Hands-on with the Archos 7 home tablet, a sub €150 tablet

The Archos 7 home tablet is the first compact tablet device to be launched with full web browsing, high definition video, a USB port and an amazingly-low price of €149.

Archos might not be a house hold name outside of its native France but the company is a firmly established player in the tablet device market.

The 7" touchscreen (800x480) device is smaller than the iPad and most other tablets on the market. But it is big enough to comfortably watch a movie and at 12mm thin is also portable enough to slip in your bag or jacket pocket when you head out for the day.

The Android-powered tablet comes in 2GB and 8GB versions and is equipped with WiFi, social-networking applications, email, photo browsing, and on board MP3 and movie player. 

Unlike its German-made Android-powered WeTab (formally WePad) rival the Home Tablet does not have official access to the Android Market Place app store. It can, however, be customized with around 1000 compatible Android applications from Archos' own AppsLib Market - all of which are free to download and have been tested and optimised for the Home Tablet. Archos will be announcing the arrival of paid applications to the AppsLib market in the near future.

The device runs on Android version 1.5 and there are no plans of a future software upgrade.

Home Tablet comes with a built-in USB 2.0 port enables you to connect your hard drive, camera, or keyboard to the device, a handy feature that is missing on the iPad and many other much more expensive tablets on the market. It has two integrated speakers that are just loud enough that you can hear a movie or song playing in a crowded area.

The device feels comfortable in your hands, and has a polished finish that makes it look much more expensive than its price tag suggests. The design is spot on for a tablet of this size. It has an integrated kick-stand and feels sturdy enough to get through the little knocks and bumps of everyday life (according to Archos' PR reps, it's durable enough for you to let your kids loose on it). It also comes with a one year guarantee.

When it comes to the touch screen browsing don't expect an iPad-like experience. There is no multi-touch support and the onscreen input often felt slow and unresponsive. There is also no support for Flash.

If you are new to the tablet market and want a device to test the waters, the Archos 7 Home Tablet packs a lot of goodness into its convenient form-factor. With a price tag of €149 there is more than enough to convince most users to get their wallet out their pocket. If, on the other hand you are easily frustrated by a less-than responsive touchscreen that seems to work better with the tip of a pen than your finger tip, you might want to investigate one of the many other tablets that are appearing on the market in the coming months.

Other tablets that are already on the market or coming in the near future include Apple's iPad, German-made WeTab (formally WePad) that will retail for €449 ($570) for the 16GB version, Fusion Garages' JooJoo, the Axiotron Modbook, the ExoPC Slate, or even the rumoured BlackBerry "Cobalt" tablet.

The Archos 7 Home Tablet will arrive in stores around the world in the next week and comes with a starting price tag of €149 (£129.99, $199.99).

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