4 Android tablets vie for your attention

Tablets from Archos, Samsung and ViewSonic are among the first to challenge the iPad

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Archos 70 Internet Tablet

Archos 101 Internet Tablet

Archos was one of the first companies to offer tablets. I looked at two of the company's latest: the Archos 101 and the Archos 70.

The Archos 101 measures 10.7 by 5.9 by 0.5 inches and weighs 18.4 oz., making it the largest and heaviest tablet reviewed here. Still, it's slightly smaller than the iPad and half a pound lighter, despite having a 10.1-in. screen, compared with the iPad's 9.7-in. display.

Archos 70
Archos 70 Internet Tablet

The Archos 70 Internet Tablet is 7.9 by 4.5 by 0.5 inches in size and just 11.3 oz. It's about 2 oz. lighter than the other 7-in. models and approximately half the weight of the iPad. Both Archos tablets were easy to hold for long periods of time.

Two of a kind, they have chic black plastic cases with sculpted backs and rubber feet. They also each have a handy pull-out leg for propping them up. The stand folds into the back of the tablet when not needed.

While the characters on the Archos 70's 800 x 480 display are noticeably fuzzier than those on the Galaxy Tab, the Archos 101's 1,024 x 600 screen was pinpoint sharp and easy to read. Unfortunately, it has a visible diagonal grid pattern that's annoying on dark backgrounds. Other than that, the displays are bright, rich and sharp.

Powered by a 1-GHz ARM Cortex A8, both Archos systems come with a scant 256MB of RAM (the other tablets reviewed ship with 512MB). There's 8GB of storage space; you can get an additional 8GB for an extra $50.

Like the other devices I tested, the Archos tablets can use up to a 32GB microSD card, but no card is included. The company says that it will soon come out with a slightly thicker and heavier Archos 70 model equipped with a 250GB hard drive for $350.

Even more minimalist than the iPad, the Archos tablets have no physical navigation buttons on the case. There's only an on-off switch and volume up and down buttons. The usual Android control buttons for home, settings, back and search are on-screen, at the side of the display.

Archos 101
Archos 101 Internet Tablet

Besides the microSD card slot, these systems have a proprietary flat plug for charging the battery and connecting with a Windows, Mac or Linux computer. They also come with a single USB port and a mini-HDMI jack for plugging in a cable to a TV or projector. I connected both to an InFocus IN3916 projector and an LG 47LH40 TV using the HDMI jack, and they both worked well, but the tablet's screen went blank (you can only watch the TV or the tablet, but not both). The HDMI cable is not included.

Neither the Archos 101 nor the 70 make a provision for connecting with a 3G network. That's a feature that the company says it will introduce in a future model. For now, they both have 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi for getting online.

While the Galaxy Tab and ViewPad 7 have both front-facing and rear-facing cameras, the Archos tablets have single, front-facing 0.3-megapixel cameras.

The on-screen keypads lack the Swype typing gestures and vibration feedback that some of the other tablets include, and which make typing easier.

The home screen of each Archos tablet comes with 18 app icons, a Google search bar and links to settings and the system's manual. The devices come with two dozen apps, including ones for e-mail, Web browsing and playing videos, but nothing for viewing or working on standard Microsoft Office files. (I downloaded the free MobiSystems OfficeSuite 5 app for those purposes).

Oddly, the Archos tablets don't have a direct link to the Android Market for downloadable software. Instead, you need to get new apps from the Hong Kong-based Appslib site, which offers about 15,000 programs -- a small fraction of what the Android Market contains -- organized into 18 categories.

The system has Flash 10.1 software but not the player plug-in needed to watch videos or play Flash-based games. Archos says that it will have a free download available before year's end.


Both the Archos 70 and the Archos 101 tested as midrange performers, with Quadrant benchmark scores of 896 and 827, respectively. That's about halfway between the top-scoring Galaxy Tab and the lowest-scoring ViewPad 7.

When continuously playing videos, the Archos 70 had a battery life of 5 hours and 8 minutes, just behind the ViewPad 7's 5 hours, 10 minutes. The Archos 101, however, came out ahead of all the others with 7 hours and 10 minutes of battery life. That's 1 hour, 20 minutes longer than the iPad's 6 hours, 30 minutes.

Both Archos tablets tested with a Wi-Fi range of 115 feet, 20% farther than the View Pad 7 or Galaxy Tab's range, and nearly double the range of the iPad.

Bottom line

At $300 and $275, respectively, the Archos 101 and 70 are priced considerably lower than any of the other Android tablets. Although they disappoint on memory, software and the lack of a 3G connection, they could be appealing to those looking for smaller, lighter and less expensive iPad alternatives.

Next: Samsung Galaxy Tab

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