Microsoft Surface on notice: stunning Archos 101 XS Android tablet packs a keyboard cover
Meet the Archos 101 XS, the stunning new Android tablet from the French gadget cobbler. Like Microsoft’s Surface tablet, it packs a super thin screen cover that cleverly doubles up as a full QWERTY keyboard. Is it the last days for laptops? Ahead of today’s launch, we got a sneak peek and found out for you.
Android tablets have been getting seriously impressive of late: Asus’ smart Google Nexus 7 wowed us earlier this summer, and now Archos’ pricier £299.99 101 XS tablet is here to woo would-be iPad owners away.
It’s an 8mm thin device with a 10.1-inch screen, running Google’s Android 4.0 operating system and powered by a whizzy 1.5GHz processor. There’s 16GB of storage inside, enough for 10 HD movies, and you can add to that with a micro SD card.
But the real star of the show is the included cover. It’s just 5mm thick and clamps down smoothly on top of the screen with the aid of magnets: but its underside holds an incredible QWERTY keyboard, a stand to drop the tablet into. Drop the Archos 101 XS into this impromptu dock, and you’ve got a laptop: you can plug a USB mouse or hard drive in, and there’s a bundled office application for working on the go.
We’ve seen this kind of tech recently from Microsoft with its upcoming Surface Windows 8 tablet, but Archos hasn’t nicked its idea: it’s been working on this for more than a year. In fact, an Archos product manager told us that it welcomed Microsoft’s Surface Windows 8 tablet, not so much as competition but as something that would show people just what a tablet-keyboard combo is capable of.
That all sounds good on paper, and in practice it is too. We got to test out a Archos 101 XS prototype this week, and it’s a huge leap forward from previous, cheapy Archos tablets. From the steel casing to the bright screen, this is a tablet with build quality to rival Samsung, if not Apple’s iPad.
The cover pulls off easily, and with one quick motion you can raise the plastic stand that the Archos 101 XS rests on: then you just drop it in and you’re away. The keys push down easily, though they are a little on the small side, so those with big hands might find themselves hen pecking out emails.
The screen is bright, and performance is fast: Archos has barely touched anything in Android. This is the beautiful tablet experience that Google intended, and it’s fun.
There is one little extra though: Archos’ stunning media apps. The included video player opens just about every clip and file format under the sun (even 3D ones), and even pulls in data from the web to give your files cover art and cast information.
It’s been built to fit Android’s design guidelines perfectly, and it’s a real selling point if you’ve got lots of movies on your hard drive you’ve been meaning to get through. You can even hook it up to a TV using an HDMI cable to play them back in your living room. If you’ve got an Android phone, you can even leave the tablet by the TV, and use a free Archos app as a remote control from the comfort of the sofa.
10.1 inches a bit too big for you? Not to worry: Archos says 9.7-inch and 8.0-inch versions are coming out before the end of the year: they’ll have the same clever keyboard covers too.
The Archos 101 XS is out next month: we’ll have a full review for you before then but in the meantime, let us know what you make of this new iPad rival in the comments. Is this a Surface slayer?