Archos launches color e-reader, Android tablet for €129

But the budget-priced Arnova tablets are no match for the iPad, the company acknowledges

French media player manufacturer Archos picked Cebit to launch a color e-reader with a 7-inch touch-sensitive screen, and also announced the first tablet devices in a new budget-priced range it will brand Arnova.

The devices were shown on the Archos stand in the invitation-only Planet Reseller area of the trade show, which opened at the fairgrounds in Hanover, Germany, on Tuesday.

The e-reader, the Archos 7ob, has a 7-inch LCD resistive touchscreen, an 800-by-480-pixel screen, 4GB of memory and a slot for SDHC memory cards. In addition to displaying e-books in PDF and EPUB formats, the device can also play audio and video, and browse the Web over its 802.11b/g Wi-Fi connection.

The battery should last through seven hours of video playback, or 10 hours or more of reading, an Archos representative said. The company's website claims it will last for eight hours of Web browsing.

The reader has a mini-USB port, but this can only be used for transferring files, not for charging the device, as that requires more power than a USB port can supply. The reader has a separate socket for the mains power adapter.

It will retail in Europe for €129 (US$179) including value-added tax (VAT). The representative didn't say when the device will be available elsewhere.

Archos also showed an engineering prototype of one of its first Arnova devices, an 8-inch Android tablet that will also retail for €129 when it goes on sale in three weeks, the company representative said.

The company will use the Arnova brand for low-end devices -- which pretty much describes these tablets with resistive touch screens running Android 2.1, and not the tablet-optimized version, Android 3.0.

"It's really cheap, not comparable to the iPad," the representative said.

Adding a more sensitive capacitive touch screen would have added €40 to the cost, she said.

Two other Arnova tablets will follow shortly: a 7-inch model retailing for €99, and a 10-inch version for €199.

They have slots for Micro-SD memory cards, USB and mini-USB ports, sockets for audio in and out, and a curious little touch-sensitive "mouse" button next to the screen that can be stroked to move the cursor around.

Cebit runs through Saturday.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

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