The Archos 101 G9 is an Android 3.2 tablet with 8GB of internal storage and Wi-Fi connectivity. With the purchase of an optional 3G Stick, you can upgrade the tablet's wireless prowess.
The 10-inch 101 G9 costs £269.99 direct from Archos.
Should I buy the Archos 101 G9?
The Archos 101 G9 is essentially the Archos 80 G9 but with a larger screen. All of the internal hardware is identical, right down to the 1GHz dual-core CPU, 512MB of RAM and 8GB of storage space.
Aside from the increased screen real estate, the biggest difference between these two siblings is the price: the 101 G9 costs around £100 more than its 8-inch relative.
For a dual-core Android 3.2 tablet, £270 is competitive when you consider how much Samsung is asking for its Galaxy Tab 10.1. However, with the price of the Motorola Xoom tumbling and challengers such as the Asus Eee Pad Transformer selling for under £400, Archos' pricing seems less appealing.
Still, if £270 is your absolute maximum then the 101 G9 presents excellent value for money. Granted, the all-plastic casing feels a little cheap, but the ability to plug in an optional 3G stick for even greater mobility almost makes up for it.
It's still uncertain if Archos will be updating the G9 series to Android 4.0 in 2012. If you're not concerned with keeping up on software updates and merely want a low-cost tablet for surfing the web, watching videos and playing games, then the 101 G9 should fit the bill.
Android 3.2 is the most recent version of Google's Honeycomb operating system. It has been developed exclusively for tablets. While long-suffering Motorola Xoom owners are only just getting their Android 3.2 update, the Archos 101 G9 comes with it pre-loaded.
The biggest addition with the 3.2 update is the ability to scale-up Android mobile phone apps so that they entirely fill the tablet's 10.1-inch screen. There's actually less need for this now as developers have begun coding tablet resolution modes into their apps and games. It's a useful feature to have nonetheless.
Another big bonus in 3.2 is the ability to connect USB devices. The Archos 101 G9 is a rare beast in tablet circles as it comes with a USB port; there's no need for fiddly adaptors to get things connected.
However, with a new version of Android -- Ice Cream Sandwich -- on its way, you may wish to hold off buying a soon-to-be-outdated OS and wait until the new tablets hit the market.
Like its smaller-screened Archos 80 G9 sibling, the 101 G9 boasts a dual-core 1GHz processor. The chip itself is the new Texas Instruments OMAP 4, which is one of the quickest on the market.
The 101 G9 shows its power when displaying HD video footage, offering smooth and stutter-free playback. However, the performance of the tablet is curiously jerky at other times.
Scrolling between home screens is rarely a smooth experience. There are times when overall responsiveness takes a real nosedive. This may be due to the fact that only 512MB of RAM has been included. When you consider that single-core phones like the HTC Rhyme are packing 768MB, 512MB probably isn't enough.
Archos intends to release turbo versions of both the 80 G9 and 101 G9 tablets, with a release tentatively scheduled for early 2012. These will boast 1.5MHz dual-core CPUs that should increase performance and speed, though both models will cost more than the standard editions.
In light of Asus' recent quad-core Transformer Prime tablet announcement, such a modest speed boost isn't that impressive.
The 101 G9's internal memory is fairly modest. There is just 8GB of space available for your music, videos and photos. Higher-capacity models are soon to be made available -- including one variant that swaps flash storage for a 250GB hard-disk drive -- but they will predictably cost more.
Thanks to the handy microSD card slot on the side of the device, you can boost the amount of memory with little effort. Our only quibble is that the card itself is far too easy to accidentally eject during use.
When we reviewed the Archos 80 G9, we were highly critical of the tablet's build quality. The same gripe can be levelled at the 10.1-inch version as it uses the exact same materials.
The plastic casing feels cheap; when placed alongside the likes of the Motorola Xoom and Apple iPad 2, the 101 G9 looks distinctly unappealing.
However, once you've gotten past the entirely plastic chassis, it becomes less of an issue. The 101 G9 doesn't suffer from the same flexing that cursed the 80 G9. It has a surprising amount of heft to it.
Despite having the same screen dimensions as the Motorola Xoom, the 101 G9 is 25mm longer. While this might annoy those of you who desire a compact frame, the additional space at either end of the screen offers a superior grip. It ensures that your fingers aren't obscuring the screen during use.
Archos 3G Stick
The 101 G9's USB port isn't just for hooking up additional devices or expanding storage -- it can also be used to host Archos' 3G Stick. This allows you to get the tablet online without having to be near a Wi-Fi hot-spot.
