The Archos 80 G9 is tablet computer running Android 3.2 Honeycomb. It boasts a 1GHz dual-core processor, 8GB of storage and an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen. It's Wi-Fi only, but it will be possible to upgrade it to 3G in the future via a special USB stick add-on.
The Archos 80 G9 is available direct from the manufacturer for £199.
Should I buy the Archos 80 G9?
The iPad may have kick-started a tablet revolution, but it's clear that many people are holding off buying one because of the steep price tags attached to such devices. With a reasonably equipped laptop costing less than £400 these days, dropping the same amount of cash on a tablet doesn't make sense for many people. That's why the notion of a sub-£200 tablet is so enticing.
Granted, we've seen cheaper examples -- such as the £130 Andy Pad -- but there's always something lacking in these low-end challengers. The Archos 80 G9 is the first budget Android tablet to ship with a dual-core processor and Honeycomb -– Google's dedicated tablet operating system.
Early omens are good. The 80 G9 is fast and lightweight, and the small size makes it easy to hold. The connectivity and expansion options are also uncharacteristically robust -- you can augment the memory with microSD cards, connect the tablet to your TV via HDMI and even plug in an external storage devices using the USB port on the back.
Impressively, you'll also be able to use this port to plug in the forthcoming 3G stick and transform the Archos 80 G9 into a truly mobile tablet.
For all of the positives, the 80 G9 is hamstrung by one irksome negative. The tablet's case design means that pressure is applied to the rear of the screen whenever you hold it. On the unit we tested, this caused a whirlpool-like effect to appear on the LCD display when you grip it.
Based on this experience, we can't recommend the 80 G9, but Archos has stated it will repair any unit which has the problem, and it has solved the issue in its production process. If we see another unit without this problem, we'll update this review.
With Android 3.2 Honeycomb on board, the Archos 80 G9 is running the final version of Google's tablet-focused OS. The company has unified its mobile and tablet operating systems in version 4.0 of Android, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich. This isn't widely available yet, so it's not clear when or if the Archos will update to this new version.
Android 3.2 brings some minor software fixes and improvements over its predecessors, however. The one we're most keen on is the ability to enlarge non-Honeycomb apps and games so that they fill the entire screen, rather than just playing in a window.
Aside from that, things are very much as we found them on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Asus Transformer. Honeycomb is a formidable tablet OS, offering functionality, customisation and power -- although it has to be said that it's still nowhere near as intuitive as Apple's iPad user interface.
The Archos 80 G9 boasts a 1,024x768-pixel resolution screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio. While this might seem strange when compared to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Motorola Xoom -- both of which have 16:9 widescreens -- it actually brings the Archos in line with the most popular tablet on the planet: the Apple iPad 2.
With such a humble price tag you may assume the Archos 80 G9 follows in the footsteps of the cheap and cheerful Andy Pad, and features a resistive touchscreen. Thankfully, that isn't the case. This particular tablet offers a capacitive variant, which is highly responsive and a pleasure to use.
Sadly, the quality of the screen is merely passable rather than outstanding. It's plagued with poor viewing angles and looks very dim -- digging into the settings and bumping up the screen brightness is highly recommended.
The unit we reviewed possessed a more worrying issue, however. Whenever we handled the Archos 80 G9, a section of the screen almost constantly displayed a whirlpool-like affect. If you've ever pressed your finger onto the screen of an LCD TV, you'll know what we're on about.
The issue with the 80 G9 -- or at least the unit we had -- isn't to do with pressure coming from the front of the screen, but rather from the back. The tablet's all-plastic case design may make it lightweight and cheap to manufacture, but it flexes much too easily.
The act of holding the tablet causes the case to bend ever so slightly, and this causes the USB socket and internal speaker to push up against the back of the LCD panel, which in turn creates an unsightly ripple effect on the screen.
It may sound like we're making a mountain out of a molehill, but the issue is a deal-breaker for us. Judging from various forums and YouTube videos we've seen, it impacts a great many 80 G9s out there. In the case of the unit we reviewed, even light touches to the sides and back of the device cause the effect to briefly manifest itself, as does placing the tablet down on a flat surface.
We've spoken to Archos about this problem and the company has confirmed it is aware of it. We've also been given assurances that the fault has been rectified in production, and units produced from this point onwards will be free from screen ripples.
Even so, it's rather disconcerting that such a major fault managed to slip through quality assurance unnoticed. Until we can test a unit without this fault, our judgement of the product has to be affected.
The Archos 80 G9 features an all-plastic shell which bestows a super-low weight of just 465g -- that's 136g lighter than the iPad 2. That abundance of plastic, however, also makes the tablet feel cheap and nasty.
Turning the 80 G9 around reveals the speaker, expansion port (which we'll come to later on), four rubber feet for laying the tablet down on a table and -- most surprisingly -- a kick-stand.
