Archos 9 – UMPC, Tablet PC or PMP?

Accessories and Modifications
As with all mobile devices, carrycases and protection are essential – Tuff-Luv seem to produce the widest range of cases for the Archos, and sent me an unusual Eco-nique Hemp cotton case rather than the black leather/”veggie-leather” options more commonly seen. The hemp case provded is a snug fit for the Archos 9, with a stylus slot in the fold that takes the standard slim stylus (I’d like to have seen a bit more space and provision for a larger third-party stylus, but it does address accessing the built-in one when it’s in the case) and cutouts for all the ports perfectly placed including an aperture on the back for the kickstand. There’s also a built in stand which adds a third and more stable support to the two angles available with the Archos’ telescopic solution.

The hemp case disguises the technology brilliantly, making it look more like an art case or clutch bag, with an embroidered design that manages not to make the case particularly girly. Obviously it’s not going to look at place on the red leather seat of your Audi S5 convertible, but it should be right at home at art school or urban PTA meetings.

Street prices for the Archos 9 seem to be compelling currently, making it potentially seem something of a bargain for an attractive looking UMPC. In fact, at the easily available Amazon price of £369, this seemingly full-featured computer looks positively cheap compared to the solid little Archos 7 and 5 tablets that have ensured the French firm has actually been one of the few global manufacturers to maintain a real presence in the tablet/MID market outside of Asia. In fact, Archos has already proven that at either end of the market, it’s capable of understanding and delivering good products – the Archos 7 Home Tablet is only £129 and undercuts most technically similar Chinese imports, though by all accounts it’s very much the same level of product as well.

It is possible to drastically update the Archos 9’s utility if you want to crack it open and spend a little extra money. Given the current price, the 6000mAh battery from SupereTrader at £29.99 would appear to be excellent value compared to Archos’ own 3000mAh unit at over £50; I have requested one of these to test.

The standard 1.8″ HD is very slow, and not particularly capacious; around £300 will get a 128GB 1.8″ SSD (though prices do vary – you want an 8.5mm or thinner PATA ZIF (40 pin) type). The WiFi and Bluetooth are on a shared Mini PCIe card; some success has been had upgrading these to a Huawei E772 WiFi + HSPA 3G card (with SIM on an extension under the battery). Admittedly by the time you’ve installed the parts to bring the Archos up to a 3G iPad 64GB’s specifications, you’ve spent as much or more and still have the slower UI of Windows – but if you wanted a Windows machine in the first place, you’re getting close to the iPad’s battery life and storage at this point.

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