The iPad is not yet out, but the aspiring iPad killers are lurking everywhere.
One of the first out of the gate is the Archos 9 PC Tablet. Archos has long ruled the portable media-player space, and in recent years it has tiptoed into the mini-tablet arena, most recently with a device that runs Android OS, the Archos 5.
With the Archos 9, it jumps up to Windows 7 (Starter Edition), a full-on PC in a slate form factor, all for an iPad-competitive price of $550.
Don’t get too excited just yet.
The Archos 9 is an interesting device, but even a few weeks before the iPad’s release it’s clear this tablet has an uphill climb ahead of it.
The near-fatal flaw with the Archos 9 is in the realm of data entry. A tablet is only as good as its touchscreen, and the Archos’ is one of the least capable we’ve used. While you can theoretically use your fingers to operate the device, this is in reality a fool’s errand of the highest order. Accuracy is a problem, but pressure sensitivity is an even bigger one. In mere minutes of use, you’ll find you’re jabbing at the onscreen keyboard (conveniently loadable at the push of a hardware button, thankfully), only to find you are missing the right letter half the time.
That leaves the device best suited for simple tasks like web browsing or watching movies. The 8.9-inch, 1024 x 600 pixel screen is at least better than your cellphone or iPod. But if you’re doing even a modest amount of data entry, it quickly becomes enraging.
A single USB port (there’s also a headphone jack) at least gives you the option of plugging in an external keyboard, but if you’re going to do that, you might as well buy a netbook, right?