Archos G9 250GB Android Tablet: First Look
The Archos G9 Android tablet’s power gives multimedia performance for consumers, but might offer value for business users
At the official UK unveiling of the new 8in and 10.1in Archos G9 tablets in London, Archos CEO and founder Henri Crohas said the problem with the other pretenders to the iPad throne is their focus on producing an “iPad Killer”. This, he said, meant they end up with very similar hardware at a similar price – a tough battle to win.
But Archos has opted out of this race, seeking instead to undercut everyone and create its own “playground” at the £200-400 range.
Archos says that with the G9 this has been achieved with smarter manufacturing, such as opting for a stainless steel frame rather than a CNC machined alloy case and not choosing high resistant glass on the screen. They also say that basing the machine on the OMAP 4 1.5GHz dual-core processor from preferred supplier Texas Instruments is cheaper but also technologically superior – resulting in 50 percent more computing power than rivals at the top of the market.
This is a fair approach to take and the market is crying out for a reasonably priced tablet, but on handling the G9 there is one obvious drawback. The cheaper manufacturing has been at the expense of that sturdy, solid feel preferred by many and the steel frame is hidden within a creaky plastic casing.
In terms of performance and applications, the tablet features a large 4GB flash memory cache system to maintain speed and web browsing is quick, but doesn’t feel like lightning. The tablet runs Android 3.1 Honeycomb OS so has access to the 200,000 plus apps on the Android Market but navigating with Android felt distinctly laboured.
The highest capacity available is a headline grabbing 250GB, which is provided by way of an actual hard disk drive – a very unusual choice in a tablet – in this case from Seagate. With the extra processing power needed for smooth decoding of 1080p HD video, the G9 is aimed squarely at multimedia entertainment. Archos is particularly proud of its proprietary music and movie apps.
Its main attraction for business users is its 3G option. Each tablet has Wi-Fi only as standard, but is”3G ready”, which means customers can buy separately, a specially made Archos WWAN USB dongle for £49.99, and get pay as you go mobile data. In the UK the service is provided by Orange and 3 at £5 for 24 hours or £10 for unlimited use for three days. The stick is compatible with PCs and laptops so it would be possible to have one data plan for your tablet and traditional computers.
The USB socket on the G9 is recessed, and will only take a specially-shaped dongle which is then flush with the tablet’s surface. This appears to mean that you can’t use other dongles or USB devices with the tablet.
It is clear, then, that Archos doesn’t see G9 users being out of Wi-Fi range for any extended period of time or with much regularity. However, although we didn’t see it in action, it was also announced yesterday that the SIM card in the Archos dongle could be replaced.
Value for money
Besides the multimedia angle, Archos is making a big show of its price versus the iPad and other tablets and it’s true the G9 does represent value for money. There are various models available, with different storage methods and the pricing is confusing but at the moment we know that a 10.1in model with 16GB of flash storage will cost £279 while a 10.1in version with 250GB hard disk registers at £399. The 8in tablet with 16GB flash memory costs £199.
With prices an eye-catching 30-40 percent lower than its competitors Archos will be confident of securing a share of the market for its G9 tablet but the size of that share remains to be seen. The tablet market is becoming increasingly competitive as its potential seems to grow and the Archos G9 will face stiff competition from some very serious players.