We were more than a little gushing about Archos’ forthcoming range of Android tablets a little while ago, though not without reason.

Though never destined to win any beauty contests (the tablets themselves are cased in some not exactly nice-looking plastic) the Archos G9 range of Android Honeycomb tablets redefine ‘competitively priced’.

Set to undercut the likes of the iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 the G9 range starts at £200 and £270 for the 8-inch and 10.1-inch editions which come with 8GB of internal storage. There are 16GB and 250GB versions of the G9 range set to hit shelves later in the year.

Archos is a company which is perhaps best known for its PMP devices; to whit all tablets in the G9 range, we’re told, will be capable of playing virtually every audio and video codec out there.

The Archos 101 G9 we’ve got here (with 8GB of storage) is capable of playing smooth 1080p Full HD on its 10.1-inch screen and there’s a mini HDMI connection as well, so you can hook this up to your HDTV if you’ve got one.

What we think is really interesting about Archos G9’ range is that they’re designed to include an optional 3G dongle. Available for an additional £50, this allows you to cheaply upgrade your nominally Wi-Fi-only G9 tab into a Wi-Fi and 3G one for a fraction of the cost; in most cases you’re looking at a jump of around £100 if you want a 3G’ed tablet.

In an added bonus, you can also pop the 3G dongle into anything else that a regular dongle would work with, your laptop, computer or whatever else.

We’ll be looking forwards to testing the video-out capabilities of the Archos 101 G9 in our review as well as it’s other capabilities; it’s powered by Texas Instruments’ 1GHz TI OMAP 4430 dual-core chip so high-end gaming fun ought to be viable as well. While we get on that, feel free to have a look at our early pics.

The Archos 101 G9 runs standard vanilla Honeycomb, shipping with Android 3.2 installed. No custom UI's or fancy themes here. Aside from Archos' own media player apps (music and video), you pretty much get raw Honeycomb here.

Perhaps sensibly, Archos has decided not to bother with any cameras on the back of it G9 tablets. While this rules out any opportunity for 'see what I see' video calls, this allows Archos to drive down the price of its tablets and cram more storage and connections inside.

The Archos 101 G9's isn't the slimmest tablet on the market but that won't matter to those who'll enjoy the range of connections on offer here; micro USB, microSD, 3.5mm audio jack and mini HDMI.

Over on the other side there sits a simple volume rocker.

Another surprise feature of the Archos G9 101 is this kickstand on the back. Made from plastic, as is the rest of the G9 101's body, it doesn't feel like the sturdiest thing in the world.

Our Archos G9 101 came with a 3G stick with a Three SIM in it, so we were able to see how everything fit together. There's a dummy/placeholder piece of plastic in the back which easily slides out, allowing you to replace it with the 3G stick.

In the Settings pop up option there's a toggle option for the 3G stick along with Wi-Fi, Airplane mode, contrast and all the rest of it. The first time we put the 3G stick in it didn't immediately register; we turned the 3G toggle on and off a few times before it purred into life.

A closer look at those connections; from left to right, mini HDMI, 3.5mm jack with the microSD slot sitting on top of the micro USB. The 3G stick is snug and secure over on the right.

Though there's no rear-facing 'main' camera on the back of the G9 101, there's a front-facing  VGA camera set into the left hand-side of the tablet, as you hold it upright in landscape.

The front camera comes with the usual range of options and will allow you to make video calls via Google Talk; hopefully Skype support will be added at a later date.

Our Archos G9 101 came bundled with a multi-region charger, micro USB to USB cable and a microfibre wipe cloth for keeping the screen clean. We love microfibre cloths; we mainly use them for keeping our glasses clean.