Last week, we reviewed the Archos 5 Internet Tablet – a device that surprised us by being quite competent. In today’s review, we’ll take a closer look at the newest Android powered tablet from Archos, to determine whether bigger really is better.
On paper, the Archos 7 Home Tablet seems to be quite decent – a 7″ touch screen, USB host, 8GB of storage, a MicroSD card slot and the Android operating system. Sadly, “on paper” is where the good news ends.
The hardware is a real disappointment – it feels cheap, there is a small hole on the front where someone had obviously planned to install a webcam, and even the good things carried over from the Archos 5 have been screwed up – like the kickstand. On the Archos 5, this kickstand is a sturdy metal leg, but on the 7, it is a flimsy piece of plastic.
Then there is the screen – In order to keep the price down, Archos obviously decided on a fairly cheap screen, but in doing so, they turned the device into a major disappointment. Colors look dim, the touch sensitivity is weak and inaccurate.
Sadly, the worst part of the unit may be its software – the Archos 7 Home Tablet runs on Android 1.5 – a version that is well over a year old. And this means you miss out on a lot of the features included in current Android version. And – like the Archos 5, the 7 lacks access to the Google app market – opting to offer downloads through the awful Archos applib. This means the majority of good apps for Android are unavailable. Of course, there are ways around this, but the extra effort involved may not be worth it.
The unit comes with a very basic assortment of apps – browser, email (but no Gmail app), an e-book reader, music/video player, file browser, global time app and photo browser/photo frame.
Performance is also a major issue – some basic actions (like opening the video app) take almost 20 seconds – inexcusable on any kind of tablet. Opening a similar app on my Nexus One takes no more than 2 seconds.
The Archos 7 Home Tablet comes with an Archos developed music and video player – both apps are pretty competent, albeit a tad basic. Audio is great – thanks to speakers on each side of the screen. Sadly, in their infinite wisdom, Archos removed physical volume control buttons, which means you need to tap the on-screen volume controls.
Like the Archos 5, the 7 has a good array of media format support – including MP3, OGG, FLAC,APE, WAV and ACC in the music department and H.264, Realvideo and MPEG-4 (.avi, .mp4, .mkv, .mov and .flv) in the video department.
I also noticed that the video player constantly “forgot” to play movies in expanded width – so each time I opened a video clip, I had to resize it. Not a massive inconvenience, but still something that should be fixed.
The Archos 7 Home Tablet feels fairly well made – most of the front and back are covered in polished metal. The 8GB of memory is sufficient for a couple of movies and songs – but you’ll need to invest in a MicroSD card if you want to carry more.
Unlike most other Android devices, the 7 lacks an accelerometer – this may not seem like a huge deal, but some apps insist on starting in portrait mode, and there is no way to rotate them.
Inside the unit is a 600MHz processor, 128MB of ram and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. It lacks the video output options of the Archos 5 (and we could not confirm that is even has any kind of video output available). A “USB host” option is advertised, but you’ll need to invest in a separate cable for this, because it shares the MicroUSB port on the device. With USB host, you’ll be able to add a USB keyboard and/or mouse. Personally, I would have preferred to see Bluetooth instead, but that is sadly lacking on the 7.
Unlike the iPad, the Archos 7 Home Tablet is the perfect size for watching a movie on a plane. Its built in (flimsy) kickstand mean you won’t have to invest in a case/stand.
Archos rate the battery at 42 hours of music playback, and 7 hours of video – making it surprisingly decent given its lightweight design.
This is a tough one – at $199, you get a fairly decent 7″ media player – something you won’t find from any other brand name company. But that $199 also comes with a bunch of compromises. The screen, lack of Android market and lack of video output make it a pretty weak option in my opinion. That said – if you just want the most basic of devices that can play music and video, you can’t really find anything better right now (at least not at this price point).
Android tablets are going to be very popular – there are at least 20 of them on their way later this year, but if you can’t wait for them, this $200 investment won’t be too disappointing – assuming you only buy it for media playback or Internet browsing. A purchase expecting a full Android experience will let you down, so adjust your expectations accordingly.