The Windows 7 iPad alternative?
Review If you are Chinese then 2010 is the year of the tiger, but if you are a geek then it is the year of the slate or tablet. Obviously, most people are thinking about the iPad when they start banging on about such things, but the newest consumer targeted device of this ilk to hit the shops is the 9, the first attempt at a genuine UMPC device from French PMP maker Archos.
Slate of the art? The Archos 9 PCtablet
Of course, Archos machines have a long tradition of including functionality more usually associated with PCs than PMPs. These features include wireless connectivity, UPnP streaming, web browsing and e-mail access and it has even started to flirt with Android as an operating system. The 9 however purports to be a fully fledged PC rather than just a PMP with added PC-like functionality.
In the hand the 9 feels similar to the Archos 7 we looked at 12 months ago, only writ larger. The basic construction is much the same and though the case is plastic, rather than metal, the 9 shares the 7's solid hewn-from-a-block-of-granite feel. At 256 x 134 x 17mm and weighing 800g the 9 is quite a hefty device – big for a PMP, small for a netbook yet ideal for a tablet, although holding it is definitely a two handed affair.
Inputs and outputs only extend to a power jack, a single USB port and a 3.5mm audio output but if you cough up £60 for the Archos port replicator that plugs into a concealed proprietary jack at the bottom you can extend that by 2 additional USB ports, an extra audio out, a microphone input, a VGA port and a 100/10 Mbps Ethernet socket.
The 9's external controls are reasonably well thought out and easy to use. The optical trackpad on the right hand side of the device below the power button lets you move the cursor around both easily and accurately, while still keeping a firm two-handed grip. It's complemented by two nicely weighted mouse buttons on the left above which sit a button to launch the virtual keyboard and the "A" key which curiously emulates Alt-Control-Delete on a grown-up Windows PC.
An optional docking station expands the connectivity considerably
Pressing the A key and either mouse button also acts as a shortcut to activate the Wi-Fi radio and Bluetooth but it's not an easy manoeuvre, as both the A and keyboard buttons are a little too small and a little too close together. The power key could also do with being somewhere less exposed and, ergonomically, the 9 would benefit from having a trackpad on both sides. Three LEDs on the left of the device show the status of the hard drive, power and charge but it's a shame the external controls are not back-lit for use in low light.
iPad "equivalent" for Win 7???
- Is Win 7 or this Archos tablet always on? No.
- Is Win 7 instant on? No, about 2.5 minutes to boot on the processor...
- Is it touch optimize and designed? No.
- Will it support auto rotate? Possibly, though many apps have issues with this.
- Can you share licenses with your other PCs? No.
- Can I get 3G data without a contract for $29? No.
- Does it require near zero maintenance like an iPad? No.
- 1/2" in think? no.
- under 1.5lbs? No.
- 10+ hours watching video over wifi? No, just over 2 hours, with WiFi OFF.
- 30 days standby? well, yes likely, since it's not always on...
- 1024x768? Nope, only 1024x600.
- 720P h.264 decode support? Oh, sorry, no on the GMA... Can't even do 420p.
- GPU? Nope.
- Processor to compete with A4/2GHz snapdragon? Nope, Atom 1.1Ghz... especially with only 1GB RAM for Win7, ouch!
- 32GB storage? Nope, it;s 60GB drive has only 25GB free out of the box...
Other than it has a touchscreen, it seems Archos saved EVERY expense. It competes with an iPad in ZERO categories. It;s slower, bulkier, 1/5th the battery, not IPS, lower resolution, less storage, no native 3G, and to top it all off, MORE expensive. Most regular nebooks are faster, lighter, and cheaper. EPIC FAIL.
archos customer service
Let's not forget Archos truly awful approach to customer service, just have a look at some of the forums.
Having bought archos kit before my experience is such that I will never buy it again or recommend it to anyone.
How bizarre. Produce a touch screen only tablet device and then don't install a version of Windows 7 that supports it! Instead hook in some 3rd party keyboard that doesn't work well. It also won't have the handwriting recognition.
I guess they're doing this in an effort to keep the price down with the cheaper Windows version. Unfortunately it totally compromises the concept.
Hardware is very low spec, dreadful battery life and once again Archos is sticking with it's ridiculous (and darn ugly) docks concept.
Archos seem to be trying to grab headlines by jumping on any passing bandwagon. Unfortunately the resulting products are pretty dire lash ups (take the awful Android 5 I.T. PMP that has to boot up the old Linux based OS to playback HD because they haven't ported the TI drivers).
If you've got
David, if you've got a desktop, a laptop, a netbook, a phone, a PDA, a video player, and a girlfriend (and, let's assume, a car), then I think you aren't allowed to buy yourself any more toys.
So you buy the Archos tablet for your girlfriend.
And then she wants to know why you didn't just get that one yourself instead of all the other stuff.
But is this a phone too? I suppose if you use a 3G-to-wireless soapbar and Skype, then it can be.
I'm not sure what this thing is, and why I should pay £600 of my hard-earned for it. Does it replace my phone? My PDA? My laptop? My netbook? My desktop? My iPod (or similar generic music and video player)? Is there a tablet-sized gap in my life that this fits into?
I think the answer to those questions is NO to all.
And for that reason, I'm out. And I have (very kindly) disregarded the APPALLING (in fact non-existant) customer service I got from Archos when my son's Archos MP3 player got so hot it burned his jacket pocket several years ago.