Review: Arnova Tablet

Supermarket Asda in Android Tablet Shocker!

This is either the latest sign of a runaway bandwagon or the clinching proof of a tablet PC take-over: Walmart’s UK subsidiary supermarket chain Asda is now the exclusive UK retailer of the Arnova 8 Android tablet, at a bargain price of £99. It may not compare well with the $99 price everywhere else, but it does demonstrate the saturation of the PC market with tablets.

The Arnova 8 is actually an Archos design, an 8-inch tablet with 4GB of storage, built-in Wi-Fi and a battery realistically capable of 3.5 hours screen use (the quoted 5.5 hours is unlikely) or 25 hours of music playback. It is unlikely to prove an iPad-2 killer, having only a 666MHz processor, one USB port and a resistive touch-screen, that in no way competes with devices like the iPad and HP TouchPad. And it weighs half a kilogram.

The full specification looks like this: Rockchip 2818 SoC processor clocked at 666MHz, an 8-inch resistive screen at SVGA (800×600) resolution, 4GB onboard storage expandable to 36GB via a 32GB microSD card.

The Arnova 8 runs Android 2.1, the older version of the mobile-phone edition of the Android operating system; not 2.3 Gingerbread, for tablets, not even 2.2. It can’t play Flash video in the Arnova 8’s web browser for a start and forget most of the current apps in the Android Market, which you can’t access anyway since the Arnova is hooked up to it’s own Appslib market. This is blatantly to stop Joe Public loading up incompatible apps or those which won’t run – always bad for returns, support calls and PR disasters.

You can surf the Internet, play back video, just, and it does have a built-in email client. Non-flash sites like Dailymotion will play embedded video.

This being Android, there is a custom firmware called Kasty that provides Android market access and resolves a some of the reported screen issues. You’re on your own if you install this.

There is no doubt this is for the tablet novice with the most basic computing needs. If you were a determined hacker you could probably upgrade it to a newer Android version (at the expense of your warranty), but the Arnova lacks the horsepower to run very much.

There’s no camera, the resistive screen isn’t very responsive, the battery life varies enormously, the Android version and the restricted apps market are a handicap to the serious user.

However, Archos have been making tablet-style consumer devices longer than most, so the quality is better than the Chinese ‘me-too’ devices appearing everywhere. And it’s a tablet with a half-decent screen-size for $99. Sorry UK, £99. AJS

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