Archos 101 Android tablet review Archos 101 Android tablet review

ratingratingratingratingrating
We love
Excellent multimedia support, slim and sturdy, kickstand
We hate
Baffling TV out connection, no Google apps or Flash yet
Verdict
The Advent Vega represents slightly better value for money - and the iPad definitely does
Launch Price
£298.99

Archos 101 Android tablet review

Before you knock the Archos 101 Android tablet as just another Android iPad rip off, know this: Archos has been selling mass market Android tablets since before Apple even unveiled its trendsetting slate. It’s only now however that the French PMP manufacturer has tried out a full size 10-inch model. Does it work? Let’s find out in our full Archos 101 Android tablet review.

We have to give props to Archos for pushing into bold territory first: it’s been doing Android tablets since 2009, when the Samsung Galaxy Tab was but a mere glimmer in a South Korean engineer’s eye. The only problem is, unlike the other iClones out there, Archos doesn’t seem to learn a great deal or improve with each passing model.

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Build

The only flattering thing we can say about the design of the Archos 101 Android tablet is that’s perfunctory. At 12mm thick and 480g it’s thin and light, yet sturdy enough – however, the curves and brushed metal plates on the front are offset by the nasty Archos branded plates on the back.

There's so many edges and different materials that it looks like a bit of a mess. But at least it's a thin, darkly coloured mess.

On the plus side, there is a kickstand on the back, and Archos should be commended for managing to squeeze a mini HDMI-out port, micro USB and a USB port on the side without making the whole affair look and feel as chunky as the Advent Vega, our current favourite low rent Android tablet. It’s also this which probably gives it the sensation of not being as absurdly narrow as the Vega, despite the same 16:9 screen ratio.

There’s also a front facing camera, but the less said about it the better – it’s a washy affair that’s good for blurred calls over fring, and that’s about it.

What’s that screen like?

The screen is great to use, so long as you only look at it head on

Not too bad actually: the 1024×600 display appears less grainy than the panel on the Advent Vega, and it’s fairly responsive to capacitive touch. The unit we were sent came with Dolphin Browser HD installed – one of our all time favourite Android apps – and pinch zooming worked fairly smoothly on both it and the stock browser. Unfortunately, the Android 2.2 QWERTY keyboard stretched over such a size is still tough to use – but hey, you can plug in a USB keyboard and just start typing if the urge takes you.

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Viewing angles on the Archos 101 Android tablet however are absolutely atrocious. Tilted anything more than a few degrees in any orientation away from face on, and you won’t be able to see a thing. Frankly, even two people watching a film sat next to each other on a long train journey would struggle.

Android itself

Good news! Archos has finally realised there are some slightly newer versions of Android beyond 1.5 these days, and has rolled out the Archos 101 Android tablet with Android 2.2 Froyo. That’s no Honeycomb 3.0, sadly, but it does do some things than Google offers natively, which we’ll get to in a second.

Buy the Archos 101 Android tablet now

The good news is that with Android 2.2, you can surf on the Archos 101 Android tablet using your’s phone 3G connection shared over Bluetooth, set a pinlock, and run newer apps which only run on Android 2.2 and up – and we didn’t see much slowdown while doing this either.

The bad news is that the Archos 101 Android tablet lacks Google’s core apps, like Gmail and the all important Market, so the only apps you’ll be able to download are ones you can find APL files for online, or through other services like Archos’ pre-installed AppsLib centre. It serves up very few interesting apps, but on the plus side, we were surprised to find Angry Birds on there, and it ran just fine.

What about media support?

We’re glad you asked: this is where Archos, as ever, comes into its own, bolting on file format support so solid that it makes you wonder what exactly bigger companies are doing during development of their rivals. Archos calls this an internet tablet, but really, it’s a media late first and foremost.

The Archos 101 handles HD movie clips with aplomb

The Archos 101 Android tablet played everything we threw at it without faltering, from AVI videos and FLAC audio clips to high def MP4 files, and even 720 MKV video clips with subtitles. The video player has shortcuts to jump straight into UPnP media servers and play files from them, so you don’t even need to launch a separate application for media streaming.

The sound quality from the slate is also quite surprising: it’s booming but pretty clear. The rumblings are quite a distraction if you’re holding the device however.

We’re sad to report then that Archos has shot itself in the foot with a bizarre TV-out option for the Archos 101 Android tablet. While the Advent Vega simply mirrors the screen on a HDTV when plugged in, you have to trigger TV out in the settings here – and then the screen switches over, leaving the display on your Archos 101 Android tablet blank.

