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Hands on: Archos Titanium and Platinum series Android tablets

Back in the day, Archos was a respectable name in the media player business. As the times a-changed, it recognized early on that it would need to move into the realm of Android tablets to keep up with the market. Sadly, its early efforts in this area haven’t always worked out. Several missteps and sub-par devices put some tarnish on the Archos name, but it looks like the company is finally on its way back to being a brand we can trust.

At this year’s CES, Archos showed off its new line of tablets, the Titanium and the Platinum series. The Titanium line ranges from 7 to 10.1 inches and the higher-end Platinum line keeps it to two sizes, 8 and 9.7 inches. At first glance they’re standard Android tablets – what will make them stand out is the pricing, which starts at $120. Can Archos finally deliver a tablet that will please the tech savvy and attract mainstream consumers?

Archos 70 Titanium Archos 80 Titanium Archos 97B Titanium HD

Let’s start with the Titanium series. All four of these tablets share the same design and ports, just at varying screen sizes. Running things inside is a dual-core processor backed by 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, plus Micro USB (up to 64GB), microSD, and HDMI ports. Its IPS displays have wide viewing angles and rich color production. The media player roots show in the Archos media software, which aids in streaming and organizing media. The 7-inch 70 Titanium (1024 x 600 resolution) is only $120, the 8-inch 80 Titanium (1024 x 768 resolution) is $170, the 9.7-inch 97B Titanium HD (2048 x 1536 resolution) is $250, and the 10.1-inch 101 Titanium (1280 x 800 resolution) is $200.

We took special note of the 97B Titanium HD during our hands-on time due to its size and resolution. Essentially, Archos is trying to match the iPad in certain key areas: screen size and resolution, overall design, and light weight. From a short distance, the 97B could easily be mistaken for an iPad. When we got it in our hands we liked the feel of it thanks to a light weight and comfortably curved edges. The screen looks good with rich colors. Note that the 4:3 aspect ratio is the same as the iPad’s, so it’s not quite as relatively narrow as the 7 and 10.1-inch models. Performance looked sufficiently robust, though the units we saw weren’t the final product, so there were a few hitches.

We were also surprised that Archos decided to go with an 8-inch size. When we say 8, we do mean 8.0 and not 8.9 inches, which is usually the case with Android slates. The aspect ratio here is 4:3 as well, so you get quite a bit more screen space than you do with the skinny 7-inch. It’s a nice tweener size that it easier to hold for long periods than a 9 or 10-inch tablet but offers a bigger canvas for reading, games, and video.

Overall, the entire Titanium family looks solid. The two largest tablets felt the best in our hands. We like how light all of them are and the designs that make them comfortable to hold, even over long periods. All of them are Google certified and will run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with no skin. The 70 and 101 Titaniums will be in direct competition with Google’s two Nexus tablets at a significantly lower price. It will be interesting to see if Android lovers will make a choice solely based on price.

Archos 80 Platinum portrait Archos 97 Platinum

If you like the look of the Titanium series but want tablets with more power, step up to the Platinum series. Both of these tablets boast aluminum cases and solid construction, no creaks or bending. Aside from the aluminum design, the Platinum tablets are about the same as the Titanium on the outside. Neither tablet is significantly heavier and the design is still comfortable and holdable. They have the same ports, same IPS displays, same resolutions (1024 x 768 on the 8-inch, 2048 x 1536 on the 9.7-inch). The big difference is inside. Platinum tablets have quad-core chips and 2GB of RAM, so performance should be even better.

The Archos 80 Platinum costs $200 and the 97 Platinum costs $300. Still significantly less than the iPad.

Both the Titanium and Platinum series tablets from Archos should be available around the end of March. We hope to get them in for review as soon as possible so we can put the tablets to the test and see if Archos has raised its game.

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