After making the headlines with an ultra-thin, but rather pricey dual-core 10-inch tablet called 101 XS, it’s time for Archos to get back to what it does best – releasing budget-friendly gadgets with modest specs, but nice looks.

The French-based manufacturer’s latest push towards the affordable 10-incher niche is called 97 Xenon and follows on the footsteps of the 97 Carbon released almost two months ago. Although the processor seems to be an upgrade over the one powering the Carbon, the new Xenon looks like an overall more modest tab, but hopefully it will also be cheaper.

Like the Carbon, the Xenon sports a 9.7-inch IPS multitouch screen with a 1024 x 768 pixels resolution. The 4:3 ratio panel was the bomb when Apple introduced the iPad 2 a year and a half ago, but right now it seems a bit dusty and outdated.

The CPU powering the 97 Xenon is a 1.4 GHz single-core unit which doesn’t sound that bad for a wallet-friendly tab, but in a surprising move Archos chose to pair the CPU with only 512 MB of RAM. That’s pretty disappointing even by low-end standards, especially considering that the 97 Carbon is equipped with 1 GB of RAM.

There are also only 4 GB of on-board storage (ugh!), although the microSD support allows you to up the memory with an additional 32 GB. Surprisingly, Archos didn’t get stingy with the cameras too, putting a 2 MP “shooter” on the back of the device and a VGA webcam on its front.

The rest of the specs are pretty straightforward and include Wi-Fi 802.11 connectivity, GPS, a G-sensor, Android 4.0 ICS with full Google Play support, as well as a USB 2.0 port. There’s no HDMI and Bluetooth, but 3G connectivity seems to be standard, which is a bit of an odd move, considering that the feature is usually made available as an optional one for people who really need it.

Although Archos put up an official product page for the 97 Xenon listing the “full spec sheet”, the battery remains a mystery. The only mention about it is that it’s a “Lithium Polymer” unit.

What’s not a secret is the 97 Xenon’s cool design, one area where Archos always excelled. The fresh 9.7-incher is only 0.45 inches (11.5 mm) thick while weighing 650 grams (22.9 ounces). That might not be as record-breaking as 101 XS’ measurements, but is still very eye-pleasing.

We know nothing about the release date and future pricing of the Archos 97 Xenon, and, while we’re sure it won’t take the French company long to make it available, the money aspect is very hard to predict. The 97 Carbon is up for grabs at $250, but the Xenon comes with less RAM, less internal memory, no Bluetooth and no HDMI. Overall, we can’t see the Xenon going for more than $250, but will it actually go for less? What do you guys think?