The Apple iPad is an amazing device that has caused a mass influx of new competition in the tablet market, but even with all its wonderful features, the iPad is at its core an iPhone operating system on a much larger screen.
The Archos 9 PC tablet aims to give you both the convenience of a tablet device that you can control from the comfort of your sofa, while also enjoying the benefits of a Windows operating system that is capable of so much more than the iPad could offer.
So with tablet in hand, let’s take a closer look…
The screen although not a fancy modern multi-touch affair is a capable 8.9″ (1024×600 pixel) display that works well with the accompanying pen. The Archos 9 comes with a 60GB hard drive, although 16GB is assigned for operating system recovery as a separate drive, leaving you around 40GB for the actual operating system, installed applications and any media you wish to store on the device. Around the edge of the screen are various buttons, however the key ones are a mouse left and right click selection and virtual keyboard toggle. Also included is a 1.3 mega-pixel webcam, for those Skype or other video calls you like to make with family and friends. Last of all is the trackpoint, which gives you another way of controlling the pointer on screen, although the pen certainly works best.
There is also a USB 2.0 port, which is perfect for plugging in a compatible keyboard. Using the built in stand functionality that allows the screen to sit upright, you can plug in a ‘real’ keyboard and type up your emails with ease. As you would expect, the Archos 9 has built in Wi-Fi so connecting to your wireless network shouldn’t be a problem. If you wish to add extra ports, you can purchase an additional accessory called a ‘Port Replicator’ that adds additional USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet LAN port, headset connector and VGA output.
Although Windows 7 Starter Edition supports a touch screen, it is immediately evident that the size of the icons and buttons were never aimed at the trusted finger. Instead, you rely on the pen hiding within the back of the Archos 9. Anyone used to the Windows environment will soon become a wizard at navigating around the operating system, although it becomes a little trickier when you wish to type. On the left hand side of the unit is a keyboard button that reveals a virtual on-screen keyboard. This requires a little more patience and perseverance but with time you become accustomed to this new way of thinking.
Although applications on tablets and smart-phones (now known as apps) offer specially designed versions that run best on the new hardware types – your choice is dependent on a developer taking the time to create their masterpiece. Using Windows, the world is your oyster and experimenting with the various applications available that usually run on your desktop or laptop computer provides quite a bit of fun in itself.
A fully featured web browser is available in the form of Internet Explorer, however if you are like me and prefer other free alternatives including Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, you have that choice thanks to using a Windows operating system.
By no fault of the Archos product, Windows 7 Starter Edition removes one key feature. The wallpaper is removed and you can’t even add your own. Instead you are left with a black background to gawp at, which is just a puzzling decision from Microsoft. You also lose the fancy Aero 3D effects in this version of Windows 7.
One of the main disadvantages of the Apple iPad is the lack of Flash support. Flash is used on a variety of well known websites that incorporates video, music and audio features – although Apple chose not to support this area, forcing designers to work around the issue. For iPad users, this is not a major problem, however it does give the Archos 9 one key advantage.
Pre-installed with Windows 7 32-bit starter edition, you can install and run pretty much whatever software you wish and you are certainly not limited by availability of tablet specific versions. Popping over to the Adobe website, I easily installed Flash and within minutes my web browsing capabilities soared.
Photo, music and of course video playback runs fairly well on the Archos 9 and with the added flexibility of Windows allowing you to play all sorts of formats as long as you take the time to install the required codecs for them to play, which can usually be found on the Internet.
- PROCESSOR: Intel ATOM Z515 1.2 GHz
- DISPLAY: 8.9” LED backlight, 1024×600 pixels, Resistive touch screen
- VIDEO CHIPSET: Intel Poulsbo US15W
- OPERATING SYSTEM: Microsoft® Windows® 7 Starter Edition
- SYSTEM MEMORY: 1GB onboard (DDR2 SDRAM 400)
- HARD DRIVE: HDD 60GB (1.8”)
- DIMENSIONS: 256 x 134 x 17 mm
- WEIGHT: 800 grams
The Archos 9 is a gentle step into the Windows tablet market with an environment Microsoft users will be familiar with without many of the limitations tablets usually endure. The slight catch is that Windows 7 really is a PC operating system and in a much smaller form factor the weaker specifications are apparent, although not annoyingly so.
For another one hundred pounds or so you could step into Apple iPad territory, however if you crave an environment that isn’t as restrictive and would love the opportunity to experiment, the Archos 9 proves to be a good contender.