This is one feature we really appreciate, as it allows you to watch movies and surf the Web without having to hold the device in your hands. It also saves having to shell out additional cash for a separate stand.
Power and internal storage
The unit we reviewed has a 1GHz dual-core processor backed by 512MB of RAM, but Archos is planning on launching a more expensive 'turbo' version shortly which will feature a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU -- making it comfortably one of the fastest Android tablets on the market.
Still, this 1GHz variant is hardly a slouch. It handles multi-tasking well, and we didn't notice any performance issues with the apps and games we tested. There's a bit of latency here and there, but Honeycomb has a tendency to be laggy from time to time -- as we've seen that on other Android tablets, such as the Galaxy Tab 10.1.
The 80 G9 we reviewed has 8GB of internal flash storage, with a microSD card slot for boosting that figure.
The problem with using microSD cards is that the slot isn't covered, and the edge of the card tends to stick out a little. Because the slot is on the side of the tablet -- where your hand will naturally rest during use -- it's all too easy to accidentally knock it and trigger the spring release mechanism. As it stands, the microSD card slot is handy for transferring files, but we wouldn't recommend it as a long-term option for expanding storage.
When you first load up the Archos 80 G9, it will ask if you wish to install several third-party apps. These include the almost ubiquitous Angry Birds, as well as a news app and an program for opening office documents.
These can be removed if you find you don't want them once they're installed. Aside from that, the 80 G9 comes with a pretty standard selection of Honeycomb apps.
Naturally, you can start downloading more from the Android Market, but as we stated when we reviewed the Galaxy Tab 10.1, dedicated Honeycomb apps are somewhat thin on the ground at present.
This is less of an issue now that Android 3.2 features the ability to enlarge non-Honeycomb applications so that they fill the entire screen, but it's disappointing nonetheless -- even more so when you consider the sheer volume of iPad downloads there are on the Apple App Store.
The Archos 80 G9 is sporting the standard Android Honeycomb web browser, which offers fast page rendering, pinch-to-zoom gestures and -- possibly most importantly -- Adobe Flash support.
It's hard to remain unimpressed when you've got a tablet that costs half what the basic iPad costs, yet it's capable of out-performing Apple's device when it comes to getting the most out of the Web.
We're also pleased to report that the 80 G9's 4:3 ratio screen is perfect for viewing complex and detailed sites.
Camera and video recording
When you first pick up the Archos 80 G9 you may find yourself turning it over in your hands and looking for a rear-facing camera. Sadly, there isn't one. You have a front-facing snapper instead, which lacks an LED flash.
Initially we were slightly aggrieved by this situation, but if we're honest, we can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times we've used a tablet's camera to take a proper photo -- it's just too cumbersome.
After a few days with the 80 G9 you forget about the lack of a rear-facing snapper, although the poor quality of the photos produced by the front-facing camera is less easy to ignore. Images look washed out and fuzzy. The camera is also capable of capturing 720p video, but again, the quality isn't fantastic.
On a more positive note, the Archos 80 G9 has no problem playing back 720p and 1080p video files -- something that cannot be said for some of its pricier rivals.
Connectivity and battery life
As well as offering microSD storage, the Archos 80 G9 also has a USB port hidden beneath a plastic cover on the back of the machine.
You can plug in USB devices such as memory sticks and external hard drives, but the most interesting use of this interface is the 3G USB stick, which Archos will be releasing in the near future.
By placing a 3G-compatible SIM card into this stick and plugging it into the tablet, you can make use of a 3G mobile data connection as well as the standard Wi-Fi. It's a fantastic idea and one we heartily applaud.
We're also pleased to report that HDMI-out capability is included, although you'll need to purchase a separate mini-HDMI to HDMI lead yourself, as one isn't bundled in the box. It's also worth noting that no headphones are included, either.
The 80 G9's battery stamina isn't as impressive as the 10-hour total offered by the Motorola Xoom, but it will comfortably achieve around 6 hours of moderate usage between charges. Unlike the Toshiba Thrive, the 80 G9 does not offer the ability to replace the battery.
We had very high hopes for the Archos 80 G9. The French firm has arguably done all of the hard work with this product -- dual-core CPU, Android Honeycomb, HDMI-out functionality and the ability to upgrade to 3G at a later date -- but has dropped the ball when it comes to case design and quality control.
The ripple-like effect on the display meant the Archos 80 G9 we reviewed couldn't be held without the screen resembling a pond during a fierce downpour. During our review period we tried as hard as we could to ignore the issue, but it's almost impossible to do so.
Archos has insisted that not every device is affected, and if you
do happen to pick one up with the issue, you can return it for a
If you'd rather not risk it but are still interested in a low-cost Android Honeycomb tablet, we'd recommend looking at the 80 G9's bigger brother, the Archos 101 G9. That particular tablet apparently doesn't suffer from the screen-ripple effect, although it does cost a full £100 more. That puts it in direct competition with the likes of the Transformer and the heavily discounted Xoom.