300.

          • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

            The Archos is not available right now. But your review likely does not get edited by the time it is on the market. But maybe you do not understand that concept or something. Asus does not lower prices. Asus announced the $199 netbook in 2007, you can barely ever find any Asus netbook for less than $299 even today, Even though nearly 4 cycles of Moore's law have passed since then and that the Netbooks in theory should be sold for $25 today.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          OK, now you're just getting picky and feeding wrong information.

          The 32GB is widely available at $399, it's true that 16GB is not as widely available, but if the 32GB is $399, there's no way you can claim the 16GB costs that much too. And even if it wasn't available, you'd still be getting double the storage for $399.

          But it is. Fine, you don't like an Amazon retailer. How about Best Buy? http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Asus+-+Eee+Pad+Transformer+Tablet+with+16GB+Memory+-+Blue/5089952.p?id=1218610024403. There - $349.

          And your claim that Staples has the 16GB for $399 is bullshit - there, I checked: http://www.staples.com/Asus-TF300T-B1-BL-101-32GB-Wi-Fi/product_663060. 32GB, $399.

          You're starting to sound petty at this point.

          • GraveUypo

            you guys get an award for patience. i'd have given that guy the finger a long time ago

          • Ilija Magud

            One finger to you too ...

          • GraveUypo

            nice life you have there meddling in a 2 months old conversation just to insult someone you don't even know

  • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

    "The plastic touchscreen. The particular type of plastic they used for the screen is grippy - much grippier than Gorilla Glass. The added friction makes using the touchscreen feel like a chore. It's also buggy, too much force will cause it to stop detecting touch all together or produce phantom touch input on the opposite side of the screen. When the part you interact with isn't any good, it kind of ruins the whole tablet."

    The screen hasn't got any grippy problem. They don't use gorilla glass because gorilla glass makes devices thicker, heavier and more expensive to build.

    "The screen is grainy and it's pretty easy to distinguish pixels."

    The screen isn't grainy. 1280x800 was top of the class and "amazing" in every review just a few months and now 1280x800 is grainy? 1280x800 is just fine on a 10.1" screen, having more resolution on that sized screen is just mostly a gimmick. Archos MVA screen offers the industry's best black color reproduction and it's got a better contrast than the iPad3.
    "The keyboard is totally flat. Typing on it kind of hurts. People that want a keyboard will be heavy typers, but typing on this is probably bad for your wrists."

    The keyboard is better than the Asus Transformer TF300/Prime keyboard and it's better than the iPad3 logitech keyboard, those are the keyboards to compare it with. The keyboard is fine. It's pretty much the same sized keyboard as on many 10.1" netbooks. It's easy to get used to it and it's for sure not bad for anyone's wrists compared to having to carry an iPad or other tablet without a tablet stand like with this Archos and having to try to type on those touchscreen keyboards. This keyboard allows for 10x faster and better text input than a touchscreen keyboard, that's the most important. Sure a full sized keyboard about 1-2 inches wider would be nice, but you can't expect that for a 10.1" tablet. Archos releases a 11.6" tablet early next year, and the keyboard for that may be full size or closer to full size.

    "In laptop mode, the screen is supported with a kickstand - there's no hinge. This means you're stuck with 1 screen angle. Most of the time I find myself wanting a shallower angle."

    Actually, you can adjust the tilt slightly by turning the tablet stand to the side. It doesn't offer many degrees of tilt, but it does offer a bit of tilting options so you are not stuck on 1 screen angle.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Wait wait wait, you're saying a plastic touchscreen is *better* than Gorilla Glass because it's lighter and cheaper? Even the Nexus 7 has a form of Gorilla Glass. That's possibly the worst excuse I've ever heard.

      And his side-by-side experience of three different displays sounds pretty objective to me. I'm not sure how you can just refute that by saying "it isn't grainy." Unless you're calling Ron a liar. Which, hey, be our guest, but it doesn't exactly sound like you're confident enough to just come out and say it.

      Your point on the keyboard is that it's "better" than the ASUS ones. How, exactly? I've owned both those devices, and found the keyboard to actually be pretty damn good. I'm with Ron, typing on a flat keyboard that thin is going to be a nightmare.

      Sounds a lot like you're trying to convince yourself you didn't make a $400 mistake.

      • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

        It's not a plastic based screen, it's thin glass, it's not gorilla glass and that makes the device the thinnest 10.1" tablet on the market at 8mm, the lightest 10.1" tablet with keyboard and the cheapest to build and to sell. But hey, if you prefer thicker, heavier and 32%-63% more expensive, go with a gorilla glass Asus Transformer TF300/TF201/Infinity.

        Again, Archos used same non-gorilla glass process in their $199 7" tablet that they released in 2010, and that one is still lighter than the Nexus 7 at 300 grams vs 340 grams. Archos built lighter, thinner and cheaper tablets 2 years before the Nexus 7.

        Did you or Ron actually compare this keyboard with the Asus Transformer and iPad3 Logitech keyboards? No? I guess not. You're just complaining comparing it with an ultrabook full sized keyboard or that full sized desktop keyboard you have. That keyboard is about 4x thicker, requires a much larger surface area.

        The proof is in the testing. Typing on this keyboard is 10x faster than typing on an on-screen keyboard. The keyboard is pretty much same size as any netbook keyboard. And it's better than the Transformer and iPad3 keyboards, so that's really all you need to compare it with.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

          Sorry, it's a little difficult for me to take you seriously when you write a such a glowingly positive review of a device that every major tech outlet has described as slightly worse than mediocre (at best). Perhaps you just don't have a decent Android tablet to put it up against.

          I have never seen an Archos tableet review well, and that didn't change today, and I don't see any reason why it should have. I'm glad Archos has a fan out there, but I don't even have to touch this thing to know a TF300 is hands-down a better solution as a Android tablet-laptop - not that I find such things remotely useful in the first place.

          • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

            Oh man now you're making me laugh. I have tested about 1000 Android tablets over the past 3 years. I own about 25 different Android tablets. I know everything about Android tablets. And I can guarantee you Archos is the best tablet maker in the world and has been consistently since they started making tablets in 2004. Every single year, Archos is the best. There is absolutely no better value on the market.

            Of course, a lot of bloggers never pay for anything they review, so they don't really understand the value of things they talk about. This device is 63% cheaper than Asus Transformer Prime with keyboard (32% cheaper than TF300 with keyboard), it's 50% thinner than Asus Transformer Prime/TF300 with keyboard, it's 40% lighter than Asus Transformer Prime/TF300 with keyboard, its OMAP4470 is actually the most powerful on the market, scoring better web browsing performance than Tegra3 and Apple A5X. Only Exynos4412 and Qualcomm S4 Pro can beat it, but those are barely yet on the market.

            There is just zero question about it. You put the Archos 101 XS next to the Asus TF300 with keyboard and next to iPad3 with keyboard, and just about 90% of consumers are going to buy the Archos before leaving the store. That is what Consumer electronics reviewing is all about. It's understanding the value for money. $399 vs $528 vs $598. There is absolutely NO question about it. This is why Archos sold more tablets than Asus in Europe in 2011.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

            Well, no, they aren't the best tablet maker in the world. But you're sure entitled to your opinion on that, because I doubt anyone outside France shares it, and I'm sure Archos could use the fanfare.

          • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

            It's sure that US bloggers are stuck in some kind of mindset that makes them ignore obvious value for money advantages of the Archos solutions on the market. It does not change the fact that also in US stores, if you put the Archos 101 XS at $399 next to the Asus Infinity with keyboard at $648 next to the iPad3 with keyboard at $598 and next to the Microsoft Surface with keyboard at $599, there is simply absolutely no way the normal American consumer doesn't pick Archos more than 50% of the time. That's what best in the world means. But this is something US tech reviewers have a hard time understanding.

            And if you then want to talk about Nexus7 and blah blah, then put the $249 Nexus7 (the only skew available in stores) next to the $99 Archos Arnova 7c G3 (7" capacitive Jelly Bean, fully smooth), you can be sure also that more than 50% of consumers choose Archos there also.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            And if I put a piece of crap no-brand from China with a $50 price tag on it next to those, some people who have no idea what they're buying will get it too, because it's cheaper. But that in no way speaks about quality or being "the best in the world."

            The Arnova is 4GB, has a budget CPU, and doesn't even have Play Store access. Officially it runs ICS (those who will pick it probably won't know how to modify it or sideload the Play Store, and they likely won't care).

          • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

            That's another point where you obviously do not follow the Chinese tablet market. There are no "crap no-brand" $50 tablets left in China. Pretty much all the $50 no-brand tablets out of China since around April even before are of excellent quality. They all have excellent capacitive touch screens, they all run fully smooth fully hardware accelerated Jelly Bean today! Since March, no Chinese $50 Tablets weren't already including ICS fully smooth. The 7" screens even the cheapest ones are excellent, even with 800x480 resolution, the ICS and JB experience is awesome. These $50 Chinese no-brand tablets are much much better and much smoother than the $799 Samsung Galaxy Tab 1 released just barely 19 months ago.

            So really, what is the point in writing on a technology news blog if you say that the Samsung Galaxy Tab was awesome 19 months ago but that a new Chinese tablet for $50 that is actually better than that is crap? Why should something awesome of 19 months ago be crap today? What is that logic?

            The cheapest Archos Arnova (soon $49 on retail) and Archos Elements (soon $99 on retail) all fully include the full Google Play Store. So do pretty much 100% of those awesome Chinese no-brand tablets that you for no reason call crap.

            Archos is the best at getting the best out of China and making sure anyone can buy that in all stores in Europe and the USA for barely more than what you'd find it for on the street in stores in China. Unlike other tablet companies, Archos business model is to minimize it's profit margins to bring good value to consumers. Archos isn't a scam company like Asus, Apple and others.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            I don't know where to even start here, especially considering I never even said anything bad about Archos. I don't have time to argue all day with someone who thinks that any company that makes money is a scam.

          • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

            Archos are lucky if they make 20% profit margin on their tablets. Apple makes 400% profit margin on the iPhone. You decide if you want to be a blogger and say that the the Apple/smartphone industry is not a scam. You decide if you think that an industry selling devices like the iPhone for $650 that cost less than $125 to make, and that all the bloggers keep screaming it's so fantastic when Apple is worth $633 Billion just for selling that iphone, if you think that doesn't sound like a huge scam, have fun with that.

          • briankariu

            Lol...People be hyping iMacs an iPads on an android site. Shame, shame on you all! But in the rest of the world, apple and apple products are only seen on t.v. Almost all my friends own smartphones, only two own iPhones and I have very many friends. For tabs, only iPad I have ever seen in use was by some retard taking pictures with it in an official function. Otherwise, its only android all the way
            iSheep only exist in the USA. That is why apple is able to control 70% of the tablet market there. That is why apple is making billions on an overpiced, overglorified tablet

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

            Your figures don't really mean much in a world where the $500+ iPad is still the single most popular tablet on the market by a massive margin, with sales figures increasing dramatically with every new generation.

            Cheap tablets in the rest of the world are well and good, and put computers in the hands of people who would otherwise never get them, and that's great. But your race-to-the-bottom theory of the market has been demonstrably proven false.

            Most critically acclaimed laptops in the world? MacBook - with the most expensive entry price of any company that isn't a niche brand.

            Most popular smartphone in the world by sales? The iPhone, 5 years running.

            Most popular tablet in the world by sales? The iPad, 2+ years running.

            All premium products, with premium prices, that not only have industry-leading profit margins, but vastly outpace sales of any other single product line in their segment. I don't think we misunderstand the world, I think you misunderstand consumerism. People will pay a premium price for the things they want.

            For $400, Archos is flirting with a well-stocked portion of the tablet market, and certainly nearing that "premium" boundary. If you were to present any American consumer the Archos 101XS and an iPad and told them to choose one (even knowing the iPad is $100 more), I guarantee almost every single one is going to choose the iPad. Whether or not you believe Apple is a "scam" is besides the point - Archos hasn't built anything to convince consumers they don't want an iPad. Maybe they convinced you, but I'm sure you know you are very much a "special case."

          • anamika

            In unsubsidized markets like India iPhone is barely reaching 2-3%. If your carriers drops subsidies i don't think high end iPhone or Android would sell well.

          • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

            You are completely wrong in everything that you write, which makes it a little sad that it says MOD next to your name on this site.

            Android tablets have overtaken the iPad for over 9 months now. Just as Android tablets dominate the market for being much much better value for money to consumers worldwide, so has it happened with the tablet.

            The Macbook barely has 5% of the world PC/Laptop market. I find it ridiculous that you'd consider that any achievement. Ther macbook is an overpriced $2000 Facebook machine that has no future. The Mac is less than 10% of Apple profits today.

            Android has overtaken the iPhone for over 3 years now. Today more than 5 Android phones are sold worldwide for each iphone that is sold. It's just plain ridiculous to write on an Android website that the iPhone is the most popular smartphone.

