Archos fights Kindle Fire with $199 Honeycomb tablet

Archos, one of the earliest media tablet makers, continues to mature its product lineup. The company announced on Tuesday an updated 7-inch slate, called the Archos 70b (PDF); a Google(s goog) Android Honeycomb tablet with a suggested price of $199. Archos says this is the first Honeycomb tablet available for under $200.

Other Android tablets at or below $200 all run earlier versions of Android, which were developed for smartphones. While it’s nice to see Archos push its products forward, the addition of Honeycomb may not help boost sales, given how poorly Honeycomb tablets have sold this year. The interface isn’t quite intuitive or effective; something that led Google to recently debut Android 4.0, which I personally think provides a far better user experience.

In addition to using Android 3.2, the Archos 70b hardware improves in several ways over its predecessor:

  • 1024 x 600 resolution capacitive touchscreen, compared to 800 x 480
  • 512 MB of RAM, double that of the Archos 70, but what I’d consider the bare minimum
  • 1.2 GHz processor vs the 1 GHz chip in the old version

For the same price, Amazon’s Kindle Fire(s amzn) offers a dual-core processor, although it’s clocked at 1 GHz. It too uses 512 MB of RAM, and from a general hardware perspective, is very similar to the Archos 70b, which trumps the Fire with a microphone and webcam.

But I don’t think Amazon has much to fear from the newest Archos tablet, because it offers two key features the Archos doesn’t have. First is an intuitive user interface, making it easy to navigate and use the tablet. And second, Amazon offers an impressive ecosystem for books, magazines, movies, and music.

For someone looking to get a low-cost tablet with Google’s own Android 3.2 interface, the Archos should appeal. In particular, tech-savvy folks that prefer to hack around with a standard Android tablet might be interested at this price. For mainstream consumers though, I’d expect many more to embrace a $199 tablet from Amazon over one from Archos.