Archos 101 XS Tablet Looks Great, But Suffers From Quality Issues

Priced at $400 USD, the keyboard-equipped Android 4.0.4 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”) powered Archos 101 XS presents an intriguing option for buyers who might be unwilling to pay the extra for a Transformer Prime (going price on, Inc. (AMZN): $490, plus $150 for the keyboard/dock) and who want a bigger tablet than the only tablet to currently pack Android 4.1 JellyBean, ASUTek Computer Inc. (TPE:2357) and Google Inc.’s (GOOG) Nexus 7.

France-based Archos S.A. (EPA:JXR) has been making Android tablets for some time now, but most of them have had the cheap look and feel of the Chinese clones that you’ll find literring Amazon.  The new tablet changes that in a big way.

Reviewers at both Engadget and The Verge were drooling over the tablet’s crisp white finish, thin (0.31-inch without keyboard; 0.51-inch with keyboard) profile, and slick CoverPad.  Very similar to the cover/keyboard in Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT) upcoming Surface, the CoverPad offers both a magnet cover and a keyboard that’s easier to install than the Transformer/Transformer Prime’s sliding mechanism, according tot he sites (although Engadget criticized the cramped keyboard).

(click to enlarge) [Image Source: Archos]
The device comes with:

  • 1280×800 5-finger multitouch display
  • 1.5 GHz dual-core OMAP 4470 from Texas Instruments, Inc. (TXN)
  • 1 GB DRAM
  • 16 GB NAND flash memory (internal)
  • microSD expansion (up to 64 GB)
  • 720p front-facing camera
  • mini HDMI
  • USB 2.0 via proprietary connector
  • 6,800 mAh battery
  • Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Mono speaker
  • OfficeSuite Pro.

Both sites praised the overall look and price of device, but then quickly turned to attacking its build quality which had some issues.  Both sites blasted the camera as “kind of terrible”, to quote one of the reviews.  

The reports varied slightly on some of the other features — while both agreed that the screen’s lower resolution was a byproduct of the bargain pricing, The Verge reported serious temporary black spot issues, which the Endgadget review did not, inidicating that the former perhaps received a unit with a faulty display.  The Verge took issue with the tinny-sounding speaker, while Engadget criticized the short (5.5 hours during intense video playback) battery life.

(click to enlarge) [Image Source: Archos]
If Archos can clean up the quality issues in some of the initial units, it could have a winner on its hands, despite the inherent downsides of this budget-crafted design.

A step up from a bare-bones tablet like the Kindle Fire (from Amazon), the Archos will compete most directly with Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.’s (KSC:005930) Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 ($400 USD) and the ASUSTek Transformer Pad TF300 ($379 USD).  The latter has a quad-core processor, while the former has a much better battery life — nearly twice the life of the Archos design.

(click to enlarge) [Image Source: Archos]
In other words, Archos’ biggest asset is its keyboard and its looks, but it’s not the only bargain out there, and its hardware is not the best either at this price point, though not that bad either.

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