When Apple and Samsung were just in the planning stages of their respective tablets, Archos was already knee deep in it. Android was still just an idea Andy Rubin hadn’t quite fully fleshed out, when Archos introduced the Archos 5, a 3G equipped Portable Media Player with a browser and the kind of codec support that many of today's popular tablets can’t match. Tablets seemed like a logical next step for Android, and rumors of an iOS tablet had been brewing since before the iPhone, but it was Archos that made some of the earliest moves into this space. All this to say, minimal market penetration not withstanding, Archos deserves attention because of their longevity and persistence. 

We looked at the Archos G9 Turbo devices just a few months ago, and came away . . . impressed. Lofty promises of being “the world’s fastest tablets” haunted Archos to some extent, because the claims were made about a SKU that would take a nearly 8 months to finally see the light of day. In the interim, NVIDIA released its Tegra 3 SoC, in the ASUS Transformer Prime, and brought quad-core tablets into the conversation. We couldn’t quibble too much with Archos claims, though. Through some impressive refinement of the software, their two 1.5 GHz A9 cores were able to outperform almost every other Android tablet on the market, and even the aging SGX540 accompanying those cores found it still had legs (once it was properly clocked). While Archos had gotten the hardware and software right, they’d not done so well in design. The G9s were pedestrian at best. Dark grey, large bezels, plump and plain, these weren’t going to ever be described as pretty. Two out of three ain’t bad, and with pricing that undercut much of the competition, at the expense of refinement, it wasn’t hard to recommend to the media hungry tablet buyer. 

Solid internals, and software gets you most of the way there, but what do you do for the follow up? In Archos case they made it prettier. Say hello, to the Archos 101 XS. The entire product line will be referred to as the Gen10 XS, reminding us that this is the 10th generation of Archos tablets. I almost prefer 'Gen10' as a brand than the XS moniker. That said, those two letters do an effective job of describing the new tablets in a few different ways. We’ll start with the most obvious one. Where the G9 was drab and chunky, the XS (think Extra Small) is svelte and much more stylish. The silver on white body is attractive and though not unibody or made from some exotic ‘polycarbonate’ the fact that it’s a matte plastic feels much better to the touch than glossy plastics. The silver trim feels a bit cheaper than the white body, and scratched a bit before I could even get glamour shots done (from what I’m not sure). The design is a great advance over the G9s, and a satisfying departure from the staid designs that generally make it to market. Now, if something could have been done about those bezels.

The assortment of ports on the device is mostly unchanged, the left featuring the bulk of it with microUSB (for data and power), audio, miniHDMI and microSD card access. That microSD slot is a bit tricky; a large enough gap exists around the slot itself so that a careless user could actually slip the SD card between the frame and the body of the reader (yeah, that happened). The power button and activity LED now join the volume button on the right side of the device, and both buttons are quite a bit thinner than their forbears, and a bit squishy for that. The top of the device remains bare, and the back is featureless, which means both the USB slot for the optional 3G stick is gone, as is the kickstand. The bottom now has a set of pogo pins and a couple of magnets, more on those later. The front facing and lone camera remains to the left of the screen along with the mic, while to the right is the single speaker. 

ASUS Tablet Specification Comparison
  Archos 101 XS ASUS Transformer Pad 300 Series Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 ASUS Nexus 7
Dimensions 273 x 170 x 7.9mm 263 x 180.8 x 9.9mm 256.6 x 175.3 x 9.7mm 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm
Chassis Plastic Plastic Plastic Plastic + Rubber back
Display 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 MVA 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 IPS 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 PLS 7" 1280 x 800 IPS
Weight 600g 635g 580.6g 340g
Processor

1.5GHz TI OMAP 4470 (2 x Cortex A9)

NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30L - 4 x Cortex A9)

1.0GHz TI OMAP 4430 (2 x Cortex A9) 1.3 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30L - 4 x Cortex A9)
Memory 1GB 1GB 1GB 1 GB
Storage 16GB + microSD slot 16GB/32GB + microSD slot 16GB + microSD slot 8 GB / 16 GB
Battery 25Whr 22Whr 26Whr 16 Whr
Pricing $399 $379/$399 $399 $199/$249

 

When it hits retail, in mid-September, the XS will come in at $399, including a keyboard case we’ll talk about later. This is a pretty decent amount of kit for a pretty reasonable amount of money. At that price it’s competing with the still available iPad 2, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 10.1” and the ASUS Transformer Pad TF300. We haven’t run the Tab 2 through the ringer, but it shares internals with the inexplicably expensive Motorola Xyboard, so we’ll consider it in the Tab 2’s stead. So, that’s how it looks and how it fits in the market, let’s see how it performs.

Display and Accessories
POST A COMMENT

44 Comments

View All Comments

  • aryonoco - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    Hi Jason,

    Fine article, but there were a few grammatical errors in your piece that shouldn't have gone beyond your editor:

    "the kind of codec support that many of todays popular tablets" should be "today's popular tablets".

    "Archos has worked to tweak there Android" should be "their Android"

    "does not extend to the stock player, only Archos own player" should either be "Archos' own player" or "Archos's own player" (depending on which style guide you follow).

    Thanks
    Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Missed a few others, yourself. I'll try and catch the rest before you do. Cheers.

