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Archos now shipping 4.3- and 7-inch Android tablets

The Android tablet market was supposed to heat up in time for the end-of-year holiday season…and that seems to be exactly what’s happening as portable media device maker Archos starts shipping its 4.3-inch and 7-inch Android tablets in the United States and Europe. Both devices run Android 2.2 “Froyo” and offer Wi-Fi but not 3G connectivity, so users will be restricted to tapping into the Internet from locations they can connect via Wi-Fi. But along with being free of contractual burdens for 3G service, the tablets are also free of the cost of 3G hardware: the Archos 43 starts at $249, while the Archos 70 will be available for $349—both significantly cheaper than Apple’s least expensive WiFi-only iPad.

The Archos 43 Internet Tablet features a 4.3-inch 854 by 480-pixel TFT display, an ARM Cortex A8 processor running at 1 GHz, Android 2.2 “Froyo,” either 8 or 16 GB of built-in flash memory, and microSDHC removable storage that can handle up to 32 GB more data. Archos envisions the tablet as primarily a portable media player—hence the high-resolution screen and support for a very wide variety of audio and video formats—and the tablet sports HDMI output for connecting to a big screen for playing back high-definition content. The unit sports 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, a two megapixel video-capable camera, USB 2.0 connectivity, and both a built-in speaker and a built-in leg stand so the unit can easily be propped up for viewing. Of course, as an Android device, the tablet also offers full HTML Web browsing and access to the Android Market for apps to extend the device’s functionality—although without a GPS, location-based services aren’t everything they could be.

The Archos 70 Internet Tablet brings similar specs, substituting an 800 by 480 7-inch TFT LCD display, an option for 8 GB of Flash memory along with a version sporting a 250 GB hard drive. The Archos 70 also drops the two megapixel camera in favor a front-facing VGA camera for video chat.

The two tablets represent just two entries in Archos’ line of Android-powered media players: the company will also be offering the Froyo-powered Archos 28 and Archos 32 with relatively tiny 2.8- and 3.2-inch screens, respectively, along with the Archos 10i Internet tablet with a 10.1-inch display.