Donuts, eclairs, frozen yogurt and honeycombs sound like a string of favorite things to sing along with the strudels and noodles of the "Sound of Music," but they're really favorites in the world of tablet operating systems, not musicals. With Donuts, Eclairs and Froyos (for frozen yogurt) nicknaming the Android 1.6 to 2.2 operating systems and Honeycombs creating a buzz in the 3.0 to 3.2 Android world, tech companies have been working to scale computing functions and graphics for the specific sizes of tablets. Android 2.1 and 2.2 work well in many devices, but the 3.2. Honeycomb OS is the first Android development specifically for tablet displays.
One company launching Honeycomb-powered tablets is Archos, a French consumer electronics firm known for its portable video and audio players. Archos has been around since 1988 and launched its first Internet tablets in 2008, with its Android tablets following in 2009 [source: Archos]. As of 2011, Archos offered 10 different tablets with its newest and fastest G9 Honeycomb tablets slated for fall 2011 release. Other tablet makers are ahead of Archos in releasing Android 3.0 devices, but few, if any, have done it as affordably.
Not only does Archos offer a lot of tablets, they're also some of the lowest priced, with CNET reviews declaring that they're "ridiculously affordable" compared to some of the big names in tablets like Apple and Motorola. Archos tablets also made CNET's lists of the five best budget, best 7-inch and best Android tablets in 2011 [source: Bell]. With prices ranging from about $99.99 for a 2.8-inch (7.11 cm) palm-sized tablet to an estimated $369 starting price for its upcoming 10.1-inch (25.65 cm) G9 tablet, Archos' Android line falls well below the lowest price point for high-end devices and even most lower-end offerings. (Its Archos 9 PC tablet offers a Windows OS instead of Android and comes in a bit higher price at about $499.99.)
Tablet sales were so strong after the launch of Apple's iPad in early 2010 that most of the big names in computing introduced their own versions. As of mid-2011, none have come close to the millions of iPad units Apple has sold, and one of the most touted tablets in the business, HP's TouchPad, was even discontinued weeks after its launch due to poor sales and lukewarm reviews [source: Gallagher]. Can the lower-priced but highly loaded Archos tablet range do better and have a longer run? Could it become a "favorite thing" for consumers?
Next we'll look at whether Archos is a sweet deal.
Archos Tablet Specs
"Entertainment your way" is the tagline on the Archos Web site, and alongside its selection of tablets, Archos sells close to 20 different MP3/MP4 players and two e-readers. Its tablets are broken down into several categories: Android tablets, PC tablets and Android players, also called Internet tablets or mini tablets.
- Archos 101 -- 10.1-inch tablet with Android Froyo 2.2 OS and 8 or 16 GB
- Archos 70 -- 7-inch tablet with Android Froyo 2.2 OS and 8 GB
- Archos 28 -- 2.8-inch tablet with Android Froyo 2.2 OS and 4 or 8 GB
- Archos 32 -- 3.2-inch tablet with Android Froyo 2.2 OS and 8 GB
- Archos 43 -- 4.3-inch tablet with Android Froyo 2.2 OS and 8 or 16 GB
- Archos 48 -- 4.8-inch tablet with Android 1.6 Donut OS and 256 MB
- Archos 7C Home tablet -- 7-inch with Android 2.1 Eclair OS and 8 GB
- Archos 9PC tablet -- 9-inch with Windows 7 Starter OS and 32 or 60 GB
Although Archos got its start in entertainment-based media, its tablets are marketed for playing media and for home PC use, as well as for business support. And its next-big-thing G9 tablets offer just about everything a tablet user could ask for, plus the improved usability of the Android 3.2 OS and an enormous amount of memory -- up to 250 GB in a hard drive format, in addition to internal flash memory, for some.
Archos tablets offer Wi-Fi (802.11), Bluetooth connectivity, touch screens, capabilities for video, e-reading, music, photos, movies and Internet surfing, and many offer expandable memory card options, cameras, USB ports, Web cams and HDMI output. In terms of weight, the palm-sized or mini tablets weigh as little as 2.4 ounces (.07 kilograms) and the Archos 101 10.1-inch Internet Tablet is 1.06 pounds (0.48 kilograms). For comparison, the iPad 2 weighs in at about 1.34 pounds (.6 kilograms) [source: Archos, Apple Inc.].
Archos tablets also can handle Adobe Flash (up to 10.3 as of this writing) and several come with options for adding a 3G module or stick, so users can run either Wi-Fi or 3G without choosing one or the other exclusively. Battery life for the tablets is strong, with specs given per use. For example the Archos 101 and Archos 80 G9 tablets show memory times of up to 10 hours for Web surfing, up to 36 hours for music playback and up to 7 hours for video [source: Archos].
With all of its memory and capability, are there many compatible and available applications?
We'll look at apps and accessories next.
Archos Tablet Accessories
Getting the most out of a tablet device has a lot to do with how easily you can access the stuff you need and use. Applications allow users to customize what they do with phones, PDAs and tablets, and depending on who made the device and what kind of partnerships they have, you can get either tens or hundreds of thousands of apps -- or only a fraction of that. Owners of Archos tablets have plenty of options for loading them up, with access to the Archos AppsLib of about 38,000 apps; 35,000 of them free [source: Archos]
If you're looking for access to Google's Android Marketplace, however, as of yet Archos tablets can't access the full marketplace, though the upcoming G9 tablets will have it preinstalled. Some basic Google apps like maps are available for current and older models through the AppsLib, though, and many users report that there are some hacks for getting access to more Google offerings. Within the AppsLib, applications are divided by category and you'll find many popular games, apps supporting YouTube and Facebook, and options for radio and media play among others. And if you aren't an Archos tablet owner and want access to the Archos AppsLib, a download is available and it's adaptable depending on what Android device you own.
