Archos 101 XS tablet review

A 10in hybrid Android tablet, which starts at £300. But can the 101 XS offer business users functionality?

That's not the only limitation. The base has no rubber feet, which means the Archos often slides about a smooth desk, and marks appear on its white aluminium base whenever it's used. We also noticed a couple of irritating software bugs, with keys performing abnormally in the Gmail app an issue that Archos will hope to address in a forthcoming firmware update.

Performance

At 8mm thick and with better build quality than the Coverboard, there's more to like about the 101 XS itself. Our favourite part is undeniably the OMAP 4470 processor, which is a more powerful version of older OMAP chips used in previous Archos tablets. Its score of 1,342 in the Geekbench benchmark isn't far behind the 1,550 of the Google Nexus 7 and the 1,777 of the Asus, and it backed up this reasonable performance in other tests: a result of 4,071 in the Quadrant benchmark isn't much slower than the 4,941 of the Asus.

Combine those decent benchmark scores with Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and you've got a smooth front-end, responsive menus and no sign of slowdown or juddering. There's enough power here to put paid to the toughest business and office applications, and the OMAP chip also has the grunt to handle Google Play's toughest games: Reckless Racing 2, Dead Trigger and ShadowGun ran without a hitch.

Archos hasn't tampered with stock Android much. Its proprietary media player will handle files that Android's stock player has traditionally found hard to handle, including 1080p MKVs. Archos also offers an app to download to your Android smartphone to use as a remote control useful if you're going to use the 101 XS's mini-HDMI output to watch content on a television.

Display

The screen can't match the displays we've seen from high-end tablets. The 1,280 x 800 resolution pales in comparison to the Asus' 1,920 x 1,080 screen, and quality is middling: the brightness of 225cd/m2 means viewing the Archos outside is problematic, but the contrast ratio of 1,250:1 delivers accurate, vivid visuals when the screen can be seen properly.

Archos 101 XS -  Front

The 101 XS has a decent resolution, but screen brightness and clarity is not as good as rival devices

The Coverboard's slim profile means Archos hasn't been able to fit a second battery into the base. The single power pack in the Archos lasted for just over eight hours in our tests, which lags behind the fourteen hour lifespan of the two batteries included in the Asus.

The rest of the specification falls in line with what we'd expect from a budget tablet. Storage extends to 16GB on-board with a microSD card slot that can handle up to 128GB of additional capacity, and there's 1GB of RAM. There's 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 4, and both USB 2 and mini-HDMI ports around the chassis, but there's also one major omission: no rear-facing camera. A 720p front-facing unit is capable of handling video conferencing.

Overall

The Archos has one trump card up its sleeve its 250 exc VAT. This makes it less than half the price of the 600 Asus and, for that money, we're willing to somewhat forgive its poor keyboard. After all, it's a reasonably powerful budget tablet, build quality is good, and the Coverboard is a neat idea that comes with the added bonus of protecting the screen.

If you'd like an Android tablet with a keyboard, this is worth considering if the Asus is simply too expensive.

Verdict

The budget tablet market is hotting up thanks to Google’s Nexus 7, and Archos has done well to offer something different with the 101 XS. In practice, though, the Coverboard and its keyboard don’t work particularly well – its quirks and shortcomings mean you won’t be getting up to speed any time soon. That makes it difficult to recommend as a device for any serious work but, as a budget 10.1in Android tablet, there’s a lot to like about the Archos.

PROCESSOR: 1.5GHz OMAP 4470 RAM: 1GB STORAGE: 32GB SCREEN: 1,280 x 800 10.1 TFT CONNECTIVITY: 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 PORTS: USB 2, mini-HDMI OS: Android 4 DIMENSIONS: 273 x 170 x 13mm (WxDxH) WEIGHT: 800g WARRANTY: 1yr RTB

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