Following the rather disastrous reception of its Windows-based Archos 9 PC Tablet, the company is back at the tablet game again with a wholly different approach: A cheap, Android-based tablet with a 7-inch screen.
Stripped to its absolute basics, this is a tablet for the user who expects the bare minimum from his gadgetry. This isn’t a smartphone without the phone — it’s a smartphone without the phone or the smart. Nothing in the tablet takes advantage of the features that even basic Android devices on the market provide. Without multitouch, GPS, an accelerometer, or even a Home button, the use case for the Archos 7 can be frustrating.
Fortunately, the device does offer a couple of key features that make it a shade better than useless, namely a headphone jack and a kickstand so you don’t have to prop it up on your knee.
The OS is stripped down and over a year old, but technically it’s still running Android. That means it has a web browser, an e-mail client, and a few basic applications pre-installed, but nothing that will knock your lederhosen off.
Rather, Archos keeps this device squarely focused on its heritage as a media player, albeit a limited one. Without a hard drive, you’re limited to the 8 GB of onboard Flash memory, expandable up to 32 GB with a microSDHC card. The screen, at 800 x 480 pixels, looks surprisingly good, though the speakers are decidedly not impressive. If nothing else, the Archos 7 is a solid “give it to the kids” media player. Load it up with movies for the car ride or plane and don’t look in the back seat.
If you want to use it for real work, though, you’re in trouble. The touchscreen is almost as buggy and difficult to use as the Archos 9’s, and performance is sluggish. The OS implementation clearly has some issues, too. For example, the device started giving us the “zero battery life” alert after just three hours of video playback, but didn’t actually die until more than 8 and a half hours had passed.
But hey, it’s 200 bucks. If nothing else, that’s extremely cheap for a device with a screen this large. Admittedly the Archos 7 doesn’t do much, but at least it doesn’t pretend to be magical.