Here comes Apple's Android tablet competition. Along with today's official reveal of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Archos has taken the wraps off not one but a full line of five small and large tablets. The star: a 10.1-inch challenger to the iPad that's $200 cheaper.
At 16 ounces, the Archos 10-1 is a shocking lightweight compared to iPad's 24-ounce heft, but it feels firm thanks to a stainless steel frame. The 16:9 screen is far better suited for video watching — you lose screen real estate when watching a widescreen movie on the iPad — but it becomes a disconcertingly long legal-sized screen for book reading.
While the Archos 10-1 offers all the physical attributes of the iPad and more (just sans iPad's stylish panache) at a lower price, it seems immediately attractive. But the Android tablets lose on apps. Archos has its own app store (www.applib.com), listing apps compatible and approved for use with the Archos tablets (including that terrible $200 home tablet from earlier this year). Right now, that's only around 5,000, a mere fraction of the total Android app universe; by comparison, there are 25,000 iPad-specific apps and of course all iPhone apps run on iPad. This app limitation extends to other Android tabs, and will initially cripple all supposed iPad "killers."
Rounding out the details on all five Archos Android tab models:
- The 2-8 (the model number indicates the 16:9 screen size) with 4GB at $100.
- The 3-2 with 8GB of memory, a 1.3MP camera and VGA video recorder at $150.
- The 4-3, the closest analog to the new iPod Touch, with 16GB, a microSD slot, HDMI mini out, HD video recording and a 2MP still camera running on an 800MHz chip for $200 (comparable to an 8GB Touch at $229 or 32GB at $299).
- The 7-0, with 16GB of flash for $275 and a whopping 250GB hard drive for $350.
- The 10-1 comes in two versions, 8GB for $300 or 16GB for $350.
The two larger tabs have a multi-touch capacitive screen, microSD slot, HDMI minijack, front-facing camera with video chat software coming later (Skype video compatible but not Skype video).
All five offer Wi-Fi (b, g and n), but no 3G like the Samsung Galaxy Tab. All five also have an accelerometer, and auto-360° orientation, just like the iPad. All will be upgradable at some point soon to Android 2.2 (Froyo), with its voice-control for the touchscreen phobic.
The 2-8 is available for pre-order now; Archos says all the other models will be available by the end of this month or the beginning of October.