Archos finally shows its hand with five new next-gen Android tablets at IFA

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We all knew it was coming because of everything from the first mention of Archos' Gen 8 Series of internet tablets to the recent announcement of the company's plans at this year's IFA. We even got a sneak peak at two of the devices, in the form of the Archos 32 and A28, but now the whole long-awaited line-up has been revealed with all the details.

Made up of five devices, Archos' new internet tablet series includes the aforementioned 32 and A28, as well as the larger variants christened the Archos 43, 70, and 101. The model numbers are directly linked to the screen sizes of the devices ranging from the 2.8-inch A28 to the 7-inch 70 and the 10.1-inch 101. This curiously means that there isn't a new 5-inch model to directly replace the Archos 5 Android, with the closest being the 4.3-inch Archos 43.

As promised all the tablets feature ARM Cortex-A8 processors ranging from 800MHz for the A28 and 32, and 1GHz cores for the 43, 70 and 101. Archos has also stated that the whole line-up will feature 3D graphics acceleration, accelerometers, the company's traditionally excellent media features and codec support, and Android 2.2 Froyo (although the models on show at IFA are currently running 2.1). Unfortunately like the Archos 5 Android before it, all the new tablets will not be able to officially access Android Market due to Google's hardware restrictions, with Archos AppsLib provided as an alternative. In other areas there are some notable differences between the models, so see a full rundown of each device and more images after the break.

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Starting with the Archos A28, the smallest member of the family has a 2.8-inch QVGA resistive touch screen in a small design clearly intended to be more of a PMP rather than a full fledged tablet. But with strong media features and compatibility, the 800MHz Cortex-A8 CPU, Froyo, 4/8GB local storage, and b/g/n WiFi, the diminutive device definitely packs a sizeable punch at a very reasonable $99.99 price point. The release date is set for the end of September.

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The also familiar Archos 32 follows a similar pattern to the A28 in terms of design and PMP intentions, but adds a 3.2-inch WQVGA resistive touch screen, 8GB local storage, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, and a rear-facing VGA camera able to record stills and video. Additionally a video-out port on the bottom of the 32 allows you to output composite video to an external display, but apart from that the device is nearly identical to the A28 with the same 800MHz processor and b/g/n WiFi. The Archos 32 is set to go on sale by mid-September for $149.99.

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The mid-sized Archos 43 is the closest to a direct replacement for the Archos 5 Android in terms of dimensions with a 4.3-inch resistive touch screen (instead of the 4.8-inch screen on the A5A), but is also a slight departure in certain other areas. For one the design looks to be more portrait-oriented like a smartphone for single-handed use compared to its predecessor's purely landscape design, and the screen's aspect ratio is slightly wider with an FWVGA (854×480) resolution instead of the A5A's WVGA (800×480) resolution.

On the other hand, the new tablet is impressively thinner (only 0.4 inches) and lighter (4.6 ounces), is powered by a 1GHz Cortex-A8 processor, and includes a rear-facing camera capable of capturing 2MP stills and recording 720p HD video. It also retains the A5A's retractable kickstand and adds a mini-HDMI output and microSD slot. Like the Archos 32, the 43 will also include b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR connectivity with 8GB and 16GB variants being available starting at a very competitive $199 by mid-October.

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Last but not least in the new Archos range we will be covering here at Pocketables is the Archos 70, which as the name implies comes in the increasingly crowded 7-inch category. Compared to the company's existing 7-inch offering, the Archos 7 Home Tablet, the 70 is a very different higher-end device.

Featuring a very sleek landscape design that's only 0.43-inches thick and 11 ounces on the scales, the 70 notably includes a 7-inch WVGA capacitive touch screen supporting multi-touch and the new 1GHz Cortex-A8 CPU with b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR connectivity. The larger tablet is technically quite similar to the 43 but omits the HD-capable rear-facing camera going with a VGA front-facing webcam instead. The microSD slot, USB 2.0 with host capabilities, and the mini-HDMI output are also retained, with the 70 being available with either an 8GB SSD or 250GB HDD, with the former being available for $274.99 by mid-October.

From my point of view, Archos has introduced a nice range of devices with some much appreciated improvements, but it's clear there are also some reservations. The switch over to ARM Cortex-A8 CPUs and Android 2.2 across the board is great news, with the 1GHz chip in the 43 and 70 to keep up with rivals being especially welcome. I also generally like the new designs, with the slimmer and lighter forms of the 43 and 70 being very appealing. The A28 and 32 are a bit on the small side for web browsing, but I believe their main intention is for use as PMPs, with web surfing as a convenient extra when required. The new HD camera on the 43 is also a useful feature, although I would have liked to have seen it implemented in some of the other models.

On the less positive side, the use of resistive screens on the three smaller models is disappointing with so many competitors going the capacitive route. However it seems that Archos' reasoning behind some of these decisions is to compete more on price rather than features and the initial numbers quoted are generally good value and very competitive.

Lastly, the continued lack of official support for Android Market is a big drawback, although it's important to keep in mind that Archos isn't directly responsible for this. But as shown by companies such as ViewSonic with the ViewPad 7, there are some ways around the problem by meeting Google's hardware requirements and effectively making a large smartphone. I think Archos is still hoping that this issue will be resolved by Google eventually, but there may be quite a wait before any of these Archos devices get the full Google experience without a hack.

The Android tablet market is completely different now compared to when the A5A launched as a pioneer last year. Do you think Archos has delivered? Does the new range of Internet Tablets impress you and are they enough to compete in the tablet arena? Check out Archos' website at the link below for more info and images, hit Engadget for a few videos taken from IFA, and let the discussion begin in the comments!

[Archos | Engadget]
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Jeremy To

Jeremy is a former editor at Pocketables.

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