As someone who will be heading to college soon I am interested in the MID, UMPC, and Netbook market. I am skeptical about netbooks because I don't believe that they are all that portable so I am looking at MID tablets such as the Archos 9 for mobile use, and I would use of the iGo Stowaway ultra-Slim keyboard for extended typing which will still make it more portable then a netbook. After countless hours of research and repairing and building computers by trade I have some thoughts on the Archos 9 that I hope you all find interesting.
First I would like to discuss the simple existence of the Archos 9. From what I see, Archos is trying to go after the Netbook market rather than the MID market. An 8.9" screen makes it quite a bit larger than most MIDs out there, but still smaller than a folded netbook and certainly smaller than an open one. However, with an 8.9" screen the device is still quite large and may not fit into the netbook category or the MID category very well because of that. Also, a device this large is certainly not pocketable, or even close, and so it would likely need to be carried in a bag which in some ways lessens the Archos 9's size advantage over a similar netbook. Also with the lack of a built in keyboard this small size difference may force customers to go for a more conventional and less expensive netbook. I'm not sure how much sense a MID tablet with an 8.9" screen actually makes.
With all that aside there really is only one thing that makes any computer stand out, the hardware.
From the specifications we know now the Archos 9 is supposed to utilize an Intel Atom Z515 processor, the US15w chipset with the Intel GMA 500 IGP, 1GB of RAM, and an 80GB HDD or a possible 120GB HDD.
Before even getting into the specific parts, it may be best to talk about the actual backbone on the PC, the chipset. The US15w is a chipset that supports Intel's Silverthorne CPUs, or the Z5xx series, which are specifically made for MIDs. The US15w supports a maximum of 1GB of DDR2 RAM, though there is an MID out with this chipset that may support up to 2GB of DDR2 but this is may just be an error by the manufacturer. And finally, the US15w uses the GMA 500 IGP.
Now the processor is an interesting one. The Atom Z515 uses a burst system that is, from what I understand, much like Intel Speedstep. The Z515 usually runs at 800 MHz, but under load will increase it's clockspeed to 1.2 GHz. Note that the direct competitor to the Archos 9 will likely be the Viliv S5, S7, and X70EX which all use the Atom Z520 which runs at a constant 1333 MHz. While the Z515 has a lower TPD than the Z520 (1.4w vs 2w) I would REALLY like to see a faster processor in the Archos 9, or atleast an option
, especially with the higher native resolution, such as the Atom Z530 which has a TPD of 2w, runs at 1600 MHz, and only costs $40 more (about $35 vs $70) than the Z515 at retail prices. To me the major hindrance of the Archos 9, hardware wise, is the processor, while not slow it is not exactly fast either. Again, Archos needs to give us options about these things.
For all of you who do not know, the GMA 500 is actually pretty decent for an MID. While gaming is out of the question, the GMA 500 runs 720p movies smoothly and, after some format modifications, even 1080p movies run smoothly with it. Also, while not faster, the GMA 500 is more advanced than the GMA 950 which DirectX 10.1 and OpenGL 2.0. (opposed to DirectX 9.0c and OpenGL 1.4) The IGP in the Archos 9, while no nvidia ION, is quite good. Also if you still want a nvidia ION do note that the ION requires more power and, more importantly, produces a lot more heat.
As for the RAM and HDD, I am a bit confused. The RAM is fine since it is limited to 1GB of DDR2 like all other MIDs, but then the HDD space of only 80GB or possibly 120GB is quite odd since the form factor for these harddrives should be similar to that of the Archos 5/7 in that they will likely be 1.8" models. The only reason why Archos would go with lower capacity is if they feel that Windows 7 requires a faster harddrive that spins at 7200 RPMs instead of the mediocre 5400 RPMs of the 1.8" HDDs in the Archos 5/7. Even here, there are HDDs that operate at 7200 RPMs in the 1.8" form factor that have higher capacities, and definitely in the possible 2.5" form factor. What ever their reason, I am fairly certain that the Archos 9 will not be limited to just 80GB, but how much more space and how much more will the higher capacity models cost is the question.
Now I must come back to the screen. The 8.9" screen would be great if it runs off of an 8-bit panel like earlier Archos 5/7s, but not so great if it runs off of the 6+2-bit TN panel that the newer versions are stuck with. Also multi-touch functionality would go a long way to making the Archos 9 truly great, especially with the functions that Windows 7 is supposed to add for it. However, I still feel that 8.9" might be a bit too large, and it would be better if it had a 7" screen instead. However until we have more solid specifications, and moreover non-conflicting reports of the dimensions we can not truly tell whether Archos will be able to pull off the 8.9" screen or not. If the device is thin, which it may be, and does take up too much more space outside of the screen which it appears not to, Archos might be able to pull this off. As for competition, I am not sure whether the Viliv S5 with it's 4.8" screen or the Viliv S7/X7EX with their 7" screens will be direct competitors to the Archos 9, or if the Archos 9 will hold a separate segment of that market all together.
On a final note, I am very excited about some of the features of the Archos 9. I love the assured WWAN connectivity with a built in SIM card slot which will allow true mobile web browsing, something the Archos 5/7 should have always had. Also the built in stylus slot (simple yes, but really
useful) will make me quite happy instead of losing all my styluses (spelling?) from dropping out of my various storage cases or pockets. Finally, I am actually perfectly happy with the price. Anywhere from $500-$650 is what I have seen and that is a great deal since the Archos 9's only real competitors are the Viliv models that cost $599 and are only sold from a singe store
so price drops are very unlikely.
Please feel free to share your opinions, all and all I am excited about the Archos 9 and can't wait for some more solid facts.