Archos's TV-out solution is dreadful.

Why does this happen? Because the Archos 101 Android tablet has just become a touchpad for dragging a shonky cursor around on the screen, and it’s a very unresponsive one at that. We’ve never seen anyone successfully hack a cursor on to Android, and it certainly doesn’t work here. Still, if you can look past this, the Archos 101 Android tablet can happily match the Boxee Box for local file streaming prowess.

And Flash?

Right now, the Archos 101 Android tablet doesn’t have Flash 10.1 support, which bumps it behind the Advent Vega in our estimations – and you can’t just download it from the Market, since it doesn’t have Market access. Archos tells us however that it is coming any day now, so we’d certainly recommend holding off on the Archos 101 Android tablet for a few weeks until the update rolls out successfully – otherwise, it’s £50 more than the Advent Vega, with fewer features.

Performance

The Archos 101 Android tablet, media playback aside, isn’t especially fast, but the battery life is very pleasing. With manual email syncing and Wi-Fi turned on, it’ll happily run along for four or five days on standby before running down, if not more. It doesn’t sip power quite as frugally as the iPad, admittedly, but then very little does, and it’s certainly more power efficient than the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Verdict

The Archos 101 comes at a difficult time, with Honeycomb and the iPad 2 around the corner

Provided Flash support comes along in good order, the Archos 101 Android tablet makes for an enjoyable device for media streaming and surfing the interwebs. But for £50 less, we’d still recommend plumping for the Advent Vega, especially since it’s the work of minutes to get the Android Market, Gmail and Google Maps on there through a quick, well documented hack.

The real issue of course, is that a version of Android actually meant for tablets arrives this Spring. Right now, we’d have to say that unless you really need Archos’ media file format support, the best thing you could do is wait: we’re eager to see what Archos can do with Android 3.0, that’s for sure.

  • David

    What an awful review! Quite inaccurate.

    The market is just a quick install away, it's quite freely available, then gmail, maps etc. all work just fine. The Vega doesn't come with Market pre-installed either (or flash for that matter since they found out they need Adobe certification too) The £298 price is rrp for the 16Gb version, the Vega comes with just 4Gb (in its SD slot). I've seen the 8Gb 101 for under £250 and that has an empty SD slot so you can have 40Gb by adding a 32Gb SD card.

    • Brianmini

      Buy an Archos, any Archos before you comment on the quality of the review. Its actually quite accurate, Archos has never actaully been all that good. They tend to look nice, and promise plenty… but then fail miserably to execute.

      Do not expect it to be upgraded to Android 2.3, it certainly wont get 3.0…. ever! It probably wont get Flash 10.1 and it probably won't get full Marketplace approval.

      In short… nae luck if you've bought one! When the gloss wears off and you realise you've got a market follower no better than the shonky Chinese rip offs, but at twice the price for little more than its “bling” case!

      And before you flame me, I've had 2 Archos models…. I know all about Archos and their lack of commitment to customers.

      Sadly you get what you pay for… pay a bit more and get an ipad or a Tab.

      • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

        Archos has 10x better and more substantial software updates than Samsung and Apple put together. Archos improves the tablet constantly in software updates and has tons of features Samsung and Apple don't have.

        Do one Google search for Google marketplace Archos before saying it doesn't have Google Marketplace, it does, easy.

      • David

        I do have one, since mid December, and Archos have released 3 updates since then – perhaps they've changed policy since your experience, people and companies are allowed to change you know ;-)

        Anyway, for £200 less than either of the others you mention, I'm happy, I wasn't even sure what I'd do it it when I bought it anyway! As it turns out I use it a lot.

      • http://twitter.com/peterkaptein peter kaptein

        @Brianmini – it is very much in the eye of the beholder. My opinion lies between yours and Charbax.

        The Archos family is not the top of the class type of hardware. The crappy screen is one of the issues. The lack of spacious internal memory (only 256 MB of RAM instead of at least 512 MB or one GB) is a second issue.

        I can not judge about the software updates – compared to other products – Charbax mentiones. True is that Archos has made several in the past months, fixing issues. (see their release list)

        For the price, Archos scores quite OK. The hardware is OK, the performance is OK, the software is OK. Basically you buy a Fiat, so do not expect Mercedes Benz type of finish.

        Right now, Andorid does not offer the things I expect when spending 600 euro on a machine. I can not do proper word-processing yet. It is still not good enough – as a platform – to compete against a Windows, Linux or OSX machine. In other words, for me it is a toy.