            I think you misunderstand consumerism. Go do a test with your parents, ask them to try and test the Archos 101 XS $399, vs IPad3 with keyboard $598, I can guarantee you that your parents are going to tell you that if they had to choose to buy one, it'd be the Archos 101 XS without even a doubt!!!!! Unless perhaps your parents happen to be filthy rich or some other weird thing that is untrue that you may tell them. Do the same with ANY consumer worldwide, they'll all pick Archos and not the iPad for 50% more expensive. That is the end of the story. If you don't understand this basic fact, you don't understand consumer electronics. The only reason iPad3 sells more is because Apple has more cash, they manufacture more, they have more Apple Stores, they tell resellers to highlight only iPad3 to get rebates etc. Who sells most in this industry is the one with the most cash to buy most components and manufacture most and have the biggest sales network. That bloggers are completely out of touch with reality and keep claiming iPad3 is the best helps a little, but it doesn't move sales more than 3% in any direction regardless.

          • marcusmaximus04

            You're making claims about sales, but real-life numbers don't back that up. In the real world, Apple owns about 70% of the tablet market, with Samsung and Amazon taking most of the rest(although ASUS has started a lot of movement, and will likely continue to with the seeming blockbuster sales of the Nexus 7)

          • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

            marcusmaximum04, this is exactly where the techmeme US blogosphere is such a sad place. They are stuck in the USA and have no idea what is going on outside of the USA. Android has more than 50% of the worldwide tablet market in terms of daily sales, and has had that constantly since December 2011. Chinese Android tablet makers are manufacturing and selling over 200 thousand Android tablets per day. Those are sold for as little as $50 with Jelly Bean all over China, India, Russia and Brazil, and with huge demand worldwide in all developing countries, in Europe and everywhere. Archos sold 1.6 million tablets in 2011, Archos actually sold more tablets in Europe than Asus, Acer, Motorola, HTC, Dell, Huawei, ZTE, Blackberry and all other (perhaps limited to the major markets France, UK, Germany, Italy and Spain) .

          • ArchosNeverAgain

            Value may be one thing, but quality of experience is another. I bought the A70 in 2010 based on the hype of value. And it was hype! The PLASTIC screen was horribly non-responsive and bec of that I sold it. The experience was nowhere near that of a glass screen. I liked the concept of being lightweight but I would much rather have glass, and the weight it brings, than non-responsive plastic.

          • anamika

            So did you compare keyboard with ipad and asus?

        • Ron Amadeo

          "It's not a plastic based screen, it's thin glass," Feels like plastic to me. Do you have a source for that?

    • GraveUypo

      plastic screen are usually much "grainier" than glass screens. it's not even about pixel size. it's like the pixels are behind another pixel matrix. my old netbook had that problem, and one of my cheap tablets has it too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

    While I can see that Archos are trying to offer a cheaper alternative to the ASUS Transformer, I can see a lot of design issues that are a real downer.

    The bad touchscreen, port placement and the easily scratch-able back make this tablet a disappointment to me, I had enough grime on my Galaxy Tab 10.1.

    The one thing I definitely applaud without a doubt is the Micro-USB connector, more tablet manufacturers use this considering that we would rather have one charger than two. OEMs please make this a standard!

    Hey Ron, is it better than the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1?

    • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

      The back won't be scratchable when they release it mid-September in Europe and October/November in the USA. This is an engineering sample, they haven't put that un-scratchable paint/process kind of stuff on it yet.

      The touchscreen isn't bad at all, it's just not gorilla glass, there isn't only gorilla glass on the market. This type of touch screen allows Archos to make this the thinnest, lightest and cheapest device like this on the market. Capacitive screens aren't meant to be pushed with force anyway, you gently swipe around and there is no problem.

  • Marcin Juszkiewicz

    It looks like AOSP but has some modifications added like USB host port enabler etc.

  • JD

    What's the difference with the Archos 101 G9 (apart from the stainless steel + white plastic outsides instead of all grey plastic). My G9 is a 16GB, 1.5 Ghz, bare ICS, with - apart from placing - the exact same outlets and oddly placed camera. It even has an optional 3G usb dongle in the back. Also has the reported strange ghost behavior, by the way. But only cost 300 euros. Screen is not grainy by the way. I'm very happy with it and enjoyed spending the difference to an iPad2 to all kinds of valuables :-)

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