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Archos 7 Home Tablet hands-on

CNET Senior Editor Donald Bell give his first impressions on the Archos 7 Home Tablet, an inexpensive, Android-based competitor of the Apple iPad.

Photo of the Archos 7 Home Tablet.
You can, of course, use it outside your home. It won't disintegrate in the sun, or anything. Donald Bell/CNET

The first thing you should know about the Archos 7 Home Tablet: it is cheap. The Android-powered Apple iPad contender has a 7-inch resistive touch screen, a 600MHz ARM 9 processor, and 8GB of internal memory; however, the Archos doesn't have the muscle to beat Apple on specs. But with a retail price of $199, it may be able to win over your wallet.

Due to hit the market on June 1, and already available for preorder on Amazon, the Archos 7 Home Tablet is the first Android-based tablet on the market with a 7-inch screen. It's also the first time Archos has released a media tablet like this that runs 100 percent Android (version 1.5) with no intervening software for handling multimedia playback or to assist with e-mail.

Archos' tablet isn't using a Google-approved implementation of Android, since it lacks many of the buttons and smartphone features needed to meet its requirements. As such, the Archos 7 Home Tablet doesn't work with all Android applications and Google's Android market isn't installed on the device. An Archos-created app store called AppsLib is included, which is identical to the store offered on last year's Archos 5 Android Tablet.

I had a chance to play with the Archos 7 Home Tablet for a few minutes, and to be perfectly candid, there isn't much to be excited about. It's slow. The screen isn't terribly responsive, which isn't helped by the fact that most apps take a double-tap to launch. Its Wi-Fi is limited to 802.11b and 802.11g. There's no Bluetooth support. No support for DRM audio or video. No Flash support (although future Android updates may bring this). It can't even work with existing Archos tablet accessories, such as external battery packs or DVR docks.

But did I mention it's $199? For the price of an iPod Touch, you get a 7-inch, antireflective screen with an 800x480-pixel resolution, multimedia playback, Web, e-mail, photos, and a ton of Android app goodness. It's the price that makes this compelling. Of course, check back in a few weeks, and I'll let you know if performance gripes make the Archos 7 worth buying at any price.