Tablets are becoming increasingly popular, but with Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab starting at around $400, what are the options for those who aren’t looking to spend a small fortune but still want a full-featured tablet? This is where Archos comes in.
Archos is notorious for making tablets that are surprisingly affordable. On top of that, the folks at Archos always make sure that media is the top focus of their tablet line. Due to this, you will usually find much more hard drive space on an Archos tablet than on a competitor’s model. This is because in addition to traditional flash drive models, Archos also has a full line of tablets that include full-size HDDs.
Let’s take a closer look at these tablets…
The Archos G9 Series has a very strong variety of tablets with a range of different prices. The series is divided into two major lines: The Archos 80 G9 and the Archos 101 G9. Physically speaking, there isn’t much different between these two tablets. The Archos 80 has an 8-inch screen while the Archos 101 has a 10.1-inch screen. Everything else is more or less the same when it comes to technical specifications and software.
The Archos 80 G9 currently comes in three possible versions. First there is the classic model, with 8GB of flash memory, a 1.0GHz processor, and a price of $269.00. Next are the two turbo models; the first has 16GB of flash memory, but only a 1.2GHz processor, and is priced at $299.00. The final turbo model is the line that really sets Archos apart from the competition; this has a wopping 250GB HDD, a 1.2GHz processor, and a very reasonable price of $369.00.
You will find similar setups in the Archos 101 G9 line. The classic model of the 101 has 8GB of flash memory, a 1.0GHz processor, and a price of $329.00. Like the 80 G9, the 101 G9 also has two turbo models. The first turbo model has 16GB of flash memory, a 1.2GHz processor, and a price of $379.00, while the second reigns high above the other tablets in the series: this 10.1-inch tablet has a 250GB HDD, a 1.5GHz processor, and a price of $429.00.
The Archos G9 series uses a very minimal design, but doesn’t skip out on important features. On the front of the device, you’ll find a front-facing, 720p HD camera. This works perfectly for video chatting and self-portraits. This is the only camera you will find on the device, as a rear-facing camera is unfortunately absent.
The screens on the G9s are nice, but they are nothing to write home about. The 80 G9’s screen is 1024×768, while the 101 G9’s is 1280×800.
On the left side of each device you will find all of the ports, and these really puts the Archos tablets on the top of the budget tablet market. In addition to the power/reset button, there is a micro USB port, a mini HDMI port, a headphone jack, and a micro SD slot on the flash versions. The SD slot supports up to 32GB, more than doubling the flash memory. The HDD versions do not have an SD card slot – but then, why would you need one?
Turning the device over, you will find one speaker (yes, just one). There is also a built-in kick stand. This is a very small feature but I find myself loving it more and more. The Archos G9 series also features a full USB port on the back, hidden by a cover when not in use. This port supports flash drives and external HDDs which is a major bonus for these tablets, but its main purpose is actually to support a 3G dongle that was released by Archos. This gives people the option of adding 3G to their devices while keeping the cost down for those who do not want 3G. The only downside is that Archos’s 3G service is not available in the United States, only in Europe.
The technical specs of these devices are very strong in some areas but unfortunately fall short in others. The one area where these tablets reign supreme is the processor. These tablets are running an OMAP 4 smart multi-core ARM CORTEX A9 processor clocked at 1GHz ranging all the way up to 1.5GHz. The processing power on these devices can be felt as soon as you turn it on. They are fast, reliable, and miles ahead of the competition – they’re considered to be stronger and faster than the popular Tegra 3 models, which is why Archos is so proud of them.
The unfortunate downfall of these devices is the RAM. You will only find 512MB of RAM to power even the turbo models. Archos has claimed that they are using special memory management to make up for the lack of RAM, but there is still an unfortunate amount of lag when using multiple programs.
The entire Archos G9 series just recently got an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich. This is a huge accomplishment for Archos because they are now one of the few tablets on the market with the latest version of Android. The operating system runs very smoothly and feels right at home on the Archos G9 series. If you are unfamiliar with Ice Cream Sandwich, check out this article.
The Archos G9 series is king of the hill when it comes to multimedia, in large part due to the massive library of accepted codecs. Supported video codecs include MPEG-4 HD (up to 1080p), MPEG-4 (ASP@L5 AVI, up to DVD resolution), and H.264 HD (HP@L4.2, up to 1080p@30 fps and 1080i/720p@60 fps). Plus, you can purchase an optional plugin that will support MPEG2 (up to DVD resolution MP/D1). This plugin will allow you to play the following extensions: AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, MPG, PS, TS, VOB, MKV, FLV, RM, RMVB, ASF.
The list of supported audio codecs is equally impressive. Out of the box, you’ll be able to enjoy MP3, WAV (PCM/ADPCM), AAC, AAC+ 5.13, OGG Vorbis, and FLAC. Purchasing another optional plugin will give you support for AC3 5.1.
Another step Archos took to emphasize media was replacing the default Android music and video applications with their own custom-designed applications. The only downside of this is that they music application unfortunately does not play nicely with Google Music, so if you’re a frequent Google Music user, you will still have to use the standard player. Overall, the Archos-made applications certainly handle media better than the traditional Ice Cream Sandwich applications.
A major yet perhaps overlooked feature is the inclusion of a mini HDMI port. This allows you to mirror anything that appears on the Archos’ screen on any HD-capable television. This means that any video that is stored on the hard drive can be viewed in high definition on the big screen. Also, applications such as Netflix’s streaming service can also be shown on your TV. This is a great way to share content such as videos and photos on your tablet with friends and family.
One feature that Archos has consistently included in their tablets is UPnP. In a nutshell, UPnP is a protocol that allows your Archos tablet to wirelessly communicate with any device on the same network, ranging from computers and laptops to other Archos tablets. It allows you to stream any supported file that’s located on another device, meaning you can view videos and photos and listen to music that isn’t physically stored on the device.
UPnP also lets you wirelessly transfer files back and forth from your devices. You probably wouldn’t want to use this feature as your primary syncing method due to speed issues, but it is very convenient if you just want to transfer a file or two.
Archos has truly done a remarkable job with these tablets. Sure, they aren’t the most high-powered or flashy devices on the market – but then again, they aren’t meant to be. Archos set out to make an affordable tablet that could compete with the high end market, and they succeeded.
The very timely release of Ice Cream Sandwich really makes these tablets a force to be reckoned with. Even the high end tablet manufacturers are still struggling to push the ICS update out. They are, without a doubt, the tablets that gives you the most value for what you pay for; an ICS tablet with a very generous amount of features at a reasonable price point is extremely hard to come by.
This is a significant step forward for Archos and I am looking forward to see what comes next from this company.