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Archos 101 G9 and 80 G9 hands-on preview

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The new narrative in tablets seems to be that if you're not Apple, hitting a sub-$500 pricetag is where the real magic happens. Archos's new G9 series of tablets, including the 10.1-inch "101" and the 8-inch "80," are happily capitalizing upon this phenomenon. The best news is that while the 80 starts $279 and the 101 starts at $349, both tablets run souped-up 1.5GHz dual-core TI processors, and have Google-blessed Honeycomb buzzing along as well. Neither tablet is razor thin -- Samsung, Apple, and Toshiba seem to have that sewn up -- but we're playing a game of milimeters, and Archos isn't far behind. I also feel like the screen quality doesn't match that of the three brands I just mentioned, but it's certainly passable -- the 80 edging out the 101 a bit in saturation and brightness.

Outside of price, Archos has two big differentiators. For one, there's a hard drive option on both models, which makes them potential winners for playing a large library of movies (however those movies might have been obtained), something Archos has always been great at. The drive adds a few milimeters to the thickness, but it's really not that bad, and the tablets remain pretty light (they're built entirely out of plastic, but perfectly solid). The other twist is an optional $49 USB 3G module that slides in flush to an existing slot on the device, and can even double as a 3G stick for your laptop. Both tablets should start shipping this month, check out pictures after the break.