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Archos's updated Android tablets hands-on

Archos's new G9 tablets have optional hard drives, an addition that the company says necessitated a rewrite of Android's low-level file system
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1 of 5 David Meyer

Archos 80 G9 tablet

Archos has taken the wraps off its latest Android range, which includes two tablets, a music player and a cordless home phone.

The French device manufacturer, which has been putting Android into tablets since 2009, showed off the 8-inch and 10-inch G9 tablets, the Home Connect web radio and the Smart Home Phone Dect handset at an event in London on Tuesday. The 8-inch tablet, the 80 G9, is pictured above.

Both of the tablets run the Honeycomb variant of Android, which is optimised for such devices. However, Archos could not say whether it will be the Android 3.1 or Android 3.2 version of Honeycomb.

Honeycomb has been mostly implemented on Nvidia Tegra 2 tablet processors. Archos chose to work with Texas Instruments (TI) to get the Android version ported to TI's 1.5GHz dual-core OMAP4460 processor, which is based on ARM's Cortex-A9 design. Archos chief chairman Henri Crohas said at the launch that this move is awaiting Google certification.

Crohas said TI's processor makes the G9 tablets 50 percent faster than either Apple iPad 2 or many other manufacturers' Tegra 2-based Android tablets.

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2 of 5 David Meyer

Archos 101 G9 tablet

This shot shows the 101 G9, Archos's 10.1-inch Honeycomb tablet.

Both versions of the G9 have an optional hard-drive — an unusual choice, as almost all other tablets use flash storage exclusively. Archos is using Seagate's new 250GB 7mm hard-disk drives (HDD), which are also found in some thin laptops such as Lenovo's E420s, with the aim of cramming in more storage than is normally available on tablets.

The tablets are capable of running 1080p video and have HDMI outputs. According to Crohas, the 250GB HDD would allow the storage of dozens of films at this resolution.

"The Android OS is not designed to run off hard drives," Crohas said at the London event, explaining that there are usually battery life and fragility issues associated with such storage devices. He added that Archos is using a 4GB flash memory cache system to avoid these problems.

"We had to redesign the low-level Android file-system, something we've done in the framework of our partnership with Seagate," Crohas added.

The 80 G9 will cost £199 with flash-only storage — it has not been decided yet if it will be 8GB or 16GB, Crohas told ZDNet UK — or some as-yet-unspecified price for the version with the 250GB HDD. The HDD-less 101 G9 will cost £279 and the HDD-equipped 101 G9 will cost £399.

All the devices shown off on Tuesday will be available from September.

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3 of 5 David Meyer

Archos 3G dongle

Unlike rival devices, the G9 tablets do not come in Wi-Fi-only and 3G-equipped variants. Instead, they have Wi-Fi connectivity as standard, and have a slot for a 3G Archos dongle, which will be sold separately for £49.

The dongle will come with a pay-as-you-go plan from Three or Orange, and will be pre-loaded with three days' worth of unlimited connectivity. After that, a day's use will cost £5, and three days' use £10.

As well as being usable in the tablets, the dongle will work for providing cellular connectivity to PCs.

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4 of 5 David Meyer

Archos 35 Home Connect

The Archos 35 Home Connect is an Android-based web radio, although it has many other functions.

Expected to have a recommended price of £119, the device can run music or videos, or serve as an alarm clock or news reader.

It also has a VGA webcam, so it can be used with Google Talk. Archos has created an optimised videoconferencing feature that auto-answers in Google Talk, so the Home Connect device can be turned into a baby monitor when the parent calls a preset number.

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Archos 35 Smart Home Phone

The Archos 35 Smart Home Phone is basically an Android smartphone without the cellular functionality. It uses the Dect standard instead, to operate as a landline handset.

The device will have a recommended price of £129 at its launch in September.


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