French consumer electronics company ARCHOS has just detailed the first in a series of budget Android tablets. The new Elements range will include 7- and 8-inch models but the first out of the starting blocks is the ARCHOS 97 carbon which, as the name might indicate, features a 9.7-inch display. The screen supports up to five simultaneous touch points and features In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology for wide viewing angles.
Completing the 97 carbon's 16 million color multi-touch display specs, the resolution is the same as Lenovo's IdeaTab S2109 at 1024 x 768 pixels, enough to handle 720p video but not nearly enough to touch the quality offered by Apple's latest iPad. The ARCHOS beast is priced a good deal cheaper than either of those tablets though, and is capable of decoding full HD video as well as being able to send 1080p videos to a big screen TV via the included HDMI connection.
The new Elements tablet is powered by an ARM Cortex A8 processor running at 1 GHz, supported by 1 GB of onboard RAM and 16 GB of solid state storage which, importantly, is expandable courtesy of the microSD card slot. It runs on Google's Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) platform and has full access to Google Play, and there's also 5GB of free cloud storage with Google Drive. There's 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and a full-size (as well as a mini) USB port.
The 97 carbon weighs 21.8 ounces (620 g) and is 0.45-inch (11.5 mm) thin, has been given a stylish aluminum finish and comes pre-loaded with Office Suite Viewer (document reader), News Republic and Brief Me (news and social network feed management).
ARCHOS is perhaps best known for its quality music players, so it's hardly surprising (but very welcome) to see APE, OGG and FLAC playback support alongside MP3 and WAV audio formats. Audio output is via two built-in speakers or 3.5 mm headphone jack, a microphone and 0.3 megapixel cam at the front have been included for web chat and there's a 2 megapixel snapper at the rear. The included Li-Pol battery is reported to offer video playback of 8 hours or 20 hours of music enjoyment between charges.
The ARCHOS 97 carbon is available this month for a suggested retail price of US$249.99.
If this release is the template on which other Elements tablets are to be based, and there's no reason to assume otherwise, then ARCHOS is unlikely to pose any serious threat to Google's new Nexus 7 when the company unveils its 7-inch Elements tablet, except maybe on price. On the specs front, Google is already ahead in the game for screen resolution, processor oomph, Android flavor, wireless connectivity options and other technologies like GPS and NFC. All will become clear in the not-too-distant future.