If you judge a book purely by its cover, or a tablet purely by its looks, then you might not opt for the Archos 101 G9. The chassis is plastic, with rounded edges and a fairly solid feel, but it doesn’t have the immediate ‘eye candy’ appeal that the likes of Apple or Samsung can muster.
It is a little thick too, at 12.6mm, though its weight of 649g is fairly comfortable in one or both hands.
There’s a kickstand on the back which allows the device to sit neatly on a desk in wide screen format. This works well enough but it feels a little flimsy and might be vulnerable to snapping off.
Still, we like the kickstand and we also like the four small rubber feet on the back which stop the tablet slipping around on a table top and help keep the plastic back raised from the table and hence scratch free.
The Archos 101 G9 has Wi-Fi but no 3G built in. There’s good news in that Archos makes a 3G dongle that can be slotted into a covered section on the back of the chassis and this can add mobile date capability. It’ll add £50 to the overall cost, but it can be used with PCs too.
There’s a headset connector on the left short edge, and this edge is where you’ll find most of the other buttons and ports. The only one to reside on another edge is a small volume rocker that sits on the right short edge.
As many other tablets do, the Archos 101 G9 has HDMI out support, though you’ll need to buy a cable if you want to take advantage as none is provided.
There’s also a microSD card slot for boosting the internal memory. Annoyingly cards don’t quite go all the way into the slot – we can easily imagine them ‘pinging’ out and across the room.
Internal storage is where things get a bit interesting. Looking online as we wrote this review we saw an 8GB version like the one we reviewed for £219, 16GB version for £349 and a version with a 250GB hard drive for £379. The 250GB version is a bit thicker than our review sample as the chassis has to accommodate the drive.
There’s just the one camera, on the front, and it is capable of 720p video recording but just 1.2 megapixel stills. It lacks a flash and isn’t very good at capturing content to keep. It does work for video calling, but its location isn’t ideal.
It sits on the left short screen bezel, and we found it was all too easy to cover it with our hand when holding the Archos 101 G9 in wide screen mode. You’re probably going to have to use portrait mode most frequently for video calling or sit the tablet on its kickstand in wide mode.
The dual core 1GHz processor doesn’t quite spring into action as quickly as we’d like, and that has a negative effect on general usability. We were testing the device with Honeycomb installed, but an update to Ice Cream Sandwich is now available, hopefully bringing performance improvements with it.
We also found the 1280 x 800 pixel screen a little too reflective for our tastes and a little lacking in vibrancy. However, the Archos 101 G9 is a great little video and music player, handing plenty of formats and with special media centric apps on board. If you can afford the 250GB model it ought to be able to hold most people’s music libraries.
What this boils down to is a tablet that’s hard to judge in overall terms. If you like swanky hardware you probably won’t like the Archos 101 G9. If you are looking for something primarily for media consumption you probably will. If you want a great camera you’ll be disappointed.
Written by Sandra Vogel