The Display

The 80 and 101 feature very different LCD panels, and their trade-offs leave neither with the perfect set-up. Each display is the dimmest of all the displays we’ve ever tested, with the 80 barely making it to 200 nits of brightness. The weak backlight doesn’t do any favors for the displays contrast either. 

Display Brightness

Display Brightness

Display Contrast

Color representation is good, though not even close to the new iPad nor the TF Prime. But in practice, something strange happens. The 10.1” display accounts very well for itself, distancing itself from it’s smaller kin in one very important way, viewing angles. When gaming or watching video on the 80, it is very easy to tilt the device in such a way that it’s very nearly totally washed out. The 101, on the other hand, seems to falter only slightly in viewing angles. The 80's behavior is irregular, too; viewed from the left or from above the display actually looks decent. Viewed from ever so slightly to the right or below and the colors become washed out and distorted. 


A
t more than twice the brightness, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 outshines both Archos G9s outdoors.

I wish I could say at this point that the low brightness, passable color representation and less than ideal viewing angles were ultimately a non-issue. Unfortunately, in a tablet designed for media consumption, the display needs to be good, if not great. So, strike one for Archos. 


Software

While the vast majority of tablet manufacturers have faltered in updating their previously released tablets to Android 4.0, Archos pushed an update to the entire G9 line this March. Part of their expedience was the lack of UI skinning. Their main focus in modifying the software was providing excellent codec and container support. Our media test suite is brutal, and gives most HTPC’s a run for their money, let alone most mobile devices. Overall, the G9s did very well, passing about half the tests, including some impressively esoteric container and codec combinations. Even subtitle and audio codec support was rather strong, and this tablet will suffice for nearly any DVD or Blu-Ray rip. A big stumbling block for the tablets was playing AVCHD content, which was blocky and stuttery; so digital camcorder aficionados shouldn’t expect to use this as a preview device. Windows Media Center fans will have to transcode their recorded television to alternate formats before playback on the G9, as both .wtv and .dvr-ms formats were incompatible. Lossless audio content in DTS-HRA and Dolby TrueHD formats were unplayable, though FLAC and DTS-MA work fine.

Truly, though, you’re not likely to find this sort of out of the box compatibility in any other mobile device; unfortunately, that experience isn’t quite out of the box. The most common video codecs for commercial media fall under the MPEG variants, and AC3, an analogue of Dolby Digital, is the most common audio codec. In order to play files encoded with MPEG or AC3 streams, you must first purchase a plug-in from the Archos Store for $10. The web store isn’t quite touch friendly so you’ll want to do this from your computer and then transfer the file to the tablet. As a device targeted at media consumption, shipping without MPEG and AC3 playback is a bit absurd, so consider this part of the cost of the device. 
All of this playback happens through Archos Media Center (though the icon is labeled simply Video), using the Android Video Player yields more pedestrian results. The software has a good interface and quickly loads previews and features intuitive controls for changing audio tracks, subtitles and peeking at stream information. In testing the software would occasionally hang or crash all together. These hangs typically succeeded attempting to play an incompatible file so don’t expect to see that behavior regularly, only when you’re testing 60+ different video files. 
 
Beyond the media playback capabilities, it’s all vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich. The interface is smooth and without hiccups, touch response was good on both tablets, and app switching was quick, though switching between larger apps could elicit some delay. In testing the tablets got a little irritable, occasionally prone to freezes and restarts, this is very atypical behavior though. In regular day to day use both tablets behaved quite well.  
 
The Archos 80 and 101 G9 Turbo Performance
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  • tayb - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link

    Until I saw the picture on page 2. I just assumed they were comparing the iPad 1 with the Archos tablet. This might be the first time I've seen the Tab from the front. Damn. I get that there are only so many ways to make a tablet but wow those look similar. Reply
  • aliasfox - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link

    And you wonder why Apple thought there might be a problem. Unless you're able to compare aspect ratios (hard to do unless they're side by side), a Tab is eerily similar to an iPad from the front. Reply
  • Dex1701 - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link

    Wait, did they mention that they played Shadowrun on this thing? That's not coming out until next year, is it? Reply
  • hans007 - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link

    i have a g9 80 . the 1GB of ram is all the difference for android tablets.

    my g9 80 is a dual core 1.2 with 512mb ram and 8gb on board.

    and i have a galaxy nexus phone. the phone is smoother in a lot of areas because of not having the need to swap memory in and out.

    1GB of ram vs 512mb of ram, isnt just twice as much. its really 3 times as much for user apps since the OS already takes 200mb or so + the video memory.

    archos should have put 1GB on these from the start, at least they finally are now.
    Reply
  • shomizu9 - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link

    lol, I don't know why but the Domino's icon made me chuckle. Pizza-eating nerd! (me too) Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link

    I actually hate their pizza. But I love watching their app do its thing. Ashley has your order. Mike is preparing your dough. Tom is applying your toppings. Heart. Reply
  • lymang - Friday, May 25, 2012 - link

    " what we’re hear to discuss today" should be "what we're here to discuss today." Reply
  • g00ey - Saturday, May 26, 2012 - link

    I could easily fit 128GB of audio content into such a device. Not all audio is mp3 and I prefer the lossless flac format so it's about time that one will be able to keep flacs in the media player. Please remind me that this is 2012 and not 2002!!!

    A fair quality HiDef movie takes on average 5GB of storage space. I don't consider keeping about 20 such movies in the device excessive. Sure a standard def movie would do well on a small 8" or 10" screen but who is to say that I don't intend to hook it up to a big screen?

    Android games are getting bigger and bigger. The popular title Modern Combat 3 requires about 1.5GB of storage space. The performance of the chips have surpassed the XBOX and PS2 and we will see a performance comparable to PS3/XBOX360 within the next few generations if we're not there already with the Tegra3. So at the very least we will see DVD sized games on portable devices quite soon and they are likely to grow beyond 15GB within the next 5 years or so.

    So putting it all together, I want to have a good collection of music because I like music. Say I want to travel for a while so a good set of decent movies when I'm bored would be nice. