It’s been a little more than a year since the Motorola XOOM made its debut as the first Android device running on Google’s tablet version of the OS – Honeycomb. At the time, Motorola priced its Wi-Fi only version of the XOOM at $599 for an experience which wasn’t quite ready for prime time. Fortunately for consumers, things have changed significantly in the past 13 months. Android’s tablet software has gotten a lot better with the introduction of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and more manufacturers have jumped into the tablet game, forcing prices downward as competition has kicked into high gear.
The ARCHOS 80 G9 is one of the newest Android tablets on the market and doesn’t hide behind a huge price tag. The tablet runs on Android 4.0.3 and delivers a solid experience for those who can’t afford the astronomical prices that other OEM’s charge for their tablets.
1. Build Quality
The first thing you’ll notice about the ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo when you take it out of the box is that it doesn’t look like most other Android tablets. While its layout is quite functional, the choice of materials and look of the tablet make it feel like many of the $99 no-name tablets you wouldn’t recommend to the jerk down the street.
The G9 Turbo sports a matte gray finish which reminded us of the original Nook. The plastic on the tablet doesn’t exude the most luxurious feel and is easily scratched – even when the tablet is handled with care. The rubber bumpers on the bottom of the tablet don’t really help either, as we were able to scratch the back side of the device despite that it didn’t make contact with the flat surface underneath.
2. External Hardware
The ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo measures 226 mm x 155 mm x 11.7 mm and weighs a respectable 465g (17 oz). The front of the device is dominated by its 8-inch LCD display which features an unusually wide bezel. This makes the device quite comfortable to hold while in landscape mode.
Along the left edge of the tablet, you will find an LED notification light, mini-HDMI post, microUSB port, 3.5mm headphone jack and the power button. The top and bottom edges of the tablet are both smooth while the volume rocker can be located along the tablet’s right edge.
The bottom of the G9 Turbo is prominently accented by the ARCHOS logo and features four rubber bumpers in each corner, which are supposed to keep the back of the tablet from making contact when placed on a flat surface. Next to the ARCHOS logo is the tablet’s only speaker and the G9 Turbo’s kickstand lays flush against the surface near the tablet’s left edge. In the upper right corner on the back of the tablet is a panel which reveals a full sized USB port which is intended for a USB 3G data stick. If you live in Europe, you can buy the optional accessory from ARCHOS, but U.S. customers will have to fend for themselves and settle for a USB data stick from a local carrier. It’s not an elegant solution, but it is a lot cheaper than buying a tablet with built-in 3G or 4G data connectivity.
Many may see the kickstand as a simple gimmick, but we’ve been fans of the setup since it was first introduced on the HTC Imagio back in 2009. The kickstand on the ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo features the same setup which ARCHOS has used on other tablets in the past 12 months.
The long kickstand tucks in smoothly into the back of the tablet, but the plastic is flimsy and bends easily, feeling as though it could snap off in your hand if you aren’t careful. While we’ve never broken a kickstand on the other ARCHOS tablets we have used, it can be a nagging fear.
The kickstand allows users to prop the tablet up on its side so that it’s easy to enjoy movies without having to hold the tablet. It also works perfectly if you want to use the device to show your social media updates while you’re working at your desk. And it is much better than having to buy a seperate desktop dock, which typically costs around $40.
The ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo comes equipped with a Texas Instruments 1.5 GHz OMAP 4 dual-core ARM CORTEX A9 processor paired with 1GB of RAM. Most of us are used to seeing tablets which are powered by Qualcomm or NVIDIA processors, so it’s nice to see that ARCHOS has taken a chance by using a TI chip in the G9 Turbo.
Luckily, the gamble pays off. The processor makes Android 4.0 silky smooth and allows users to watch 1080p HD videos, browse the web and play 3D games without missing a single frame. When compared to other Android tablets, the benchmark scores of the ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo lag a little behind a few of the top-end devices, but not by much.
The ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo definitely has enough power to play the most taxing 3D games currently available for Android, but consumers may have a hard time actually finding the games they want to play. Both Qualcomm and NVIDIA have resources for developers to make sure that their games work perfectly with their chips and many developers have jumped at the opportunity to make exclusive titles for devices running on Qualcomm or NVIDIA chips, leaving those who own devices like the G9 Turbo out in the cold.
|Linpack||51.8 (single-thread) 42.4 (multi-thread)|
|Nenamark 2||26 FPS|
The display on the ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo is an 8-inch 1024 x 768 MVA LCD panel which does a decent job in most situations. Unfortunately, things get a little complicated when you take the tablet outdoors. In direct sunlight, the display on the ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo gets washed out due to excessive glare. We recommend finding a little shade or a way to keep the sun’s beams from directly hitting the screen.
