Oh Archos 43 Android tablet. You came so close: if only you had a capacitive screen, everything would have been right with the world. Read on to find out how it misses the mark in our full Archos 43 Android tablet review.
We’re really starting fall for Archos’ design ethos – sure, it’s plasticky, smeary and cheap, but there’s a certain charm about it, a je ne sais quoi, since it’s a French gadget. There’s something reassuringly solid about it, and contrary to just about every other gizmo of the last year, the sides are dead straight.
On one side you’ll find the mini HDMI-out port, on the other the volume rocker and power/lock button, while the bottom curve houses the mini USB port and 3.5.mm audio at an angle – which is better than it being on the sides. We like the backplate the most though thanks to its cool metal finish, almost invisible camera sensor and the little kickstand that pops out.
The only annoying issue is the lack of physical Android buttons: instead, these are replicated at the bottom of the screen. They’re there most of the time, but not in certain apps (like the video player) which can be a bit of a pain. The loudspeaker also isn’t up to a great deal.
All in all though, the 130g Archos 43 Android tablet is definitely one of the finest looking low price PMPs we’ve seen in a long time.
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At a glance, the Archos 43 Android tablet’s screen looks rather exceptional for the price you pay. It’s a crisp 854×480 panel which renders videos beautiful – and viewing angles aren’t too bad either. So what’s the catch?
The Archos 43 Android tablet’s screen is resistive.
That may sound like a minor issue, but it’s hard to understate how irritating this is. For those in need of a quick primer, resistive touchscreens are generally cheaper to produce than the capacitive displays used on most modern smartphones and expensive tablets. They’re very accurate with small pressure points, but the problem is, fingers aren’t small pressure points – they’re big broad ones.
As a result, trying to swipe or type through anything on the Archos 43 Android tablet can sometimes be a maddening task. You’ll find yourself pulling out your headphones to tap something on the screen rather than use your fingers, and anyone who’s ever used pinch to zoom gestures on a touchscreen phone to zoom in and out of web pages, maps and pictures, will find it frustrating – no multitouch here amigo.
We can’t stress enough how much of a dealbreaker this is. It’s what makes the Archos 43 Android tablet only a decent Android PMP, rather than a true iPod touch toppler.
Out of the box, our 16GB Archos 43 Android tablet (There’s also an 8GB option, and both have space for a microSD card) runs Android 2.2. The good news is that Archos has left it be for the most part, with a plain launcher, and the 1GHz CPU means performance is certainly respectable.
The bad news is that out of the box, you don’t get Google’s core Android apps, like Gmail, Google Maps, and most importantly Android Market. Instead, you’ll be left to forage for apps on the sparse shelves of Achos’ AppsLib store, or for install files online.
The native Android keyboard is also maddening because of the screen: we tried to install Swype to solve this problem (it works wonders on resistive screens), but didn’t have any luck.
But wait! Tinkerers – you can quite easily install the core Google apps on the Archos 43 Android tablet, you just need to find the right file online. We Google Maps was blindingly fast, and we even managed to install Flash from the Market and tune into the BBC iPlayer Android app. This absolutely isn’t for mum and dad, but it’s a nice bonus for Android hobbyists.
This should come as no surprise, but the Archos 43 Android tablet is a cracking media player. It played all the high def MP4 and MKV files we threw at it without a stutter, and lossless FLAC files sounded fantastic. It opens night on everything.
We were also delighted to find that the video app on the Archos 43 Android tablet can stream clips from elsewhere over SMB and UPnP, just like its bigger brother, the Archos 101 Android tablet.
Oddly however, the Archos 43 Android tablet wouldn’t output to our TV, no matter what we tried: it’s a bit of a pity, as otherwise it almost would act as a portable Boxee Box. Don’t settle for one that doesn’t work: return it if needs be.
It’s so frustrating that the Archos 43 Android tablet falls at the final hurdle. We don’t mind that its camera is appalling, the battery life is excellent, and even without core Google apps, there’s plenty you can do with it.
If only Archos could have come through with a capacitive screen, this would have been sitting high, high up on our best MP3 players and best Android tablet list.