Last week I got an Archos 101 Internet tablet for Christmas (thanks Dad) and have played with it quite a bit. I thought I'd post my impressions since so many people seem to be interested. My executive summary is that It’s a pretty cool device although there are some issues, the biggest being display quality. As soon as I powered it on I noticed that it has a big blue stuck pixel. I first tried to fix it with the JScreenFix app but it didn't work. I then tried to fix it with pressure and ended up putting a small scratch on the screen. I may see if Archos can send me a new one although they, like Apple, seem to have some sort of 3 stuck pixel policy. In my opinion they should’ve bumped up the screen quality for an extra $50. The viewing angles are pretty bad and this is where it can’t compete at all with the higher end products such as Galaxy S and Ipad. That said, the screen is usable, and because it's capacitive is mostly responsive enought to provide a good user experience.
The reason I would pay an extra $50 for a better screen is because other than the cheap screen it is a very useful and usable device. This makes the poor screen quality stand out even more. I’ve installed over 50 useful apps from the Android Market, have enjoyed watching HD video (720p), surfing the net, checking email etc. from it and even played a few games of Angry Birds. It has the Dishnetwork app and Kindle apps which are both key requirements for me, I like to be able to sling my shows to a device and this works just fine. I even got a bittorrent client app from the marketplace!
One great feature is that it has a USB “in” port so is useful without a computer to offload pictures from your digital camera etc. as well as for hooking up peripherals to. It has HDMI out so you can hook it to a big screen although there is too much fiddle factor with this since the UI sucks once you’ve connected it. I attached a mouse to it (using USB in) which worked and it was really the only way I could navigate to play videos when hooked to the TV because you otherwise still have to use the touchscreen even though there is no image on the screen…looking at the TV and touching on the screen doesn’t work well. I think you can also plug a keyboard into the USB which is nice.
Battery life is pretty good, about a day and a half of moderate use. The speakers are excellent, kind of ironic considering the screen. It is also very lightweight which I like. It has a MicroSD card slot so you can easily expand the storage which I intend to do (Baby Einstein and Sesame Street has filled up the 16GB of internal storage I have already).
Archos has a link to the Android USB driver so you can use the Android SDK to develop apps on it…I’m going to give it a shot just for fun at some point (Hello World!).
The "fiddle factor" is moderate to high. When I first got it and hit wifi it said that an update to Froyo (2.2) was available. I took the update and for about 30 minutes the touchscreen was unresponsive. I think it was building indexes or something which occupied the CPU. It was so bad that I thought my unit was broken until the problem went away. Flash is not included on the 2.2 update but you can load it after the fact. Currently it runs poorly, although from what I've read Archos is supposed to have another firmware update that will have a optimized version of Flash included. You need to sideload the marketplace which was relatively easy but would be a big minus for the grandparent crowd that wants something to just work.
I did have to pay an extra $15 to playback some of my video content as it had audio encoded in AC3 format. Archos is rather notorious for this sort of thing and it is a bit annoying but I do understand that the MPEG2/AC3 codecs are not free.
All in all the possibility for a legitimate Android tablet competitor to the Ipad looks pretty good based on this (and the Galaxy S). This is a very good first start. I’d give it an overall 7/10 which is good for the price ($299/8GB $349/16GB). CES is supposed to be filled with Android tablets so I think this one might be a short term solution as I suspect some really good stuff will be released this year.
MSFT needs to do something in this space. They need a windows app store concept for PC’s as well as tablets and they need it yesterday. Apps have really changed the game quite a bit, security in having someone vet software for approval etc. is important in this day and age given all the malware out there. They also need to get rid of the whole registry so that one can’t “junk up” a computer. Installing apps on IOS/Droid is fun, installing software on a PC is always a bit scary in that “is this going to break everything and cost me 3 hours to figure out how to fix things” way.
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