NB: the Archos 80 G9 is the 8-inch version of the 101 G9 model we have already tested. Some parts of this test, such as the 'Interface and navigation' and 'Multimedia' sections are therfore covered more fully in the review of the Archos 101 G9.
Here we have the new 8-inch version of the latest generation of Archos' Android touchscreen tablets. This 80 G9, like the 10.1-inch (101 G9), also includes a less powerful chip than initially announced, the Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 clocked at 1 GHz rather than the 4460 at 1.5 GHz. The 1.5 GHz version will be out next January, following a 1.2 GHz version that will be rolled out across the board for G9 tablets in the forthcoming weeks.
The 80 G9 nevertheless comes onto the market at equivalent power to the touchscreen tablets already on the market. To accompany its processor, Archos has supplied this machine with 512 MB of RAM and, on our model, 8 GB of storage.
There are numerous connectors along the sides: a mini-HDMI out, a micro USB port (data transfer, recharge, mouse/keyboard connection), a headphones out, a microSD slot to increase storage (up to an additional 32 GB), while the back of the tablet houses the USB 2.0 slot for the optional Archos 3G key, the Archos 3G Stick, costing £40.
The Archos 80 G9 8 GB tablet has a sale price of £200. A 16 GB version is also on sale for an RRP of £229.
Design & Handling
Archos has radically changed the style of the 8-inch format with an aspect ratio of 4:3, like the iPad or the defunct HP Touchpad, compared to 16:10 for the 101 G9. This gives a better all-round experience both in landscape and portrait (mainly for browsing the Internet or the internal interface).
This format makes the tablet even more mobile than before. The 80 G9 slips easily into a bag and is light (465 grammes) and well-balanced.
As usual, you'll find the excellent Archos prop on the back. This is ideal for watching a film or to keep the screen stable when connecting up accessories such as a keyboard or mouse.
The 80 G9 is identical to the 101 G9 in terms of finish and conception and has the same faults. The screen edges are a little too wide, the prop is fragile and the all-plastic look isn't all that pretty, though it's of decent enough quality. Watch out for scratches on the back however. It's very susceptible to them.
With respect to the 3G Stick, it seems that Archos didn't work on the insertion slot on 8-inch model enough. In contrast to the 101 G9, the key is slightly thicker than the slot. We're not talking about a big difference but it's enough to force the user to bash both products to finally get it in.
You may as well know, getting the 3G key into the 80 G9 means you'll damage to the shell. The back and the front come apart where you're inserting the key, creating a gap along the whole left hand side of the tablet, namely the connector section. All we're talking about is a millimetre but it is nevertheless an issue.
Archos surprised us with the 101 G9 tablet, ditching its sacrosanct TN panel for an MVA with better viewing angles but with poor rendering overall. Here, Archos is back to the bad old TN, but, remarkably, appears, by the looks of things, to have made the effort to supply very good quality panels.
This is something of a miracle as the 80 G9 has a contrast ratio close to that of IPS panel models (with the exception of the iPad 2), with a score of 738:1, against an average of 760:1 for IPS tablets. Remember that the average contrast on TN panels on touchscreen tablets is close to 350:1!
The viewing angles are another story however and, as with all TNs, the screen quickly darkens when you move off centre. While the prop can help with your angles when you have a hard surface to hand, the narrow TN angles will inevitably make themselves felt.
Don't expect any miracles when it comes to colour accuracy. The average delta E (which has to be 3 or under for decent accuracy) is 10.2 here - a TN score if ever there was one!
However, the average colour temperature is almost perfect in absolute terms, with 6543 K, but varies a great deal along the spectrum.
Ghosting times on the 80 G9 are better than on the 10.1-inch Archos with an average of 24 ms. Maximum brightness is just 240 cd/m² however, which is slightly down on the 101 G9.
In the end then, while the contrast on the 80 G9 is very satisfactory (especially for its positioning), the lack of brightness and the narrow viewing angles due to the choice of a TN panel, make using this model outside less practical that certain other higher-end models.
From the icons and menus to the layout and overall look, with the ICS update Archos finally makes way for Google to do its job. The tablet designer has added little aside from, naturally, everything pertaining to multimedia, with a clean and simple media player that has helped build the brand’s reputation, year after year.
The final result is uncomplicated and highly readable, although even with Android 4.0’s great simplicity the tablet may still give off a “for computer geeks only” aura for the biggest novices.
Ice Cream Sandwich provides the keyboard with faster reaction time, a predictive text function that’s finally worth using, and app menus that launch more quickly. During startup, the 80 G9 is like lightning compared to its Honeycomb days. But by far the best improvement comes when navigating between the homescreens (there are up to 7 on ICS): it reacts instantly, only rarely getting stuck during transitions (and even then it’s for just a millisecond).
Yet, fatally, after a few minutes of use our worst fears come true. The more tasks you ask the G9 to perform, the more it tires, and the liveliness gained with the ICS switch noticeably fades. More than programme execution, it’s the transitions between programmes that suffer. And the only real solution is to reboot—because although deleting open apps from the multitask bar works smoothly, this only temporarily solves the latency problem. The Android buttons at the bottom of the screen sometimes react with a delay of more than a second. But navigating between the homescreens is always reliable and effortless. The Archos 80 G9 is definitely a long ways away from the Asus Transformer Pad Prime, and, especially, the Galaxy Nexus smartphone. This is where RAM comes into play, and you’ll just have to take our word for it on this one: the basic version of the 80 G9, like that of the 101 G9, simply can’t handle frenetic or compulsive computing habits.
This very necessary update has allowed the “basic” model of the 80 G9 to keep its 3rd star in our rating. We’re eagerly awaiting the Turbo model to see just what 512 MB of additional RAM can bring to the G9, because this version still gets held back by choppy transitions and latency (although the battery life is slightly improved).
[End of update]
For more on the Android Honeycomb 3.2 integration in the Archos G9 series, see our review of the 101 G9 tablet.
You should know that, as with the 10.1-inch, the 80 G9 does show signs of being out of breath: it sometimes struggles to come out of standby, there are some hiccups within Android and reactivity can be poor. 512 MB of RAM just isn't enough. A few more coins and 1 GB of RAM to give a better user experience wouldn't have hurt anyone.
Internet browsing gains in legibility on the 8-inch and 4:3 format of the G9, in comparison to the 101 G9. The portrait mode, especially, is wider and characters are less squashed.
The same goes for eBooks.
For the full multimedia test we refer you to the 101 G9 tablet test. Multimedia management, always a strength with Archos, is the same on both models.
To sum up, you get an excellent media player, something that is far too rare on tablets. The audio is sketchy but powerful.
As with the 101 G9, the 80 G9 battery life, though not attaining the heights of some products, is decent and an improvement on the previous Archos generation. The 80 G9 gives an average of 6H30 video playback time.
When it comes to mixed usage (video, Internet, content editing, music and so on), it gives almost the same. To get beyond the 7 hour marker, you'll have to turn the wi-fi off and do some gaming.
Using the 3G key naturally seriously reduces the 80 G9's battery life, sometimes cutting it by up to 50%. Thankfully, turning the 3G off in the rapid menu is easy enough (bottom right of the screen) and helps you to manage the damage.
Finally, as with the 101 G9, the fact that there's no ambient brightness sensor means you have to manage the brightness manually. The laziest among you will set it at ¾ and take it from there, but this will seriously affect the battery life.