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The Archos 70B eReader positions itself as an ebook reader, but in many ways it's just another budget Android-powered tablet. It has an LCD screen rather than an E Ink display, so its battery life is measured in hours, rather than days or so-many thousands of page turns and it's not as easy to read in bright sunlight. However, there are plenty of benefits to using a smartphone OS and a colour display.
The Archos 70B is an ereader version of 2010's Archos 7 Home Tablet. It uses a 7in LCD display, has a plastic body and sports two hinged side buttons to flip through pages in the built-in reader app. These two buttons are the hardware elements that make the argument it's a viable ereader, rather than just a bog-standard Android tablet with ideas above its station.
Aside from these two buttons, which although plasticky have a satisfying action when used while reading, the 70B's ports are simple. The only side of the reader with any sockets is its bottom, which is home to the full-size SD card slot, power socket, mini USB slot, 3.5mm headphone jack and power button. The speaker ports sit on the back of the device, as does the pin-sized reset button, useful should Android software gremlins take hold.
There's no video output, and no other physical buttons on the device's front. It's a basic design, but much easier on the eye than Archos's first 70a tablet.
The simple design, hewn out of metallic-finish dark grey plastic looks good when laid down on a coffee table, or by your bedside, but pick the thing up and you'll feel signs of its budget price. Give the 70B a squeeze between thumb and forefinger and it groans as the plastic plates that make up its body creak. Flex it between two hands and it feels as though tiny tectonic plates are grinding over each other uneasily. Thankfully, the worst that'll come of it is a slight distortion to the LCD's display, rather than an earthquake.
The Archos 70B is not poorly constructed as such, especially given its price, but it's important to bear in mind that it doesn't feel like a top-end, premium product. You're not getting an iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab on the cheap, in other words.
At 13mm thick, it's significantly thicker than the latest Kindle - which is just 8.51mm thick - but it's no thicker than the average well-designed Android tablet. It's also heavier than a Kindle 3, at 370g against 247g. Archos claims the 70B lasts for around eight hours, and our tests back this figure up. We watched around two and a half hours of video and still had enough juice for several more hours of web searching and ebook reading.
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