Look and feel
We love the Archos 101 XS’ original, stretched design and the slender build, even if the white plastic does get scuffed far too easily. It’s reasonably solid despite the slim design, although prodding the screen does cause distortion.
Ease of Use
The Archos 101 XS has a responsive touchscreen and uses vanilla Android Ice Cream Sandwich. The keyboard is rather narrow with tiny keys, but a good way to bash out emails once you’re used to the compact build
There’s no rear camera, but we’re not too sad at its absence. Thankfully a front-facing camera can be used to Skype, while the Coverboard is a fantastic way to protect your screen, prop up the Archos 101 XS and type out documents.
A 1.5GHZ ARM processor only has a single core, but still handles the latest games. However, you can bag a tablet with a quad-core CPU at half the price if you’re hoping to bag a future-proof machine.
The Archos 101 XS can stream video for six hours or play games for four to five hours, depending on how bright you make the screen. Overall an average result.
Archos used to be one of the sole producers of portable movie players, but with tablets taking over the world, the French company has a lot more competition these days. To stand out from the slate crowd, the Archos 101 XS has a magnetic cover that doubles as a stand and keyboard, and it’s a truly innovative feature. Only a couple of annoying design issues keep us from loving this slick media machine.
Slim and long
The Archos 101 XS boasts a sleek design that really sets it apart from the slew of bland black tabs. The ‘stretched’ appearance is unique and means you get a widescreen display for enjoying movies, but more impressive is the slim finish. At just 8mm, it’s only a shade thicker than the current size zero hero, the Toshiba AT200. The 101 XS still feels suitably weighty despite its thin body, and is best clutched two-handed to keep your wrist from giving out.
We did notice a tiny bit of creaking when we gently pushed the left edge, and prodding the screen a little too hard causes distortion, but the Archos 101 XS is surprisingly solid considering its lengthy, slender design. Unfortunately the white plastic does scuff very easily, and our review model arrived with a fair few scratches on the aluminium backing plate too. We’d recommend using a padded case if you’re concerned about ruining the aesthetics.
Is it a cover, is it a keyboard
Thankfully you don’t have to worry about the 10.1-inch screen getting scratched, thanks to the bundled magnetic cover (or ‘Coverboard’ as it’s called) that snaps over the front and holds solidly in place until you prise it off. This isn’t any ordinary cover, though. The inside features a full physical keyboard that also doubles as a stand: simply flip up a tab at the top of the Coverboard and the tablet easily slides into place, ready to use. Some seriously strong magnets bind the two together, so you can even lift the tablet by the keyboard – although we obviously wouldn’t recommend it.
The Coverboard’s tab can be adjusted to change the slant of the screen, and coupled with the excellent viewing angles you’re guaranteed a perfect view, whether you’re relaxing with a movie on the train or bashing out emails.
It takes a little while to adjust to the tiny keys after working on a full-sized board, and the board is also very narrow compared to the Asus Transformer Prime’s, which was more comfortable to type on overall. However, we soon adjusted and were knocking out around 50 words a minute. The keys are just 5mm deep, but we found this gives enough tactile feedback without making the Coverboard overly bulky.
Archos has kindly included some Android-specific keys that bring up your most recent apps, take you to the desktop and more. You also get media keys for pausing and skipping through movies and music. Our only issue is with the power button, which is tiny and shoved away on the right edge.
Vanilla Ice Cream
Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 appears in its vanilla form, with a deliberate intention of not adding clunky or superfluous overlays, and Archos has promised an update to Jelly Bean 4.1 before the end of the year. We found Ice Cream Sandwich ran well, and you get a fair few apps and games pre-installed including Gameloft’s Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem and Asphalt 6 HD. The Google Play store is available to download more content.
The Archos 101 XS’ 1.5GHz single-core processor sadly lacks the dual or quad-core power of rivals, including the incredibly cheap Nexus 7 by Asus, but it still capably handles media. We played the latest action and racing games with a commendable frame rate, even if some of them weren’t quite as buttery smooth as we’d like.
Movies look great on the 10.1-inch TFT screen, as you’d expect from a media-centric company with such deep roots in portable video players. Images are supremely sharp with great colour reproduction and deep blacks. We just wish the panel was brighter or less reflective, as it can be difficult to see when sunlight is beaming down on you.
With 16GB of built-in storage plus a micro SD memory card slot, you’ll have tons of space to carry around a huge selection of films. It’s not all good news though, as we had trouble with the earphone port on our review sample. Pushing a pair of headphones all the way in gave us no sound through our ‘phones, and we found we had to wiggle the jack out a little before we could hear anything. We tried a number of different earphones, all with the same result. It’s a really annoying problem (especially if you’re planning on watching movies on public transport, which necessitates headphones) and a surprising lapse in build quality.
Camera and battery life
The 101 XS lacks a rear-facing camera, which we’re not too sad to see, as we find taking photos with a tablet to be a strange, alien idea. We’re much happier that Archos included a front-facing lens instead, for chatting over Skype. It’s a low resolution lens but perfectly fine for a webchat.
Regular travellers will get around seven hours of mixed use, from web browsing and emails to apps, games and movies. If you’re streaming video then the battery will last just over six hours and gaming will wipe it out in around four hours, unless you turn off Wi-Fi and drop the screen brightness levels right down.
The Archos 101 XS is impressively slender considering its widescreen design, and the excellent cover/stand/keyboard means you can take in movies or bash out emails on the move with little fuss. Sadly there are more powerful tablets available for half the price, making it hard to recommend for gamers, while the dodgy earphone jack is a serious design flaw that’ll impact travellers. If you have the cash to spare, we’d point you in the direction of the Asus Transformer Prime.