Archos offers a range of accessories for its tablets too, including stands, car mounts, protective cases and skins, and a selection of cables, adaptors and ports for input and output between devices. Some Archos tablets, including the 10.1-inch 101 model even have built-in stands for freestanding use. Other accessories include games, plugins and remotes. Two sources for finding out more about Archos apps and accessories are the English and French company fan Web sites, ArchosFans.com and ArchosLounge.net.
All-in-all, reviews of Archos tablets have been in the three out of five stars range, and there is some buzz about the Android for tablets 3.2 Honeycomb OS due in the September 2011 G9 release. Some, however, wonder how the new tablets will fare coming later than releases of Honeycomb-powered tablets by other manufacturers. Whether the new tablets will be a success is yet to be seen, but even the existing offerings appear to be reliable and impressive picks for basic and frequent tablet e-reading, multimedia streaming and browsing. With an iPad 3 on the 2012 horizon and a trail of failed HP TouchPads in their wake, Archos tablets are worth a look and feel, and are less of a tough tablet to swallow with their economic price point.
More talk of tablets, Androids and gadgets on the next page.
More Great Links
- Apple Inc. "Technical Specifications, iPad 2." Apple.com. 2011. (Aug. 12, 2011) http://www.apple.com/ipad/specs/
- Archos. "101 Internet Tablet Tech Specs." Arcos.com. 2011. (Aug. 19, 2011) http://store.archos.com/archos-internet-tablet-p-5005.html
- Archos. "28 Internet Tablet Tech Specs." Arcos.com. 2011. (Aug. 19, 2011) http://store.archos.com/archos-internet-tablet-p-5002.html
- Archos. "AppsLib: Applications." AppsLib.com. 2011. (Aug. 21, 2011) http://appslib.com/applications/index.html
- Archos. "Press Release: Archos Unveils Fastest Tablets with G9 Tablet Range." June 23, 2011. (Aug. 18, 2011) http://www.archos.com/corporate/press/press_releases/ARCHOS_G9_US_EN.pdf
- Donald. "Archos 101 (16GB)." CNET.com. Feb. 23, 2011. (Aug. 18, 2011) http://reviews.cnet.com/tablets/archos-101-16gb/4505-3126_7-34167948.html?tag=rnav
- Bell, Donald. "Archos 70 (8GB)." CNET.com. July 14, 2011. (Aug. 18, 2011) http://reviews.cnet.com/tablets/archos-70-8gb/4505-3126_7-34167949.html
- Bell, Donald. "Best 7-inch Tablets." CNET.com. July 27, 2011. (Aug. 15, 2011) http://reviews.cnet.com/2733-3126_7-936-3.html?tag=
- Bell, Donald. "Best Android Tablets." CNET.com. July 27, 2011. (Aug. 15, 2011) http://reviews.cnet.com/best-tablets/best-5-android-tablets?tag=
- Bell, Donald. "Best Budget Tablets." CNET.com. July 27, 2011. (Aug. 15, 2011) http://reviews.cnet.com/2733-3126_7-936-5.html?tag=
- Bell, Donald. "Tablet Buying Guide: Operating Systems." CNET.com. March 24, 2011. (Aug. 12, 2011) http://reviews.cnet.com/2719-3126_7-1045-3.html
- Bradley, Tony. "3G v. WiFi: Which iPad is Right for You." PCWorld.com. May 3, 2010. (Aug. 17, 2011) http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/195521/3g_v_wifi_which_ipad_is_right_for_you.html
- Gallagher, Dan. "H-P Discontinues WebOS, Handsets, Tablets." MarketWatch.com. Aug. 15, 2011. (Aug. 19, 2011) http://www.marketwatch.com/story/h-p-discontinues-webos-handsets-tablets-2011-08-18?link=MW_story_latest_news
- Kingsley-Hughes, Adrian. "Archos G9 Android Tablets - Serious Competition for the iPad." ZDNet.com. June 24, 2011. (Aug. 18, 2011) http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/archos-g9-android-tablets-serious-competition-for-the-ipad/13442
- Melanson, Donald. "Archos 5, 7 Internet Media Tablets Now on Sale." Engadget.com. Aug. 22, 2008. (Aug. 17, 2011) http://www.engadget.com/2008/08/22/archos-5-7-internet-media-tablets-now-on-sale/
- Murph, Darren. "Archos Intros 80 G9 and 101 G9 Android 3.1. Tablets 1.5GHz CPU, 250GB HDD, 3G-ready (Hands-on)." Engadget.com. June 23, 2011. (Aug. 18, 2011) http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/23/archos-intros-80-gb-and-101-g9-android-3-1-tablets-1-5ghz-cpu/
- Sutter, John D. "Why Does Google Name Its Android Products After Desserts?" CNN.com. Feb. 4, 2011. (Aug. 19, 2011) http://articles.cnn.com/2011-02-04/tech/google.honeycomb.android.names_1_google-android-android-os-randall-sarafa?_s=PM:TECH
- Trenholm, Rich. "Archos G9 8-inch and 10-inch Tablets Pack 3.1 Honeycomb, 250 GB Storage." CNET.co.uk. June 24, 2011. (Aug. 17, 2011) http://crave.cnet.co.uk/laptops/archos-g9-8-inch-and-10-inch-tablets-pack-3-1-honeycomb-250gb-storage-50004221/