Viewing angles don’t fare any better as color distortion sets in starting at a 30 degree angle, and things become unbearable to watch at 45 degrees or more. While the kickstand that’s built into the G9 Turbo is convenient, we found ourselves constantly readjusting the position of the tablet just slightly every time we moved while watching a video.
While most other Android tablets come with a front and rear-facing camera, the ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo comes equipped with a single 1.3 megapixel camera on the front of the device. Samsung’s commercial features a guy riding in a Jeep using a Galaxy Tab to film horses, but surely you know that’s a pretty ridiculous idea.
Fortunately, ARCHOS decided to use the stock Android 4.0 application on the tablet, giving users quick access to settings, facial distortion effects (only while recording video), filters and more. But there’s still a down side. The 1.3 megapixel sensor embedded in the tablet produces extremely grainy pictures and is completely useless at taking outdoor shots. The sensor is not able to capture sunlight properly, producing washed out pictures even when tweaking the exposure settings to compensate for the extra light.
The front-facing camera can be used for video chat with Google Plus, Google Talk and other applications from Google Play, but our tests show that the video produced is extremely pixelated and jumpy.
One of the best things about the ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo is its software. ARCHOS has chosen to give the tablet the most basic Android 4.0 build we have seen in quite some time while adding a few extra multimedia and social applications which play into their strategy of positioning the tablet as an entertainment device.
As far as we can tell, ARCHOS has not modified the Android 4.0.3 build at all, delivering a stock Ice Cream Sandwich experience with Google’s suite of applications (Gmail, Calendar, Maps, YouTube and Google Play.
Pre-installed applications include ARCHOS Remote Control (allows you to remotely control another ARCHOS device when connected to the same Wi-Fi network), Media Server (stream music, video and pictures over WiFi to other DNLA enabled devices), Picsel Smart Office, News Republic, Brief Me and ARCHOS’s own customized Music and Videos applications which are surprisingly good looking, intuitive and easy to use.
8. Battery Life
According to the ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo spec sheet, the tablet should be capable of 36 hours of continuous music playback, 7 hours of video playback or 10 hours of surfing the web. We didn’t put the tablet through the same tests as ARCHOS did, but did find that battery life was more than acceptable.
We brought the ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo along when we traveled to New York a few weeks ago for the EVO 4G LTE unveiling and it managed to last a full day, which included 3 hours of video playback while on the plane, two hours of web surfing and a little over an hour of 3D gaming (Spider-Man HD). At the end of the day, the tablet still had a 22% battery charge remaining when we plugged it back in.
When reviewing Android phones and tablets, speakers are typically not one of the main highlights. Most tablets have one or two speakers located on the back of the device which are typically not worth mentioning. The ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo features one speaker, located on the back of the tablet. The placement of the speaker may seem a bit odd since ARCHOS intends for the tablet to be used as a media centric device, but the quality and size of the speaker along with the tablet’s design deliver a better than expected audio experience.
Anyone who has used their phone or tablet to play music or watch videos probably knows that it’s typically not a very good audio experience. Sound quality is mediocre at best and usually sounds like you’re listening to something coming out of a tin can.
When the G9 Turbo is lying flat on a surface, the rubber bumpers on the back of the tablet allow just enough room so that the sound from the speaker is able to escape – and things get even better when the kickstand is used to prop up the device. Even at maximum volume, the speaker produces a rich tone that’s certainly more enjoyable than the majority of speakers on other tablets currently on the market and make watching a movie or listening to music that much more enjoyable.
The ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo isn’t the prettiest or best made tablet on the market, but for $269.99 (the suggested retail price) we really don’t think anyone’s going to be complaining. The base model comes with a scant 8GB of internal storage and an expandable microSD card slot, but ARCHOS does offer a 250GB storage upgrade which brings the price of the tablet to $369.99.
Since tablets are considered a luxury item these days, we would have a hard time recommending the G9 Turbo simply because its aesthetics are missing the “wow” factor, but the internal components give the tablet enough power to hang with the big boys.
If looks don’t matter and price and performance are all you’re really worried about, the ARCHOS 80 G9 Turbo will definitely live up to your expectations. In the end, it always comes down to what the consumer needs and the price they are willing to pay for it. Buying the tablet directly from ARCHOS will set you back $269.99, but you can always pick it up from Amazon for as little at $249.99. You could always skip the ARCHOS and go for the Nook Tablet, or even the Kindle Fire, but both devices don’t come with Google’s apps and lack a true tablet experience delivered by an Android 4.0 device.