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Here is the winner of the "My eBook Reader Smackdown!"
The Archos 70 Internet Tablet.
Some time ago, I decided that I definitely needed to have an eBook reader. Technical books sometimes are tomes of information, and it is nice to have them around for quick reference and not have to carry them on the train for reading and transport.
The only other real competitor in my entry-level class was the Archos 5, but the Archos 5 screen was too small for me to read from. I also think that the screen of the Archos 101 was too big, and the Archos 9 too heavy. At the same time, I set a spending limit, and thought that if I was going to spend $250, I would like to have more options than reading books. The Nook 2 looked good, but it has an 800Mhz processor, lower resolution, and would need to be hacked. Also, don't confuse the Archos 70 Internet Tablet with the 70 Home Tablet. The 70 Home Tablet was (performed like) a joke at 600Mhz and it looks like it's been discontinued so be careful with that model if you look for on it on eBay or buy it used. The only things that I miss from the Archos 5 are the metal kickstand and GPS, but this tablet has a front-side camera, a larger screen, a 1Ghz vs 800Mhz proc, and a capacitive multi-touch screen vs resistive no multi-touch.
The chassis is light, and the profile is slim so don't fuggin' throw it in your back pocket and sit on it! I did that the other day and there are no cost-effective repair options. Think that they could have done a better job designing the slot where the MicroSD card goes. I have a broken SD card stuck in the Archos that I sat on. Inserting and ejecting the card is tricky.
The Android OS version is 2.2.1. I just recently got a firmware update, which is good because there are devs working on the platform. The firmware update was hassle-free. No disks or usb drives, over the network, an literally one-click five clicks. The Android UI works really well. It has four soft buttons (on-screen) for Back, Menu, Home, and Search like the buttons on the Android phones. It also has a buttons mode that adds arrow keys and an ok button. What is really nice is that you can take a screenshot (for free) when you tap the power button.
The battery life is good. I left it on and used it for 9 hours until it ran out. The other thing that I tried out is the HDMI output. This is the first time that I've plugged in a device to a monitor and it's left me wanting a 24" touch-screen. The only thing is that it would be nice to have multi-touch gestures in HDMI mode. I think that would be really cool if the screen was made to stay on with an on-screen keyboard and touchpad area when in HDMI mode. To scroll down the down the apps list in the apps screen you use Buttons Mode and to pan the home screen to the other screens you click the little dots screen navigator.
What makes this a good eBook reader, and it wouldn't be without, is the Aldiko app. It is an app that reads PDFs and comes bundled with the Archos. I tried a few free PDF readers and none were as good as Aldiko (f/k/a Laputa). It comes with its own apps market, AppsLib, but you can get all the Google Apps (including Market) through Arctools. The System Monitor is good. I read somewhere you can overclock this thing to 1.2 Ghz.
Overall, this tablet will grow on you. It might not be the latest and greatest, but it definitely holds up to all the usability, features, and convenience of its $500 brethren. For an eBook reader, unmatched at the time.