LAS VEGAS–Archos has been making tablets for far longer than most manufacturers, under the guise of souped-up media players. And once again, the company is aiming to target specific audiences, based on its new 2013 Android tablet offerings here at CES. These are no me-too tablets, though; the lineup emphasizes diversity and originality, and includes a high-pixel-density 9.7-inch tablet, as well as a smaller model with integrated gaming controls, and a jumbo size model that’s only the second 13-inch Android tablet to come to market.
The shining jewel of the lineup is an unexpected find: The Archos 97 Platinum, with its gleaming 2048-by-1536-pixel resolution on a 9.7-inch display. Do those specs sound familiar? They should… it’s what Apple’s iPad with Retina display has at 264 pixels per inch. This display is Super IPS, so it appears brighter than a standard IPS display, and the colors looked very vibrant and satisfying. It’s not an optically bonded display, but to Archos’ credit, the air gap between the LCD and the glass is relatively minimal, which in turn helps to keep glare lower. Oddly, the spec for the angle of view is just 85 degrees, which feels a bit low for an IPS display.
Physically, the 97 Platinum looks attractive and feels solidly designed, with a reasonably thin aluminum case, white bezel around the display, and light weight. Inside the Google-certified 97 Platinum is Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean and Google’s services, including Google Play. The tablet runs a quad-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A7-based processor from Chinese chip maker Allwinner; this system-on-chip has 2GB of system memory and 8 GPU cores. The tablet comes with a modest complement of storage, though—just 8GB, too low considering the resolution of the display. At least there’s a MicroSD card slot for adding your own content, up to 32GB; and there’s a mini-HDMI port, too. Each of the cameras—front- and rear-facing—are 2 megapixels, modest compared to the competition.
But then, you have to consider the 97 Platinum’s price: $300, $200 less than Apple’s iPad with the same resolution display.
The smaller Archos 80 Platinum has the same guts and looks identical, save for its screen size and resolution. This display is jut 1024 by 768 pixels, same as iPad 2. And it costs just $200, one-third less than its larger sibling. Both models are due in March.
Archos also has two intriguing tablets in its arsenal: The GamePad and the FamilyPad. The $170 GamePad has a 7-inch, 1024-by-600-pixel MVA display, a less vibrant display that falls in between TN and IPS technology. Like the others, the GamePad has only 8GB of storage, 1GB of memory, and a dual-core 1.6GHz Rokchip 3066 ARM-based processor with a quad-core Mali 400 GPU. On either side of the display sit integrated gamepad controllers and joysticks; in order for them to work, you’ll have to map them to a video game yourself.
The controllers work with games that have virtual on-screen controls, but not swiping controls. The tablet has a front-facing camera, as well as Micro-USB and Mini HDMI. Interestingly, even with the game controls built-in, the GamePad felt featherweight, although Archos didn’t have dimensions or weight specs available. Like Archos’ other tablets, the GamePad runs Android 4.1.1 Jelly bean, is Google-certified, and has Google Play on-board.
While the GamePad is best suited to individual users, the FamilyPad goes big…really big, to get the whole family involved. In spite of its name, there’s nothing specific to the tablet (like multi-user accounts) that makes it better suited to families. However, its sheer size—courtesy of its 13.3-inch capacitive touch screen—makes the FamilyPad useful for sharing. The tablet has a 1280-by-800-pixel resolution, which feels inadequate compared to the only other 13.3-inch Android tablet we’ve seen— the Toshiba Excite 13offers a 1600-by-900 pixel resolution.
Then again, this model, sells for $300, less than half the price of the Toshiba linked above. Its innards are the same as on the GamePad; the big distinction lies in the physical size. Archos wisely includes a stand, so you can easily share the tablet in the home.
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