One of the cuts made to the Arnova 10 is the use of Android 2.1 rather than Android 2.2 or an even newer version. Android 2.1 doesn't offer full Flash support and is a lot slower than its younger more dashing brother. Now that it's more than a year old, Android 2.1 is positively ancient by Android standards.
Archos has dropped a custom UI onto the Arnova 10, in order to fill the void created by the lack of soft keys. It features a bar on the top of the screen, housing virtual home, back, menu and volume control buttons. Unlike the Archos 70 and 101 custom UI, it's not optimised for thumb operation, instead demanding that you take a hand away from holding the tablet to prod away at these buttons. It's simple enough, but by comparison doesn't feel as considerately thought-out.
Too big and heavy to use or hold single-handed for long periods of time, a UI that encourages you to take your hands away from the standard grip position - one at each end of the Arnova 10 - isn't doing it any favours. Like the Archos 101, this tablet is extra-unwieldy thanks to its widescreen aspect ratio.
The touchscreen doesn't help matters either. It's a resistive model, sensing direct pressure rather than conduction (as a capacitive touchscreen does), and is an unusually poor example of the technology. Some newer resistive touchscreens have almost fooled us into believing they're of the more expensive capacitive kind, but not so here. It's very unresponsive, requiring a concerted prod for every single tap, drag and scroll. Having to put so much effort in is a strain on your finger, but an even greater strain on your patience.
Day-to-day navigation is reasonably quick in pure processing terms, but it's slowed down to a crawl by the terrible touchscreen. Switching to a stylus, and none is included, improves matters slightly but if you've ever used a touchscreen for any significant length of time before, that haunting sense of dreadful compromise will never leave.
The customisation of Android is some mitigation here. You have three home screens to fill as you see fit, and if you plaster them with widgets relaying much of the info you'll need daily, such as tweets and emails, you will at least cut down on some of those taps. The number of widgets you have access to is naturally limited by the app selection though, and it's not great here…