Archos 9 – UMPC, Tablet PC or PMP?

In the end, I feel a little sorry for the Archos 9 PCTablet. After years of essentially pointless UMPC devices attracting the attention of geeks and enterprise customers but few others, it looked like they’d found a good balance of performance and price (the Paulsbo chipset, despite what you read now, was Intel’s great hope for delivering usable battery life and Windows 7 performance in low-cost netbooks); delivered the usable resolution, slim body, good industrial design and acceptable runtime for smartphone rather than laptop money. Had the UMPC market remained unchallenged, this would be a real winner amongst some very expensive and overpriced devices (many of which simply don’t have the support of an established consumer brand behind them). The time it took to get from “announced” to “available” saw the marketplace change beyond recognition.

Unfortunately it seems that Apple’s iPad has demonstrated that what the market really wanted was a bigger smartphone, rather than a smaller desktop computer and the sacrifices made to deliver a fully engineered, completed system at this price have ensured it lacks the power to attract the utility-driven Windows “road warriors” – who will be more satisfied with a crudely engineered but powerful product that can genuinely run their apps.

One area where the Archos might appeal is for older kids who understand that it’s a media rather than gaming device. If you don’t want to spend the money on an iPad and are used to dealing with Windows machines, the Archos is sufficiently stylish and unique not to seem to be a poor copy of the iPad whilst also being a less blatantly expensive bit of tech. There’s a good argument for the wide range of software available to Windows, particularly with regard to social networking, and without 3G connectivity it’s easy to control how they’re using those tools outside the home. As a media player it naturally is capable of handling a wide range of formats – not least via VLC of course. With a decent case such as the Tuff-Luv leather Archos 9 case it should withstand a school or college day as an entertainment device rather than a productivity tool (the provided battery life precludes that, though the removable battery does mean several charged batteries or an extended pack could be used).

These Amazon adverts are linked directly to this site rather than generated by Google or similar, and are provided primarily to provide quick access to the products mentioned in this article; I don’t think clicking them benefits me, but buying via them does. Obviously I advocate shopping around before buying any product – however at the time of writing I have not seen the Archos 9 cheaper from any reputable source; eXpansys are currently (over)charging £480ish for it, many eBay sellers are offering the short-lived 1.1GHz model at over £400.

(And I still don’t understand why the keyboard is so expensive).

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