The Archos 101 is the 10-inch tablet Android needed in 2010. Thin, light, and affordably priced at $299 (8GB) and $399 (16GB), the Archos 101 is the first decent presentation of Android 2.2 we've seen on an iPad-size screen.
Unfortunately, Archos' timing is terrible. The 10-inch tablets making headlines these days are all running Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), and the Archos 101 is making no promises to support Google's latest, greatest OS. Still, if you're looking for a 10-inch tablet--you need it now, and you need it cheap--the Archos 101 isn't a bad way to go.
Unlike most of the Android tablets we've seen in the wake of the iPad, the Archos 101 actually looks good next to Apple's tablet. Comparably sized at about 10.5 inches wide, 6 inches high, and 0.33 inch thick, the Archos 101 feels like a real tablet--not an oversize smartphone.
The first thing we noticed about the Archos 101 is how light it is. At around 16 ounces, it weighs about as much as a pint of beer and is noticeably lighter than the iPad. How Archos was able to achieve this light weight is no mystery, though. Instead of the aluminum-and-glass construction used on the iPad, the Archos design is mostly plastic and its construction easily bends under pressure. Granted, tablets are fairly fragile devices inherently, but the 101 wins no points for ruggedness.
Another design detail that experienced Android users will notice is the Archos 101's lack of tactile navigation buttons. Perhaps a prediction of Google's moving all navigation controls to the touch screen in Android 3.0, Archos has customized Android 2.2 with onscreen controls for home, back, and menu, running down the right edge of the screen. The end result is actually ideal for tablets, since it allows the navigation controls to reorient regardless of how the device is held.
Archos also goes a little off the Android script when it comes to connectivity. For better or worse, all of the 101's ports are crowded onto the left edge of the device--and, boy, there are a ton of ports. You get standard sockets for headphones, a power adapter, and a Micro-USB port for syncing to a computer. Archos also throws in a Mini-HDMI port for output to a TV, and a standard USB host port for connecting an external keyboard or thumbdrive.
Also included on the Archos 101 is a front-facing camera that can shoot both video and stills at a VGA resolution (640x480 pixels). A Fring video chat application comes preinstalled that will work with the camera, along with the pinhole mic found on the same side.
A kickstand is also included, located on the back. The stand folds out from the middle and folds out far enough to prop up the tablet at a slight (30-degree) angle, which helps with touch-screen typing, but can also be used to keep the tablet upright for videos or a photo slideshow.
As far as software goes, you're looking at an Android 2.2 device, minus the conveniences of Google's proprietary apps, including Android Marketplace, Gmail, and Maps. You get the stock Android 2.2 e-mail app and Web browser, along with Archos' remixed versions of the Android music player, photo viewer, and video player.
As a peace gesture, Archos offers its own app store called AppsLib, for those looking to go through the motions. As we've noted in previous Archos tablet reviews, the content just isn't there. It's like taking a trip through a flea market. There are plenty of knockoffs and hastily produced games and demos, but the brand names aren't around.
What's more interesting are the hardware features. The Archos 101 doesn't offer cellular connections or GPS, but you do get 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a few rare features that may win some over. For example, you get a full-size USB port that supports connected keyboards and thumbdrives. You won't find that on a high-end Android tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and certainly not on the iPad. There's also a Mini-HDMI port that mirrors the onscreen view to a TV--perfect for playing videos or showing off Web sites.