Archos Reveals Two Seriously Cheap Android Tablets

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Somehow, Archos has managed to fit some powerful hardware into an Android tablet that’s just over half the price of an iPad.

The Archos G9 series tablets will come in two flavors when they launch in late September: An 8-inch model will start at $279 and have the same screen resolution as an iPad (1024-by-768), and a 10.1-inch model will start at $349 and use a widescreen format like many other modern Android tablets.

Both models will have dual-core 1.5 GHz processors and run Android 3.1, the latest software version optimized for tablets. For battery life, Archos claims up to 7 hours of video playback or 10 hours of Internet usage on both devices.

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Both tablets have the option of a 250 GB hard drive instead of the smaller solid state drives that appear in most tablets. I’ve seen a hard drive in an earlier Archos tablet, and there’s definitely a trade-off in terms of weight, thickness and heat. Movie buffs might like this option, but for everyone else, the tablets can come with 16 GB solid state drives instead.

Archos is also touting its patented 3G stick, which slides into a notch in the back of the tablet, allowing Wi-Fi-only tablets to upgrade at any time. Archos says the stick will cost $49 with pay-as-you-go billing, but I imagine that wireless carriers will find a way to meddle with this affair — at least in the United States.

So what’s the catch? There’s no rear-facing camera, first of all, and neither model has the svelte figure of an iPad 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. And despite their chunkiness — both models measure roughly a half-inch thick — the Archos G9 tablets lack full-size ports for USB, SD and HDMI, as you’ll find on Toshiba’s Thrive.

Still, for Honeycomb tablets, $279 and $349 are the cheapest prices I’ve seen yet. Archos isn’t planning on showing off the tablets until early September, but it’s worth keeping an eye out because of pricing alone.

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