The netbook market has pretty much saturated itself over the last year. With Archos better known for their internet media tablets, it is perhaps a surprise to see them step into the world of netbooks.
Yes, they do sort of punt into the same territory, but to impress in the netbook world these days you have to deliver on battery life, price, connectivity or design. Unfortunately the Archos 10 gets off to a slow start in all these areas.
First up the Archos 10 is very openly a rebadged Hasee MJ125. This isn't a problem in itself as many netbooks are rebadged models from various suppliers. It sports a 10.2-inch LED backlit display, with an averaging resolution of 1024 x 600px. It does have a matte finish however, unlike some current netbook offerings, meaning you can use it in brighter conditions without too many problems.
Sitting at the core of the netbook are a fairly typical set of hardware components. It packs in an Intel Atom N270 processor running at 1.6GHz, with 1GB RAM and 160GB hard drive, which comes pre-partitioned. The Archos 10 measures 258 x 189 x 28mm.
In terms of connectivity you get Wi-Fi of the normal g variety and an Ethernet port for wired connections. Notably missing is any form of 3G connection or Bluetooth, although there is a keyboard shortcut for Bluetooth on other models – presumably in another skin.
In terms of other physical connections you get 3x USB 2.0, 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks, and a multicard (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO) reader, so fairly typical.
With netbooks being compressed in form the keyboard is of extra significance. In this case there is nothing to get excited about. The keyboard is of the flat variety, with small flat keys. There is also a wasted 15mm on each side of the keyboard that could have been used to increase the size a little.
We're also not a fan of the key layout, a common problem on netbooks. The Ctrl and Fn keys are reversed, the brightness and volume adjusters are reversed too. Keys that you might use often, such as return and shift are too small to hit reliably when typing with any speed. It is also a noisy keyboard, clattering away as you bash out emails.
The trackpad at the bottom is a little better, with reasonable size and response to touch. The conventional two-buttons below layout works too, although the bottom edge has a tatty bit of chrome detailing which houses the status LEDs. In reality, losing that and giving the whole thing a few extra millimetres all round would have been a better move.
There is a fair amount of bundled software on the Archos 10 at arrival, including BitDefender, Parental Filter, Lotus Symphony, Skype (to use with the 1.3-megapixel webcam in the screen bezel), XnView and vTuner. These may appeal, but we don't really feel it adds much value to the offering here.
In operation it works well enough. As a general netbook it happily got to work handling documents and general usage on the move. In that regard, it is pretty average. Unfortunately the Archos 10 is let down by poor battery life. We managed to get nearly 2 hours from the battery before it was calling for more juice, which by current standards isn't enough, but there is mention of a 6-cell battery as an optional extra.
The Archos 10 delivers a netbook experience without really stepping up over last year's offerings. Unfortunately the price does seem to have stepped up to 2009's level. At £350 (£380 with 6-cell battery) the Archos 10 is punching above its weight alongside offerings from the likes of Asus and MSI, so there is little to appeal here.