So I got my Arnova 8 Android tablet on Friday. Normally I would have posted about my first impressions, but I couldn't find the peace and quiet I needed to compose a post. But it turns out that it wasn't necessary; the Arnova 8 is a rather ordinary tablet with nothing to recommend it.
This tablet was originally designed by Rockchip, the CPU maker. The Archos Arnova brand was only slapped on after the fact. (The same is true for most of Archos' gadgets now.) It's running Android v2.1 on an 8" resistive touchscreen with 4GB Flash, a microSD card slot, speakers, microphone, USB Host, and a g-sensor. It has the 2 speakers on the back, 3 buttons on the upper edge (power, menu, esc), and the one home button to the right of the screen. All the slots and ports are on the right edge.
It retails for $159 and you can find it at J&R and Amazon.
This tablet has a g-sensor, but it's been blocked from flipping the screen orientation (in most cases). For example, you can flip the tablet upside down but the screen will not change with you. That's not such a bad idea; with the hardware button on top I'm not sure you should turn this tablet upside down.
The screen quality ranges from poor to bad for a budget tablet, and there are some serious problems with it. My first reaction to the screen was to send the Arnova 8 back right away; it was horrifyingly bad. The colors looked washed out and everything looked fuzzy. i swear I could see the individual pixels, and not in a good way. Luckily I wanted to try the hacked firmware, and after I rebooted the new firmware seemed to have fixed a lot of the screen issues. It wasn't nearly so ugly.
Even with the hacked firmware, the hardware quality of the screen will never be more than so-so. The viewing angles are acceptable but not great, and you need to be in front the device to get a clear picture. But do you want to hear something odd? The on screen keyboard still likes fuzzy and washed out even when it is open on top of a sharp image in the browser. Weird.
This comes with a pretty decent good set of apps, but most (like a browser, email, etc) are just the standard basic ones. It doesn't matter; the hacked firmware gives you the Android Market so you will be able to get everything from there.
As a Rockchip tablet, this is incredibly disappointing. I have several gadgets made by Rockchip, and this is one of the worse ones. Actually, I'd say that this is the worst; the others were released as ereaders, not media devices.
The video quality would rank at marginal for a budget tablet if this didn't carry an Archos brand and wasn't a Rockchip design; my expectations are higher based on their past successes. The AVI video I tested (about 650x350 resolution) lost a fair amount of detail to fuzzy patches. A lot of the color is also washed out.
For a tablet that is pitched as having HD multimedia abilities, that is simply not acceptable.
I ran a 90 minute video and the battery was down to around 70%. I'd estimate that this tablet would play about 5 hours of video, which is pretty close to the 5.5h promised in the spec. Also, I forgot to turn the Wifi off and that might account for the difference.
The general responsiveness was good (for a budget tablet), but I wouldn't call this a speedy tablet. Due to the disappointing video ability, I didn't try to push the abilities.
As I've said before, this is simply a run of the mill budget tablet. If you buy it, don't be surprised if it seems underpowered or weak.