Review Price £195.00
The 16:9 widescreen, light weight and decent battery life of the Archos 70 make it a good candidate as an on-the-go media player. Archos's product line history is firmly rooted in this territory too, having produced many of the most popular personal media players including the classic Archos 605.
Built-in video codec support is excellent, with the staples of DivX, Xvid and MKV on-board. It won't play MKV videos of huge 1080p resolutions, but you won't need to spend hours converting your whole video library here, as you might have to do with an Apple iPad. The video player software isn't so accomplished though.
The interface is functional, letting you browse the video folder within the internal memory or stream video over SMB (Samba) and UPnP, but it looks ugly, failing to pull off the classy stone-textured look it strives for. Playback quality is a little disappointing too, given Archos's video heritage.
The 1GHz processor pumps-out 720p and DVD-quality video smoothly, but there's not much processing going on in the background to improve image quality of lower-bitrate sources. Consequently, digital artefacting and colour banding will be quite visible unless you maintain a decent level of quality in your videos. That said, 7in is a great size for portable video-watching, offering a good compromise between screen size and portability.
Poor viewing angles also threaten to ruin the party. When the Archos 70 is tilted back - as you would holding it naturally - image detail and contrast is quickly lost with the brightness all-but sucked out of the screen. This viewing angle issue is common to many Archos devices, as they're not known for packing the best quality screens. This doesn't happen when the tablet is tilted the other way, forwards, making us wonder why Archos opted for this panel arrangement.
There is thankfully a work-around. Turn the Archos 70 upside down and wait for it to auto-rotate before opening the video-player app and you can watch videos rotated 180 degress - thereby reducing the viewing angle issue when the device is held up by your face or down by your knees when seated.
It's a compromise, but one we're ready to forgive at the price - you're not going to see an IPS-screen tablet for under £200 any time soon (that said, the IPS-screened Nook Color is available in the US for $250). The Archos 70 doesn't have a superb-quality panel, with limited resolution, middling brightness and limited viewing angles, but it’s a cut above the model used in the Archos 101.
The surface is highly reflective though, so using it outside in bright sunlight is tricky, especially if you're not enamoured with your own reflection. When at home, you can dump the built-in screen altogether, by hooking the tablet up to an HD television using the mini HDMI port. There's a widget pre-installed that switches the display to a TV with a tap on the touchscreen too.
Getting the best out of the Archos 70 requires a tweak or two to both the device and how you use it. You won't need to resort to such measures if you're willing to splash out £599 on an HTC Flyer or £329 on a first-gen iPad, but for its sub-£200 price, the Archos 70 makes for a worthy budget option.
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