    Jason
    Reply
  • rarson - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    in the AnandTech comments section. Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    If any of you guys are professional commenters let me know. :) Reply
  • Charbax - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    Archos 101 XS with keyboard: $399
    Asus Transformer Pad TF300 with keyboard: $529 (+33%)
    Acer Iconia Tab A700 with keyboard: $599 (+50%)
    Asus Transformer Prime with keyboard: $649 (+63%)
    iPad3 with keyboard: $599 (+50%)
    Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 with keyboard: $599 (+50%)
    Microsoft Surface with keyboard: $599 (likely) (+50%)

    I think Archos likely will release a firmware to fix the power consumption for video and games. Also consider video games need to be fully optimized for SGX544 before they can perform as well as for example on Tegra3. This is likely happening faster than some would think, I think OMAP4470 is going to win Q4 2012 just as OMAP4430/4460 won Q4 2011 (Galaxy Nexus, Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, Motorola Razr/Atrix2 etc..) I expect OMAP4470 is the platform in upcoming Galaxy Nexus Superior, Kindle Fire 2, likely also the next range of Motorola, LG and some other Samsung devices among other. The more devices means the better software optimizations Archos can automatically get for Android features also. OMAP4 pretty much is the reference design for ICS and JB, this is likely to continue even as Google "opens up" to all other SoCs and manufacturers with the PDK.
    Reply
  • voss,seal - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I followed your "advice" on the previous Archos model. So I bought it, I'm in the process of returning my third Archos 101 - in a period of four months - because of touchscreen failures. I'd rather pay more for a functioning tablet. Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I'm truly sorry you had a bad experience with the G9s. There's one thing that's much harder for us to report on than simply discussing our experiences with a given device: longterm durability. Build quality is a hurdle that Archos has to address, along with improving the turn around time for repairs or replacements.
    I think one issue is that very few of these devices end up our daily drivers, even if the review samples stay with us for a while so that we can follow up on software updates. Part of that, is that many of us don't have a reason to have a daily driver tablet. Readers that have followed our iPad coverage probably recall that almost every review features a section bemoaning the extent to which the prior generation has remained in a drawer, unused. The tablet isn't yet an essential device. It's nice to have, and I enjoy using whatever I have on hand to watch videos and play the occasional game. But it's not part of my daily life.
    In the meanwhile, I do apologize you've had as much trouble with failures. In the future, whether we recommended it to you or not, please let us know when a product you've bought has hit 'lemon' status. We appreciate the feed back.

    Jason
    Reply
  • Charbax - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    I don't know what kind of problem voss thinks he has had. I've been using Tablets nearly every single day since February 2005. Initially the 3.5" Archos PMA400 with Qtopia Linux apps and WiFi tethering then already. Then other and only Archos devices with few Chinese cheap tablets to test. Since September 2010, every day I use the Archos 70 Internet Tablet when I go outside, it fits my jacket pocket. I upgraded it to Archos 70b Internet Tablet in January and I've been testing a few ICS soon Jelly Bean $50 tablets from Shenzhen since April, of course all those are 7" or smaller so that I can bring them with me every time I go outside, use them every time I'm in a bus or train or airplane, the 7" Tablet is just so much better than a phone size as it fits 2x to 3x more screen surface area, better for web browsing, better for apps, games, video playback (catching up all recorded/downloaded TV to not have to watch TV only at home) etc. This Archos 101 XS I think may allow me to use 10.1" for the first time as a laptop replacement. I could have spent $830 on a Transformer Prime with keyboard and Fry's Taxes in Las Vegas 8 months ago, but I did not want to pay that much, I thought it totally ridiculous to pay that much for an ARM Powered Laptop, those aren't supposed to cost nearly as much as an Ultrabook. I even think $400 for Archos 101 XS is still expensive, but when you compare with the competition, it's 33% to 63% cheaper. Sure enough, at $299 with keyboard I think the Archos 101 XS should be a huge fenomenon and everyone considering a 10" tablet or netbook/ultrabook should then consider it. Especially if/when Android gets optimized for Laptop/Desktop use, with some new "Desktop Mode" in Android, perhaps Google should just release such a Home Replacement that re-arranges things a bit optimized for Laptop Productivity, re-optimizing Chrome on Android just a bit so it's exactly like Chrome on any Laptop/Desktop, and also an app like Ubuntu on Android would be awesome for productivity. I'm waiting to see if Archos and TI can fix the governors to make sure battery life on its 6000mAh battery really is above 10 hours. And I'm looking forward to see if I can use Archos 101 XS to replace my $1000 Toshiba z830 ultrabook for most of my on-the-move Laptop productivity usage. Reply
  • tbutler - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    I'm also concerned about build quality; the one other review I've seen on the 101 XS so far (the Verge one) cited significant issues there, especially with the screen. From the description, it sounded like they didn't use enough protection for the LCD panel, so you get typical LCD-pressure distortions when you put pressure on the screen from the front *or* back. Doesn't sound too encouraging to me. Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    If OMAP4 is the reference for JB, why was the first JB device based on Tegra 3?

    The likelihood of a Q4 "win" for it looks unlikely given the probable arrival of at least one A15-based device by then, alongside proper SnapDragon S4 quad-core devices.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now