E Ink ebook readers like the Amazon Kindle dominate the market in the UK, but they're not the only type out there. The Archos 70d offers a hardware design and software fully geared towards reading, but uses an LCD screen rather than a paper-like E Ink display. Best of all, it's dirt cheap at £59.99. But it proves once again that if you want a ereader that can do other things too, you can't scrimp quite this much.
French company Archos was once the king of the personal media player (PMP). But now that smartphones have become so much better and tablets have well and truly arrived, it has had to diversify. The Archos 70d is an LCD screen ereader geared towards the budget buyer. Costing £59.99, it's cheaper than the Kobo eReader Touch and the Amazon Kindle.
It has the ereader form down too - this isn't just a tablet that calls itself an ereader. Along the right edge is a row of physical nav buttons, including a D-pad that can be used to turn pages, and a duo of dedicated page turning buttons below. Without a touchscreen to rely on, these buttons are all-important. There's a neat ergonomic ridge along this edge of the ereader, which snugly cups your thumb making the 70d fairly comfy to hold. It's not perfect, though.
The page turn buttons are a little spongy and aren't optimally-arranged, the less-used "back" button given top billing near to where your thumb rests. The D-pad is also a little cramped and tricky to operate at times. What's more the Archos 70d is significantly heavier than most current ereaders. At 279g, it's comfortable enough to hold one-handed, but switch between it and the feather-light 166g Kindle and there's no mistaking the difference.
Its body is made up of two slabs of textured black plastic, unceremoniously jammed together, leaving a guileless seam running along its edges. It feels solid enough, but lacks the carefully-designed feel and modern look of the Kindle and Kobo alternatives.
Connectivity-wise, there's nothing to complain about, though. Along the right edge there's an exposed microSD memory card slot and a microUSB socket. Plug the 70d into a computer and the 4GB of internal memory shows up as a disk drive, making it easy to drag and drop ebooks, videos or music tracks.
This is a device that's not quite as intensely book-centric as most ereaders, with music and video players built into its interface. There is no internal speaker, but there is a 3.5mm headphone jack up top.
Like almost all ereaders, the Archos 70d uses a non-removable rechargeable battery. With an E Ink reader, not being able to carry around a spare isn't much of a hardship as battery life can be measured in weeks rather than hours (stamina is more accurately described as X thousand page turns). However, the 70d conks out after 6-10 hours, depending on screen brightness and usage, making it more of an issue.