Archos is best known for its portable media players, but has now branched out into the world of netbooks. Its first effort, the Archos 10, sports a 10-inch display, pitting it against heavyweight rivals like the Asus Eee PC 1000HE and Samsung NC10. It's available to buy now for around £350 online.
The Archos 10 is based on existing netbook technology -- it's basically a rebadged Hasee MJ125 (Hasee is one of the largest computer makers in China). It measures 259 by 187 by 28mm and weighs 1.3kg, so it's roughly the same size as most of its competitors. It's a relatively attractive unit, but, despite its matte black finish, it still, somehow, manages to attract fingerprint smudges, so it may require the odd bout of cleaning.
Lift the screen, and you're greeted by a keyboard that's reminiscent of the Dell Inspiron Mini 9's. That isn't a good thing. The keys are wide enough, but they're rather squashed along the vertical axis, meaning fat-fingered typists need to be extra precise to avoid mistakes. The extra-small return and shift keys are especially fiddly, and it's worth noting that the Fn and Ctrl buttons are, in our opinion, the wrong way round. Anyone who's fond of keyboard shortcuts will tell you that the Ctrl key should always be the bottom-left-most key on a keyboard.
The squashed keyboard is as a result of a trackpad and selector buttons that take up slightly more room than is really necessary. The trackpad is comfortable to use, especially when browsing the Web, but, if it were smaller, there would have been more space for a larger keyboard. It's also worth noting that the trackpad doesn't have multitouch capability or any dedicated scrolling strips for browsing vertically or horizontally through documents.
The input-output port arrangement on the Archos 10 is par for the netbook course. Two USB slots live on the left-hand side, alongside Ethernet and VGA video-output ports, while a third USB port can be found on the right-hand side, adjacent to an SD memory card reader. The front edge plays host to microphone and headphone connectors.
The Archos 10's internal components present very few surprises. The whole lot runs off an Intel 945G-series chipset, an Intel Atom N270 CPU, 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive. In netbook terms, that's equivalent to saying a car has four wheels, five seats and an airbag.
The Archos 10's name derives from its 10-inch display, which sports the same 1,024x600-pixel resolution we expect on most machines of this size, but has the added bonus of a matte finish. This reduces the likelihood of unwanted reflections on the screen, meaning the Archos 10 can be used comfortably indoors and outdoors.
We were rather hoping the Archos 10's wireless capabilities would give it an edge over the opposition. Unfortunately, it's merely average in this regard, as it has 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and 10/100Mbps Ethernet -- all standard stuff. Those who require high-speed 802.11n Wi-Fi will need to look at more advanced machines, such as the 1000HE.
The Archos 10 ships with a copy of Windows XP Home Edition and currently has no Linux option. You've got to give credit to Archos, though, as it's taken the time to install BitDefender Antivirus 2009, which will keep the Archos 10 protected from viruses and phishing attacks, plus a copy of Parental Filter. The latter is only freeware, but we value its presence. You also get a copy of vTuner, which lets you access approximately 11,000 radio and TV stations broadcasting over the Internet, and IBM Lotus Symphony, a free office-productivity suite.
The Archos 10 performs just as well -- or as badly, depending on your point of view -- as the majority of netbooks. Its 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU and 1GB of RAM are perfectly fine for browsing the Web, streaming Internet video from BBC iPlayer, watching movies and listening to audio files, and it only slows down when you try to multitask excessively. It managed to score 1,401 in the PCMark05 benchmark test -- a similar score to that achieved by the vast majority of netbooks with this specification.
The Archos 10's Achilles heel is its battery life. It ships with a low-capacity 2,200mAh three-cell battery pack, which pales in comparison to the 8,700mAh unit supplied with the 1000HE. It's no surprise, therefore, that the Archos 10 lasted a paltry 1 hour and 35 minutes in the intensive Battery Eater Classic test, and 2 hours and 21 minutes in the less intensive Reader's test. The 1000HE, in comparison, lasted 5 hours and 48 minutes in the intensive test and 10 hours and 32 minutes in the Reader's test.
There's hardly any point in buying the Archos 10, unless you can find it for less than the £350 asking price. It's simply average in most areas and falls on its face in the crucial area of battery life. Get yourself the all-conquering Asus Eee PC 1000HE instead -- it's almost the same price and better-equipped.
Edited by Charles Kloet