Keyboards and screen covers seem to be the most popular tablet accessories these days, but they're typically sold separately. Archos' new 101 XS tablet includes both. The 10-incher comes with a Coverboard that combines a screen cover and keyboard in one piece. Magnets keep the chiclet-laced Coverboard secured to the face of the tablet during transport, and a kickstand provides additional support when the two pieces are connected via "magnetically guided docking connectors."
Without the Coverboard, the tablet weighs 1.3 lbs and meaures 8 mm thick. Adding the keyboard bumps up the weight by 0.44 lbs and the thickness by 5 mm. The keyboard is quite a bit lighter than Asus' Transformer docks, but the Archos unit doesn't have a touchpad, auxiliary battery, or additional connectivity options.
Then again, the 101 XS doesn't need much help on the connectivity front. It already serves up a Micro SD slot, a Mini HDMI port, and a Micro USB port with storage support. Wi-fi and Bluetooth are included, of course, and there's 16GB of storage onboard. Under the hood, the 101 XS features a Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 processor with PowerVR SGX544 graphics. The chip is a dually ARM Cortex-A9 variant clocked at 1.5GHz.
We're used to seeing tablets with IPS displays, but the 101 XS features MVA panel technology. The 10" display has a pedestrian 1280x800 resolution, and its capacitive touchscreen is limited to five-finger input. Most of the tablets we've tested claim 10-finger multitouch support. However, we've yet to see applications take advantage, perhaps because one hand is still required to actually hold a tablet.
Archos' press release (PDF) points out that the 101 XS offers a "pure Android experience" without the skins and other widgets some tablet makers add to the OS. Surprisingly, though, Archos isn't up to date with the latest version. The 101 XS runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, with an update to 4.1 Jelly Bean promised "before the end of 2012." Perhaps Archos needs the extra time to ensure its pre-installed Media Center application works with the latest version of Android.
The press release says the 101 XS will cost $400 when it comes to North America in November. However, a mid-September debut is also mentioned, suggesting the tablet could arrive sooner in other regions. It will be interesting to see how the 101 XS stacks up against other budget contenders once Windows RT arrives. Archos certainly has an interesting design, but I'm a little leery of the kickstand charged with supporting the tablet when it's docked with the keyboard.