The battle of the tablets: iPad vs Archos 9

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Tablets are the most recent hype in the world of electronics, and many prototypes have been introduced and reviewed, but the one everyone was really waiting for was the tablet developed by Apple. On January 27, 2010, Apple finally introduced it: the iPad. The expectations were high but the response after the introduction was tepid and many people were disappointed. Whereas people expected revolutionary new features, the iPad turned out to be nothing more than a large iPhone or iPod Touch without any features like the much anticipated ability to view Flash content and the possibility to multitask. On the other hand, people were surprised by the relatively low prices of the iPad, depending of course on the model.

Many brands have been developing prototypes of tablets, some of them currently being in an early stage, whereas some tablets are almost ready for release. The iPad is one of the few tablets which have actually been announced for release and which will be available soon for the public to order. When introducing the iPad to the public, Apple called it ‘revolutionary and magical’. But is the iPad as revolutionary as Apple wants it to be and will it be the release of 2010? Or is it just one of the many tablets that will be released this year?

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The competition

During the CES 2010 in Las Vegas, many tablets were introduced, some more realistic than others. With the hype around Apple’s new tablet, many producers feel the pressure of coming with their own version of the tablet. Some run on Linux, some on Windows, some on Android. HP is developing one, and so is MSi. Remarkable is that many manufacturers haven’t quite found the balance yet between an e-book reader and a tablet. Many presented ‘tablets’ are actually an e-book reader which isn’t called an e-book reader. For example, the enTourage eDGe, is an e-book reader at the left side, and a tablet at the right side. Quite innovative and especially useful for students, but the idea of small portable device to watch movies and surf the web, gets quite lost here. The Paradigm Shift (which will be released in March 2010) isn’t even called a tablet but a “small, light weight, portable mobile internet device”.

But the most revolutionary and unique tablet I have seen so far, is the Lenovo IdeaPad U1. A laptop and tablet in one. You can use it as a laptop that runs on Windows, but the top screen is removable and within a few seconds it turns into a Linux driven tablet with a 16GB SSD. This can even be done when surfing the web because your web pages will be saved and displayed again once the tablet is ready to go.

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In short: what does the iPad have to offer?

Apple claims the iPad can handle all the apps that have been created for the iPod Touch and the iPhone. Besides that, the iPad contains the standard apps which offer you the possibility to surf the web, read your email, listen to music, write documents and watch movies and photos. It has an Apple designed A4 1GHz chip and offers the customer the choice between a 16GB, a 32GB en a 64GB flash drive. Its dimensions are 243 x 190 x 13mm which result in a 9.7 inch screen (1024 x 768 resolution). It weighs round 0.7 kg, with the 3G model being heavier than the Wi-Fi model. The non-removable battery should last for 10 hours and Apple claims a standby battery life of more than a month. It runs on the same OS as the iPhone does, but version 3.2 will not be available yet for the iPhone. Remarkable is that the iPad does not have a card-reader, an USB port or a webcam. Especially the last was a surprise for many people since rumors were that Apple would introduce face recognition software which would make it possible to load a different interface for each member of the family. Apple also seems to want to join the e-book reader battle with introducing iBooks and making the e-book reader feature an important part of the iPad. The price for the iPad varies between $499 and $829 depending on if you choose Wi-Fi or 3G and the size of the flash drive.

So, do the above specifics prove that the iPad is as revolutionary and magical as Apple wants us to believe? Not really. Of course, the idea behind the tablet is nice. But revolutionary? To be honest, the iPad is an oversized iPhone. It’s absolutely no substitute for a netbook, since the most basic feature of a notebook, multitasking, isn’t even possible. So, using the iPad for writing an article based on information you have found on the internet isn’t possible, since the word processor and Safari cannot run simultaneously. Not quite useful, is it?

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The main competitor at the moment: Archos 9

As said before, there aren’t many tablets yet which are actually for sale. The Archos 9 is one of the few tablets which are for sale and maybe the biggest competitor for the iPad at the moment. So, what does it offer? A lot which the iPad does not. It runs on an OS that is made for computers and not for mobile phones: Windows 7 (whether this is a pro or a con, depends on whether you’re a Mac fanatic or not). The Archos 9 offers a 9 inch screen and a 60GB or 120GB HDD. The hard disk drive offers more space, but is more vulnerable too. It has a replaceable Lithium-Ion battery which lasts up to 5 hours. That’s half the iPad can handle, but this battery can be replaced. Something the battery of an iPad (and actually all the portable Apple devices) cannot. Where the iPad solely relies on a multitouch screen, is the Archos 9 a mix of mouse buttons and a multitouch screen. You can use both, depending on your preferences. It has an integrated webcam and USB ports. The Archos 9 doesn’t come with 3G, but thanks to the USB ports you can use a dongle or tether your phone to the device via Bluetooth. Where many people complain about the lack of the possibility to subscribe to television channels with the iPad, the Archos 9 comes with two antennas. The prices for all this? Around $549 for 60GB.

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The Winner

So, multitasking, watching television, replaceable batteries, USB ports… And Apple really thinks its iPad is revolutionary? It’s not. The Archos 9 offers more functionality and is much more likely to replace a netbook or notebook than the iPad. But, there’s always a but. The reviews about the Archos 9 aren’t quite positive. The touchscreen doesn’t appear to work perfectly and the device tends to be slow. Some blame it on the Intel ATOM Z510 1.1 GHz chip, others blame it on Windows. The expectations for the iPad are high. True, it isn’t what people expected it to be, but most fans of Apple will embrace it once it comes in stores.

Be honest, do most people care if something is revolutionary and so-to-say: magical? It’s just a new gadget which – thanks to the hype Apple itself created – will have great sales. And not to be forgotten: Apple is an expert in writing beautiful marketing texts full of attractive words. Heck, Steve Jobs even compared the iPad to the holy tablet of Mozes. And people buy it. Sure, the iPad is a disappointment, especially for people who already own an iPhone or an iPod Touch. But people will buy it, thanks to the great hype and mystical aura always hanging around Apple products. Sorry Archos, but Apple is the great winner here (but not because they created such a great product).

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