With the success of the Apple iPad and the recent surge (again) of tablets since CES 2011, there are a plethora of sizes, shapes and other choices in a tablet computer. Wi-Fi, 3g, HD, dual camera, capacitive, 5 inch, 7 inch, 10 inch...the list goes on and on.
Recommend this product?
For me the decision was twofold, replace my Dell Mini 9 subcompact netbook computer with a Wi-Fi friendly tablet that allows me to surf the net, and find one that isn't too big, too small or too pricey.
The decision time and time again came back to the Archos 70 Internet Tablet - 8gb flash drive.
This tablet has a lot going for it. Right now it's loaded with the Android Froyo version 2.2.1 operating system. It's responsive and probably not as quirky as it sounded before the 2.2 update. (I have only known the 2.2 version so can’t verify any improvement).
Let me list what I like about it:
- The screen is responsive to the touch.
- It does do "pinch" and resize without any issues.
- Resolution looks good, especially on HD video from our TIVO.
- I love the 7" screen. It's perfect for video, surfing, email. Not big and clunky like some larger tablets. It’s thin, lightweight and easy to carry.
- Battery life is a good 10 hours with mixed use, about 7 -8 hours with heavy video play.
- Games look great - Angry Birds, etc. Not sure about other more intense graphic driven shoot 'em up's.
- Accelerometer works great, quickly provides expected auto shift from horizontal to vertical display - 360 degree option.
- The sound is impressive even with just the side speakers. Plenty loud enough outside. Good separation with headphones.
- Haven't used it for Skype, but front facing camera gives fairly good resolution, either still or video. Not great, but slightly grainy as expected, and adequate.
- Solid construction, plastic on aluminum body gives it rigidity without extra weight.
- Interface is clean and well designed.
- The Android Apps Library and Google Marketplace provide good selection of applications.
- Desktop widgets work well, very functional.
- Updating over Wi-Fi also is seamless for OS or App updates.
- Nice optional Leather Case.
- Video HDMI output to TV for video and game viewing/playing “on the big screen”.
- SDHC Micro storage card with up to 32gb support.
- The kickstand allows you to view videos without having to hold the unit in your lap. Some say it’s cheap, but it works well for me. Just have to be careful not to drop anything on it or use it to pry open a can of pop.
Not so great
As with any gadget there are also going to be nitpicks, and the Archos has a few:
- Seemingly nonexistent 802.11N Wi-Fi wireless connectivity. This is a big one for me. Archos advertises N connectivity, but after trying to get it on a D-Link DIR-615 router and later a dual band Netgear N 300 WND3700 all I can receive is 802.11G at 54mb, not the N speed of 250 - 300+. This is frustrating. I'm waiting for Archos to address this issue. If not resolved I will probably be selling this tablet and moving on.
- Another big one, no true FLASH support. Supposedly Adobe is currently “certifying” Archos Flash. You can put a hodge podge of Android phone Flash on your unit, and it will work sometimes, sometimes not. For the most part I can receive fairly reliable YouTube videos by using a YouTube app designed for Android, but this doesn't always help when wanting to view Flash video on other websites. Hopefully this may be resolved in the future.
- 256 Ram is probably not affecting what I’m doing, but hey more is always better when it comes to Ram. 512 would just make life a little sweeter, especially if you’re a gamer.
- The power button is located just above the volume rocker switch. I sometimes press the volume when I want to power down the unit. I’d like to see it spread apart a little more for better access.
- There is a slight amount of glare you’ll get off the screen, but no more than any other device. Much less than my iPod Touch.
- I paid $20 for a "Cinema" plug in that provides 5.1 Dolby sound when outputing this to an external system. Seems like something that should be standard with the unit.
The list of cons is really pretty short compared to the list of advantages that the 70 offers. In spite of the N wireless issue I really like this tablet. I can get work email anywhere I find Wi-Fi. It allows me to open work related PDF or Word documents with aftermarket free apps, or Excel files as web documents.
I really enjoy being able to call up a downloaded video on my lunch hour or while waiting for my wife to finish shopping for fabric or other female flavored activity while I wait in the car. This is device has supplanted where my iPod Touch used to be my video viewer of choice. The larger screen and solid sound from the twin speakers just make video watching or games so much more enjoyable. Perhaps it’s also my 59 year old eyeballs that appreciate a larger screen.
The email client options are no different from any other mobile device. I can access my local ISP email, Gmail and work email. No big whoop, but very handy.
In replacing my Dell Mini 9 Netbook, I appreciate that this does all the things the Dell used to do, but in a much sleeker package, plus it “boots up” so much quicker than the Dell ever thought about. Even with a RunCore 32gb SSD drive, the Archos still blows it away in startup speed. Man that is nice.
I appreciate the ability to download data onto the Micro SD card. I have a 4gb card, but it’s nice to know I can slap in a 32gb card if I want to load up on video for a vacation trip.
The screen is easy to see in any light condition. It has a quick access “3 speed” light setting on the desktop, or a multiple setting slider buried under the “settings” button. I’ve never had an issue with viewing the screen outside. There is a little glare, but turn the angle and all is well. Even on full brightness it doesn’t seem to hurt the battery life too much.
As to screen integrity, I can’t comment on how easy it is to keep scratches off of it. I purchased this used and it came with a protective cover over the screen. Fingerprints however are another matter. I don’t mind fingerprints, but it might drive some people crazy. Like all capacitive touch screens, it does collect all the swipes and oil from our fingers, but it’s really easy to clean.
I’m sure if I picked up a new Tablet like the Motorola Xoom with Android 3.0 Honeycomb running on it I’d be bummed about the performance on the Archos. But that’s ok. This unit does what I need without hesitation.
Let’s talk about Archos support. I had an initial issue with software on the unit that required I contact Archos. Even though I purchased this off eBay as a used item without a warranty, Archos was quick to help me with the problem I was having. They are good about both phone and email support, and I’ve used both methods of communication. Voice support came from someone who spoke clear non accented English (not that there’s anything wrong with heavily accented support personnel) that was easy to understand and knowledgeable about my issue. Waiting time on the phone was about 15 minutes. Email support provided an answer to my question about lack of N wireless within 24 hours of sending in my request.
With the trend for electronic gadgets to become cheaper over time I think this lessens the anxiety of purchasing this tablet. I bought it used for $270. Online retailers like Buy.com now currently list it new for $269.99 with no tax and free shipping. The point I’m trying to make is, if this turns out to not be “the one” - the all-encompassing electronic messiah that I was hoping for - its’ reasonable cost is bearable. It’s cheaper than an iPod, but is so much more versatile. You’ll easily be able to recoup a major portion of your purchase with a trip through eBay or Craig’s list to send it on its’ way.
But believe me; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the Archos 70. It has its’ weaknesses, but the strengths far outweigh these niggling issues that may be fixed with the next update.
All in all I really enjoy the versatility, the features, the perfect size of the value priced Archos 70 Internet Tablet. Is it an iPad killer? No. Is it a value priced tablet that will provide 90% of what you’re after? More than likely. Plus you’ll have that wad of cash left in your pocket that Apple loves to take from you.