We’ll start with that most vital of tablet components, the display. We had a chance to chat with Archos ahead of this review to nail down some details about the new line. Seems that they still had several of that same 10.1” 1280x800 MVA panel, so we’re actually seeing the same display as in the G9s. We weren’t entirely dissatisfied with the G9 displays, though we did experience some poor contrast and odd viewing angles in the 101 G9 Turbo. The backlight seemed to be at fault in the contrast issue, but MVA panels should have good viewing angles so the imperfect ones we were seeing were surprising. In the XS both issues seem to have been resolved, and I suspect that has something to do with a different touch layer and backlight. 

Display Brightness

Display Brightness

Display Contrast

The rest of the results aren’t far off from the prior generations displays. MVA panels sacrifice brightness for good black levels and contrast. Color reproduction takes a pretty significant hit, though it’s unclear if that can’t be chocked up to software. Like the G9s then, this will suffice for watching a movie or playing a game inside, but take it outside and things could get pretty rough. 

Keyboard and Accessories

The G9 Turbos hadn’t yet launched when we started hearing about Archos impossibly thin next-generation tablets, which would be a Transformer competitor with an ultra-thin keyboard dock. This, it turns out was a pretty solid rumor. I question though the validity that this is a true Transformer competitor. The Transformer’s dock creates a clamshell style device, effectively a netbook, and benefits from additional connectivity and an additional battery inside the dock. The Archos 101 XS draws from countless “keyboard cases” for the iPad and other tablets; a thin, flat keyboard with concealed magnets that match with magnets within the XS to cover the front of the device, and a mechanism for docking the XS when in use. The keyboard weighs almost nothing so there’s no weight penalty for carrying it around, but at the expense of an auxiliary battery. 

I’ve got thick fingers and have never been content with anything but a standard full-sized keyboard, so I’m honestly just a poor judge of how comfortable it is to type with the XS keyboard. The keys are slightly smaller than your standard chiclet keyboard, and though the travel distance is sufficient, they feel a bit soft; it’s hard to tell when you’ve actuated the key. An assortment of Android specific keys line the top and bottom rows, and the bottom right of the device suffers some crowding in order to fit in the directional keys. The abbreviated right shift key was particularly irksome, as I consistently moved the cursor up mid sentence. After a few hours of use, I was able to get a fair amount of writing done on the keyboard, but given the option, I’d just as soon use my laptop. 

The pogo pins on the XS and the exposed magnets line-up with a similar set on the keyboard dock, but the rather flat dock uses a dual-hinged flap, equipped with its own magnet, to keep the XS upright. Moving the point of contact of the flap up and down along the back of the XS gives you some control of the angle of the device, but not much. Set the XS too far back, and the pogo pins lose contact and you have to reseat the device. Weight becomes an issue, too. Though the XS is quite light, it is still much heavier than the dock, so the combination is top heavy and sits precariously on a lap. 

Fans of Archos are no doubt saddened at the loss of their beloved kickstand, but fear not. There are two other accessories planned for release not long after the XS debuts. Both will utilize the pogo pins on the bottom of the device, and take the form of media stands. The first is a complete solution with speakers while the other will be similar but with an audio out so users can connect their own speakers. I expected that Archos wouldn’t sacrifice the kickstand without offering something in return; and as someone that’s been known to watch streaming content on a tablet as I move from room to room in my house, the concept of having a few well placed docks scattered around the house seems perfectly plausible. 

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  • 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).

  • JasonInofuentes - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

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

  • rarson - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

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

    If any of you guys are professional commenters let me know. :)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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