Normally, in a review, we would start with a physical overview of the device and the internals before giving you a verdict. This time however, we're going to do it the other way. And the short answer for the Archos 70b eReader is this: there are better ways of spending your hard-earned cash.
You're probably wondering why. After all, the Archos 70b eReader looks like a decent enough product. It comes with a 7-inch, 800 x 480-pixel screen running on the Android OS, with physical buttons to turn the pages like any respectable e-book reader. Well, here are exactly the reasons why you should give this a miss.
Firstly, the Archos 70b eReader features a 7-inch resistive screen, and while the viewing angles are decent, it's best to just keep the screen positioned right in front of you. The LCD panel also seems to have a terrible refresh rate, which makes reading on the tablet an eye strain. Secondly, there doesn't seem to be a way to lock the screen rotation; disabling the settings only forces the tablet to display an e-book in a horizontal position.
Performance was sluggish, with the reader extremely slow in responding to our finger movements and more annoyingly, the default software powering it would occasionally go blank for a couple of seconds while trying to load the next page. This happened pretty often and distracted us from our book.
On the flip side, it's also using a custom Android build (which we're guessing is based on version 2.0 and above), so you may install your own applications if you can get the APKs loaded onto a SD card.
Next, the unit also doesn't come with the usual Back, Home, Search and Menu physical buttons; software buttons are instead located on the screen at the top. The only buttons (besides the power button) are two buttons are located on the left and right bezels and are meant to help you flip pages, but they aren't actually useful because each button only turns the page in one direction. If you hold the tablet in your left hand, you won't be able to reach the right side at all unless you have mutant fingers. Compared to the Amazon Kindle which have dual buttons on both sides for navigation, the 70b loses out in terms of usability.
Furthermore, pressing the buttons wakes up the unit, and we can't seem to find a way to lock the device. So what happens is that when you put the Archos tablet in your bag, the buttons are likely to get depressed which then turns your tablet on, causing it to run out of battery while it's stowed away. If you spot this issue in time, you may get a pretty hot tablet to touch. If not, then all you get is a dead e-book reader.
Lastly, while the unit comes with a SD card slot, an headphone jack and a Micro-USB slot, you can't actually charge the device though the Micro-USB slot like you normally can with a similar device like the Kindle. Instead, you'll need a dedicated power adapter, which while compact, does adds to your travel footprint compared to just a simple cable. Such design decisions leave us scratching our heads.
If we haven't yet convinced you the reasons for avoiding this e-book reader, then by all means, fork out the S$239 needed to make this yours. Just don't come crying back to us for a refund when you inevitably throw it at the nearest wall in a massive fit of frustration.