The Archos 101 Internet Tablet is one of the largest tablets currently available. With a 10.1in display its screen is technically larger than the 9.7in Apple iPad 2, but thanks to its widescreen aspect ratio, the difference in design is much greater than a simple size bump.
The tablet's 16:9 aspect ratio makes the Archos 101's body very long - a whopping 270mm. That's 30mm longer than the iPad 2 and 20mm longer than the Motorola Xoom. The pay-off is that it's narrower, but this only serves to emphasise quite how odd this tablet feels to hold upright. Holding it this way feels more like grasping a small app-ridden skateboard than the virtual book or magazine that the tablet form factor essentially emulates.
At 480g, it's much lighter than the 600+g iPad series devices but the odd weight distribution of its elongated rectangular design makes one-handed operation uncomfortable. The Archos 101 wants to be primarily held as a landscape device, with two hands, and it's not afraid to make that clear.
It's made of both metal and plastic, using a process that Archos calls its patented plastic overmoulding technique. The screen surround and two plates on the Archos 101's back are made of brushed metal, while the rest is plastic. With the seams of these different sections very visible, this tablet's not the best-looking slab of gadgetry currently available, though there is a certain charm. It is slim as well - at 12mm thick, it has the same chunk factor as the Samsung Galaxy Tab. There are two models available, coming with either 8GB or 16GB of flash storage on-board.
Only one side of the Archos 101 has any ports or sockets on it. This leaves the left side (assuming it's held lengthways) crammed with buttons and holes, including the power button, volume control, headphone jack, full-size USB port, microUSB port, microSD slot, miniHDMI and power socket. There are no plastic covers for any of these, further adding to the slightly utilitarian vibe supplied by the two-tone look of the metal-and-plastic design.
There are benefits to a largely function-led approach to design though. On the back of the tablet there's a metal flip-out kickstand that's sturdy enough to hold the Archos 101 up at an angle, rather like an oversized photo frame. You wouldn't see something like this adulterating the beautiful lines of an iPad - not when Apple could sell you an accessory to do the same thing for £30 - but then you also miss out on this useful function.
It's a strange combination, the rather practical approach married with the non-straightforward shape. An acquired taste, it demands some nerve if you're going to take it on a morning commute stuffed full of iPad users, sure to throw the occasional condescending glance your way.