The Archos 70 Internet tablet is yet another Android Tablet that was rushed out the door before Android was “officially” ready to be put on a tablet device. Thus I have been very hesitant to really look at these tablets. However, unlike many of the unfinished, unpolished and usually unresponsive tablets that came before it, this little device is actually functional.
Despite what Apple leader Steve Jobs thinks, there is certainly a market that is ripe for 7″ tablets. Now, whether the Archos 70 is the device for you, really depends on what you want to do with it. This one was a Xmas present for my daughter who initially asked for an iPod Touch. Since we are an Apple free household (sans one stupid 2nd Gen iPod Nano I haven’t gotten my wife to give up), I needed an alternative, and in this mode… a game device that is bigger than the Touch, but still allows her to play games, play music and do other such things, the device has been a winner. As a book reader that also does a couple of other “tricks” (like play backgammon, which my wife seems to be addicted to on this device), and thanks to its light weight is up to the task without you having to work out to strengthen you arms.
At around $329 the Archos 70 (for the 8GB Flash Drive model that I have, there is also a 250GB hard drive version available that runs about $339) is certainly not bottom of the barrel cheap, and was more expensive than the iPod touch, but that is because it sports a fantastic 800 x 600 capacitive display that is responsive to the touch, smooth to operate, and light enough that you are not going to develop carpal tunnel trying to hold it up. Also worth noting, the Archos 70 supports MicroSD cards, so you can expand your storage later by popping in an inexpensive MicroSD.
The device came with Android 2.1 out of the box, but upon setup upgraded to 2.2, providing it with Flash capabilities when browsing the web (something you will NEVER get from an iPad). The web is still a little cramped at this resolution and size, but it is still far better an experience than you would get with a phone. Browsing the web over the wi-fi connection was a bit slower than a desktop computer, but equal to or faster than any phone browser, and while you still needed to scroll a bit to see some web pages, it was still a satisfactory browsing experience. Checking e-mail, Twitter and Facebook were all relatively easy and painless as well, but Google Docs and Spreadsheets was finicky.
Archos also included a front facing (VGA) camera and built in microphone, so you can Skype, use Video Chat with GTalk or Yahoo!IM and other Chat and IM programs. The VGA camera doesn’t provide the best display,but is satisfactory for a quick messaging chat or letting GrandMa see and talk to the kids.
Another nice feature built in (that I doubt anyone will use) is the HD output. You can run HD video and display it on any HD television (additional cable not included of course). I have this ability on my Droid phone as well, but at least my Droid can RECORD HD content. The Archos can’t, so you are (presumably) going to copy HD content onto this device, to show it on another? I guess I see what they are trying to do, I just can’t see it being used in this way.
So, I guess the question remains… is this tablet for me? If you want it to read a book, play a game, keep lists on, light web browsing and playing games, they this might be worth taking a look. If you are looking for something better than an iPod Touch but not a full blown tablet, then yes this a good device to put in the running.
Many parents may consider the $329 price steep for a “toy” but most kids would get far more out of this than a Nintendo DS or PlayStation Portable or even an iPod Touch. It may not be an “iPad killer” but is certainly kinder on your wallet, and much more portable as well.
If however, you want it for heaving browsing, document editing, or laptop replacement, then this is certainly NOT the device you want. In reality, in these cases, you will need to wait for a device like the Motorola Xoom or LG G-Slate or other Android 3.0 (aka Honeycomb) devices. For heavy use, the better stuff is on the way, and hold your purchasing power until they arrive.