Who Needs a Tablet? Archos Introduces $170 Android Laptop

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Archos ArcBook

It’s enticing to think that a tablet can really take the place of a laptop. Tablets offer a wealth of advantages; faster operation, longer battery life, instant-on, instant-off, and, in many cases, a lower price. Sometimes much lower.

Ah, but tablets don’t come with keyboards, which makes productivity an iffy proposition. Sure, keyboard cases are available for some models, but the result feels more like a kludge than a proper laptop. And where’s the mouse?

Enter the Archos ArcBook, an Android tablet with a built-in keyboard and touchpad. Or maybe it’s a laptop that runs Android instead of Windows. Either way, it has a price that makes it impossible to ignore: $169.99.

Archos ArcBook color

The ArcBook sports a 10.1-inch touchscreen, a full QWERTY keyboard, a USB port, and a battery that’s good for over nine hours of operation, according to Archos. It runs Android 4.2, comes with MobileSystems’ OfficeSuite Pro 6 preinstalled and offers full access to the Google Play store.

Other noteworthy specs include a front-facing camera (for video chats, no doubt), a microSD slot for storage expansion (the ArcBook comes with 8GB), stereo speakers and a dual-core ARM A9 processor.

In other words, it provides most of the features of a typical Android tablet, but with the added benefits of a keyboard, trackpad and fold-and-go laptop form-factor.

And did I mention the price?

Unfortunately, I must temper my enthusiasm with a reality check. As you may have guessed from the specs, the ArcBook has most of the features of a typical low-end Android tablet.

What’s more, a 10.1-inch screen necessarily brings with it a fairly cramped keyboard. And that screen runs at a fairly low resolution (1024 x 600), definitely not great for things like word processing and spreadsheets.

I’m also a bit disappointed that the ArcBook weighs in at 1.3kg — around 2.8 pounds. That’s still lighter than most laptops, but nowhere near as light as most tablets. On the plus side, it’s pretty thin at about 0.86 inch.

Archos ArcBook side view

This clearly isn’t the laptop replacement for hardcore business users. I can see it being very popular with students, grandparents, bargain hunters and anyone else who just wants basic computing: email, Web browsing, social media with a little word processing thrown in.

Oh, and don’t forget all that Android app goodness: Evernote, Kindle, Netflix, Pandora, you name it.

Right now you can buy an entry-level 10-inch Android tablet for around the same price as the Archos Arcbook. Starting in June, when the ArcBook ships, you’ll be able to buy one that also has a keyboard. The question is, will you?

Photo credit: Archos

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