The exterior of the Archos 101 G9 is certainly its weakest point with a cheap, plasticky feel and the dull grey colour doesn’t add to its sex appeal
As with virtually all Android Honeycomb 3.2 tablets, it’s very easy to rattle through the set up process and get all your social networking and email accounts up and running
Access to the Android Market and its 500,000 apps, phenomenal video playback, GPS and Wi-Fi support. There’s also an optional extra (£50) 3G dongle that fits snugly into the back
The 1GHz dual-core OMAP4 processor and 512MB of memory are commonplace in many tablets, but not for one in this price range. There’s a lot of muscle packed inside that chassis
Pretty poor. It only last a few hours watching video and it took absolutely ages to charge up (even on a mains)
For the average Apple or Android fanboy, the Archos brand probably hasn’t made it onto their radar. But the French technology firm was making tablets long before Steve Jobs gave the world its ‘first' tablet. Back before the iPad was born they were known as portable media players (PMPs) and were, primarily, the choice gadget for people with massive digital video collections. PMPs were expensive, and lacked the marketing muscle that Apple used to launch the iPad and the tablet market that followed. But Archos was the big fish in that pre-tablet pond – and one trying to make a splash in a far bigger and more competitive ocean.
Before you even switch on the Archos 101 G9 it’s clear why it costs £270, and anyone who’s handled a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 or an iPad 2 will be horrified by its build quality. Just giving the chassis a little squeeze makes it groan and you’ll be worried that even a volley of bad language could break it. It’s no head-turner either, with a fat bezel surrounding the 10.1-inch screen and a monotone grey finish adding to its somewhat unsexy facade. If you want a flashy tablet to show off to your friends, you’re going to have to spend a bit more money.Held in landscape, the right side houses a volume rocker, while on the left you’ll find micro HDMI, Micro USB and microSD slots, a 3.5mm headphone jack, lock/unlock button and, at the top, something very unusual indeed – a USB 3G dongle that slides in and out of the chassis. However, you will have to buy this piece of kit separately for £50, and it’s simply a case of slapping in a SIM card to enable 3G. This is great if you want to surf outside a Wi-Fi spot, but for downloading and streaming movies you’d really want to use Wi-Fi anyway to avoid astronomical data charges.Beneath the Archos 101 G9’s flimsy hood lies some impressive hardware. A 1GHz dual-core processor is typically found in tablets closer to the £400 mark, and the 512MB of RAM helps keep things ticking along at a reasonable rate for a machine in this price range. It’s far from lag-free, however, and getting to grips with Android Honeycomb 3.2 is not as easy as you might expect. Juggling several apps from the 500,000+ Android Market will make the Archos 101 G9 cough and splutter, but for the price it does an agreeable job. Surprisingly, there’s no rear-facing camera, just a token 1.2-megapixel offering on the front of the device that’s little more than a webcam, and not a great one at that, with extremely grainy results more worthy of mobile phones from 10 years ago.
Storage options are as wide ranging as it gets. The £270 model we tested came with 8GB of flash memory, which is unimpressive but easily boosted to 40GB with a cheap 32GB microSD. There’s also a version on the way with a 250GB hard drive, but it’s safe to assume you will have to pay a fair bit more for this model. But this particular tablet’s target market – the digital movie buff who want their entire film library with them wherever they go – may be willing to shell out a bit more for the extra space. After all, this is a movie machine – it even has a handy kickstand on the back to hold it upright – something we’d like to see in more tablets.
There is almost no video format this machine won’t run, including everyone’s favourite – DivX. Stick on an MP4, AVI, MPG and a whole host of abbreviates we’ve never even heard of – in fact, you can throw pretty much anything on it and it will play, The video playing software is first-rate and far more impressive than the basic Android player. And with the HDMI output to connect it to your HDTV, wireless streaming capability and the ability to turn your Android mobile into a remote control, this is one the finest tablets out there for video playback.
If your main reason for owning a tablet is your hunger for movies on the move, this is a great option as it’ll play almost anything and has some great media software. But its lack of a rear-facing camera, cheap build quality and weak battery leave it trailing long behind the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It’s cheap, but you get what you pay for.