Archos announced its two upcoming ninth-generation tablets last week in Paris and the whole world was mesmerized by the Archos 80 G9 and the Archos 101 G9 prices, which are practically ultra-cheap. The more precise term would be “value for money.”
How does Archos manage to produce such high-performance devices and sell them at such low prices?
Archos founder and CEO Henri Crohas pointed at what seems to be the price-bloatening practice of other tablet manufacturers: trying to outdo the iPad (i.e., creating an “iPad killer”), which consequently often results not only in iPad-comparable hardware power but also iPad-comparable price ranges.
Archos, on the other hand, innovates and is always on the lookout for cost-effective solutions. For instance, the upcoming G9 tablets are packed into a gray plastic body rather than an alloy body produced by precision machines. The display screens don’t look as glossy as other tablets’ screens because Archos screens aren’t made of one sheet of glass. But, does that really matter as much as the beckoning glow of Android 3.1 Honeycomb under the screen?
According to the folks at Pocket-lint, who had the privilege of doing a hands-on examination of the new Archos tablets, the Archos 101 G9 felt “a little creaky” and the slot for the 3G USB dongle on the tablet’s underside felt “a little loose.”
In terms of processing power, Archos opted for the “less expensive” but still “more powerful” OMAP4 processor (1.5GHz) from Texas Instruments. For storage, Archos has teamed up with Seagate for the latter’s Momentus Thin hard disk drives, which are tablet-ready. While most tablets come equipped with very thin and lightweight solid state drives (SSD), the very convenience of thinness and lightness also creates the space limitations on SSD-based tablets (usually just 32 gigabytes at the most). Archos’ solution packs more storage space into Archos tablets, especially the hard-disk drive version of the Archos 101 G9. Such tablet may be slightly thicker and slightly heavier than SSD counterparts, but hey, I won’t complain if I get 250 gigabytes of storage.
Archos also didn’t throw in expensive 3G hardware into the mix. Instead, the company decided to make 3G completely optional via a 3G USB dongle sold separately. The new Archos tablets do have Wi-Fi capability built in. The logic behind this decision is supposed to be that of “Why let the customer pay for something that he or she may not need?” while still providing a solution just in case the customer will need 3G connectivity.
Such design decisions are just some of Archos’ solutions for keeping its tablet prices low and affordable.
Meanwhile, Pocket-lint reports that the gadgets were pretty much stock Honeycomb, with a handful of Archos-developed apps. Of particular note is the video player, which Archos claims to be capable of 1080p H.264 High Profile videos. With the mini HDMI port on the Archos G9 tablets, playing hi-definition videos on an HDTV should be nothing less than pleasurable.
Some of us who are so used to the solid frames, the sturdy designs, and the glossy finish of other high-end tablets and smartphones could easily get ourselves tempted to look down on these upcoming Archos tablets and hastily judge them as flimsy.
But, given the fact that there is a real market–a rather big one, in fact–for affordable tablets, Archos’ G9 tablets just may be able to reach out to that market more easily than their high-end, higher-priced counterparts can.
It remains to be seen whether the tablets can withstand the test of time and are durable enough for rugged daily use. Otherwise, a consumer might be wiser to save up for higher-end (read: pricier) tablets designed for rough use.
But, if, like me, you are the kind who takes good care of your electronic devices, are budget-conscious, and buy your gadgets never primarily basing on their look-and-feel, then ultra-cheap tablets such as the Archos 101 G9 and the Archos 80 G9 won’t surely escape our attention.
Are Archos’ new tablets severely cheap? You bet they are! But, before you condemn them as incapable and not worth wasting your money on, try thinking whether or not other tablets are just absurdly overpriced.
I have a strong feeling that Archos’ new tablets will be game changers (in terms of pricing) in the tablet scene. What do you think?
Image credit: Pocket-lint