We're starting to brace ourselves for Netbooks: Part Deux – an exciting sequel to last year's smash featuring the next generation of funky yet frugal technology. Archos, meanwhile, has just thrown this up. It's almost a spec-by-spec rendition of 2008's greatest hits, but one which misses a few important beat.
Rather than surpass its forbears, the Archos 10 is simply a reprise of their highlights. That means it's an Atom-powered mini-laptop with a 1024x600 pixel 10inch screen. There's a 160GB spinning hard disk, 1GB of RAM and the same three USB ports, wireless G and integrated card reader that we've seen on every other netbook in existence.
To dismiss the Archos affair as just another netbook is unfair, though, and given the company's extraordinary track record with miniature media devices, any words like that will only come back to haunt us when it releases the definitive netbook at a later date.
For a start, it's thinner and lighter than the majority of 10inchers out there, putting a large screen on something with the ultra-portability of an 8.9inch machine. The matte casing is a little chunky looking, though, and lacks the refined appearance of other newer netbooks like the Acer One 10.
There's more to the screen, though. It's not the sharpest or best quality out there – that honour probably goes to the Samsung NC10 – but it is incredibly bright.
Second battery essential
The keyboard is particularly strange. It's sturdier than, say, an Asus' EeePC one, but it looks like it was sized for an 8.9inch chassis. The keys aren't as small as the Toshiba NC10 but – and this comes from an EeePC 901 user – the flat profile makes it very hard to type accurately at speed. It looks great, but is needlessly difficult to master.
More critically, while the software bundle includes the excellent vTuner media player and a power tuner, we had massive issues with just connecting to a Wi-Fi network. That shouldn't happen on a commoditised Windows XP machine like this.
So far, though, it's mildly infuriating. The price, on the other hand, is a decent into madness. The standard configuration is almost £100 more expensive than the excellent Samsung NC10, and yet it lacks Bluetooth and has a mere 2200mAh battery. The measure of a single charge is in minutes, not hours, making the larger 6-cell version an absolute necessity – but for a further £69.
Netbooks are still new, and having a specialist like Archos begin production is good. Hopefully the next model it makes will have some of the clever innovation for which it is famed on board, rather than being almost as good as the competition.