Hands-On With the New Super-Thin Archos 101 XS, Which Has the Transformer Prime Squarely In Its Sights

By Sam Gibbs on at

Archos used to be so ahead of the curve in terms of tablets I think it basically forgot to keep innovating. Recently the French tablet-maker has gone the budget route, but the 10.1-inch generation 10 XS is a break from that mould -- super thin, light, and with a full clip-on convertible keyboard, just like the Asus Transformer series.

I recently had the opportunity to have a quick play with the 101 XS and the first thing I noticed was just how thin this thing is. It's 8mm thick, and it really feels thin and nice in the hand. It also weighs just 600g, which is pretty light as 10-inch tablets go. Archos has achieved those kinds of dimensions by using what it calls "overmoulding," binding a polycarbonate frame to a super-thin stainless steel structure, and while, on the whole, that means it's pretty solid, it does flex a little when twisted.

The screen is also not covered by Gorilla Glass or anything like that, unfortunately, but it's pretty good looking, if a little low-res. It's a 1280x800 10.1-inch MVA screen, which according to Archos is miles better than IPS; I don't know about that, but the viewing angles were pretty top notch, plus the blacks were deep with good contrast.

 

A Convertible Tablet

Archos bundles a 5mm-thick "Coverboard" in the box with the XS, which attaches to the tablet magnetically. It protects the screen when closed and holds the keyboard, which props up the tablet with a foldout, magnetically locked, adjustable kickstand. The keyboard and tablet are easily slotted together and pretty tightly locked to each other once docked, again with the power of magnetism. It's quite slick as convertible keyboard cover things for tablets go.

The Coverboard itself weighs next to nothing, and has a USB port on the back to charge the tablet while docked. Unfortunately, while the keys have satisfying enough travel to them, they're small and a bit cramped. If you're a touch-typist you'll have some adjustment to do. I'm not sure what you'd expect at that size of device, but it's a compromise nonetheless.

 

Guts

Specs wise, the 101 XS stacks up quite well. It's got a TI OMAP "smart multi-core" chip humming inside it, which Archos claims is more powerful than a Tegra 3 -- we'll have to wait for some proper benchmarks to really find that out, but in my impromptu-playing-a-graphically-intensive-game-while-watching-a-video test, it handled things with aplomb. It's also got 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage backed up by a microSDXC slot -- plenty of space for apps, games and video, as this thing will handle almost every codec under the Sun thanks to Archos' bundled media apps. Wi-Fi, with Wi-Fi Direct; Bluetooth 4.0; GPS; a compass; USB host, and mini HDMI out round out a pretty comprehensive set of connections.

The 101 XS will launch with naked Ice Cream Sandwich, but Archos has promised Jelly Bean in November, if not before. It'll land on store shelves in the middle of September for £300, which might be on the pricey side when compared to the likes of the Nexus 7, but stacks up well with other convertible tablets. The 101 XS is also just the first in Archos' XS range with 9.7 and 8-inch variants on their way soon too.