The Archos 70b is a middle-of-the-road Honeycomb tablet with a design that hardly sets our hearts alight. But, the small form-factor (and price) is enticing
Although Archos has never been able to break through into the top-tier of the tablet market, the French company has been happily turning out media devices since 2002. The Archos 70b internet tablet is an updated version of the earlier Archos 70 Android tablet that hit the shelves last year.
Touted as the first Android Honeycomb tablet available under £180, the Archos 70b is pitching itself as a media device more than anything. The small 7-inch form factor and solid battery life mean this could be just the right device for watching a movie during dreary bus journeys and airport delays. But does it offer enough to make it one of the best tablets around?
Archos 70b: Build
Build quality is something Archos has varied at over the years, harking back to the days of a head-to-head rivalry with the Apple iPod. The Archos 70b has a glossy, brushed-metal body that looks attractive, but in kind of a bland way. And, of course the annoying side-effect of the glossy surface is that it attracts the kind of smudgy fingerprints we've all grown used to seeing on our tech.
Archos has shunned any physical buttons on the front of the device which gives it a nice minimalist exterior - and the built-in kickstand at the back is a winning idea. Pull it out and the device stands all by itself, allowing you to kick back and enjoy a video or album – why haven't we seen this on other media tablets?
Archos 70b: Screen
A big selling point of the Archos 70b is the higher resolution capacitive screen – stepping up the pixel count from 800 x 400 on the original Archos 70 to 1024 x 600, capable of 720p high definition. Unfortunately, we found this to be patchy with some high definition content playing well while other videos were clunky.
The screen itself isn't too reflective, so you can watch it comfortably in well-lit environments. But, understandably given the size, it also isn't as bright as you'll find on a larger, more expensive tablet such as the Apple iPad 2 or Motorola Xoom 2.
Archos 70b: Android Honeycomb
The Archos 70b arrived touting Android Honeycomb, which is a definite step up from the Gingerbread OS that dominates sub-£200 tablets. Google designed this version specifically for tablets and it shows. You get five homescreens to fill with widgets and apps as well as the option to customise background, sounds and layout.
You're not spoilt for choice either as, at last count, the Android Marketplace has around 400,000 apps for you to download and enjoy. Although the 8GB of on-board storage limits the amount of media you can load onto the Archos 70b, there's a built-in MicroSD card slot for bulking it up.
Archos 70b: Performance
Nestled inside the Archos 70b is an ARM Cortex A8 processor running at 1.2GHz and supported by 512MB of RAM. These specs are enough to produce a reliable, if not lightning-fast, experience. There are hints of lag when moving between homescreens or opening applications but we never experienced a freeze.
Given the pocketbook size of this tablet, connectivity is limited to a Mini-USB and Mini-HDMI slot, along with the aforementioned MicroSD card slot. On the wireless side of things you've got 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, both of which are a must in our book.
At around half the price of tablets like the Apple iPad 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, performance is what we'd expect here – up to the basics, but not much beyond.
Archos 70b: Battery
The Lithium Polymer battery inside the Archos 70b stood up well to scrutiny, lasting the best part of a day during casual usage – browsing the web, tapping out the occasional email and playing music. When we looped some high definition footage, the Archos 70b ran for 206 minutes before giving out.
This isn't a bad score and combined with the portability of the smaller size, makes it actually a very good option for regular commuters or travellers.
Archos 70b: Verdict
The diminuitive Archos 70b internet tablet is a mixed bag. We appreciated the look and feel of the device, as well as the Android Honeycomb operating system and battery life. But we just couldn't stop ourselves being slightly underwhelmed by the performance – not to mention the troubles we experience with high definition video.
Still, the inclusion of the Android Market means there's no shortage of apps to install and this adds value to the tablet. Given the size and the price of the Archos 70b it could be an attractive purchase for anyone regularly travelling or on a budget. However, due to its shortcomings performance-wise, we'd suggest this as a secondary device rather than a first choice machine.
Archos 70b availability: Now
Archos 70b price: £175