The stick itself isn't included with the tablet and costs around £50, but we were supplied one by Archos for the purposes of this review, so we're including our thoughts here.
Fashioned from the same plastic as the tablet itself, the 3G Stick contains space for a SIM card and slots snugly into the 101 G9's casing. When you first insert the stick, you'll need to dig into the settings menu and enable the relevant option in order to get it working.
From that point onwards, the tablet should automatically detect when the stick is in place. With this optional extra installed, the 101 G9 is given ultra-mobile status. Connection speeds are the same as you would get on your phone. Obviously the overall performance is dependent on the strength of your network's signal.
To achieve a slightly better level of performance, you can slide the stick out from the casing. The USB port is actually fitted to runners, which allow you to do this without completely disconnecting the stick itself.
As its title implies, the Archos 101 G9 has a 10-inch screen with a resolution of 1,280x800 pixels. When placed alongside the Motorola Xoom, it looks quite respectable. It's not quite as bright and vibrant as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1's gorgeous screen but you can't have everything.
When we reviewed the Archos 80 G9, we were bitterly disappointed to find that the tablet's screen suffered from an unfortunate ripple effect whenever the casing was gripped or touched. Thankfully, we can report that this issue isn't present on the larger model.
Applications and Internet
Given Google's tight grip on the Honeycomb source code, manufacturers have been unable to re-skin Android 3.2 tablets with their own unique user interfaces.
One of the main ways that companies like Samsung and Asus have been able to stand out from the crowd is the applications they pre-install. The Archos 101 G9 is no exception.
Unique apps include the Archos Remote, which allows you to control your tablet using your Android phone, a system monitor, photo frame and file manager.
That lovely display makes browsing the internet a real pleasure, and because this is Android, you get the added benefit of Adobe Flash support. One little surprise was that Angry Birds was already loaded up.
Camera, video recording and playback
With no rear-facing camera to speak of, the Archos 101 G9 isn't going to be your gadget of choice when it comes to taking holiday snaps.
The 1.2-megapixel front-facing snapper is capable of capturing HD video at 720p but the results are underwhelming. There's no auto-focus or LED flash, making photography something of a chore.
What the camera is useful for is chatting with friends over the web. You can either use the pre-installed Google Talk application or install the shiny new Google+ app and take part in a Huddle with mates.
It's clear that the camera's real calling is as a webcam rather than a camcorder or a replacement for your point-and-shoot.
Archos' fame as a Personal Media Player manufacturer is near-legendary. The French firm clearly wants to retain this distinction. The 101 G9 is happy to play almost any video format you choose to throw at it. The fold-away kick-stand on the back of the device makes it easy to enjoy movies on the go.
Connectivity and battery life
Out of the box, the Archos 101 G9 has 802.11 Wi-Fi covering the b, g and n standards. It also has Bluetooth, but it's version 2.1 rather than the more recent 3.0.
Using the aforementioned Archos 3G Stick, you can quickly and easily get the 101 G9 online without having to rely on open Wi-Fi hot-spots. You'll naturally need a 3G SIM card and a contract with a decent amount of data allowance.
The Archos 101 G9 also has HDMI out, via the mini-HDMI port on its side. No cable is included in the box so you'll need to shell out for one yourself. Being able to hook up the tablet to a LCD screen is a real bonus, allowing you to watch movies and play games on a large-format display.
The battery life of the Archos 101 G9 compares favourably to other tablets out there. If you're planning on using the 3G Stick then you should be aware that it drains the battery faster than a standard Wi-Fi connection. It's also worth pointing out that the 101 G9's charging time seems longer than rival tablets.
On paper, the Archos 101 G9's dual-core power, massive screen and the flexibility of Android 3.2 -- all for under £300 -- appears a good deal. However, corners have been cut on the case design, which is entirely plastic and lacks the refinement of the iPad 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
With Android 4.0 on the horizon, Honeycomb is soon to be rendered second-class in the tablet OS hierarchy. There's no guarantee that Archos will update its G9 range. So if you're keen to be seen with the latest kit, you may wish to hold off until the inevitable flood of Ice Cream Sandwich tablets are announced.
Despite these misgivings, there's no denying that the 101 G9 represents the cheapest option for entering the Android tablet market right now. It boasts good connectivity, excellent movie playback and a bright, colourful screen. If those elements sound appealing -- and you can make do with a less-than-stellar build quality -- then it's worth a look.