        So: spending about 300 euro on a proper tablet that does what it is supposed to do is OK for me. Spending 600 on a beautiful tablet that still does not do what I need is not my thing.

        The writer of the article could have done some more research on installing Android Market (it works, you can install it, you can buy and download apps) and I think the remarks in this tread cover for that lack.

  • http://twitter.com/JosephTatepo Joseph Tatepo Soufo

    I love my Archos 101. It's light! Only 480 grams for a 10.1 inch screen.
    I can hold it all night without getting tired!
    I read lots of ebooks-pdf-comics on it and it plays every video type files.
    IT WILL HAVE HONEYCOMB – and will be even more wonderful.
    I installed Notion Ink apps on it and I pretty happy to test out their software for a hardware which I long waited for; the Adam!

    Long live Archos the Adam – and uhh…everyone!

  • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

    You need to do a Google search for “Google Marketplace Archos” and re-write your review. Archos is much better value for money than all other tablets including Samsung (799 euros, are you kidding me?) and especially iPad.

    Archos is half the price of iPad, half the weight, has HDMI, USB host (I mean comon, those are standards, making a tablet without is ridiculous), and nobody else is able to dedign a tablet with a built in sturdy kick-stand.

    • bensillis

      I really have to dispute the notion that any tablet is better value than the iPad right now. Now I'm not an Apple fanboy at all – I use a Nexus S, not an iPhone. I'm openly hostile to Apple's one-shop only App Store approach. But honest;y, none of these tablets floating around at £180 less than the iPad are better value. It's in another class of its own for ease of use, performance and battery life – so much so that it's the best value option despite costing a lot more. Every Android tablet I've used has had rough, or even jagged, edges, but with the iPad there are none. And that's not surprising, because Google never meant Android for tablets (Until Honeycomb arrives).

      “He who buys cheap, buys twice, etc etc”

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5PQKUZWGH2C3FXB2PLTJPTOAWY macsdaddy

        I have to disagree with you on your reply. I have used an iPad and own a 101. The performance is comparable, my battery life is GREAT (I can run it all day listening to podcasts, searching the internet, and reading Kindle books and my battery has never dropped below 40%), and the amount of apps is going to blow away iPad apps all through Google Market (all in one place too).

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5PQKUZWGH2C3FXB2PLTJPTOAWY macsdaddy

    It was saddening to read this review. Is there something Archos did to you personally? The 101 has full market support, Flash 10.1 capabilities, Google core apps, and can run circles around most other tabs out there. My 101 has a quadrant score of 1570, wheeas the Galaxy shows between 1250 and 1400. Like nicely thought out tech hardware, they don't load it with a lot of bloatware, so some of the apps or software you would like, has to be installed. However, many of the apps available for tabs will make them run so much smoother. By simply installing an aftermarket launcher like Zeam, you will have a totally different tab. Just jump on any one of a number of forums and you can make ANY tab much better with a little TLC. My iPad killer is doing a great job, I wouldn't trade it in for anything. But to your point of running Gingerbread, there will be few tabs that will be able to run it, just like an older XP machine couldn't run Windows 7 very easily, there is always going to be bigger and better and none of us will ever be able to catch up unkess we go broke!

  • Pacarloni

    I've the 101 and i think it's the best tablet you can buy.
    I agree all Charbax wrote.

  • Dams

    That is so good to read all that comments about IPAD and Archos.
    We simply have an Apple fanboy (he called himself like that) that doesn't want to see potential elsewhere than in Apple products.

    There are no objectivity and research in this article.
    It is a great shame.

    • mic

      As someone who has worked with and written reviews for Ben, I have to disagree with the comments casting aspersions about his objectivity and research. He is a fine reviewer and will have done his research to write this review. Before we get into bashing anyone can you please note that this is a three star review and Ben has not slagged this device. No one on staff or freelance at Electricpig (I belong in the second category) is “an Apple fanboy”. Right now, the fact is that Android tablets aren't living up to their potential. They will with Honeycomb but it'd be nice if we could argue about the features of products rather than attacking Ben or anyone else personally.

    • bensillis

      I believe the quote was “Now I'm not an Apple fanboy at all”. Also, I'm afraid reviews are about giving a gut felt opinion Dams! Just rest assured that that opinion is coming from someone who doesn't think only Apple comes out with technological innovations and great products.

  • Crangill

    there is a means of getting Google Market onto this tablet

Hot chat, right here!


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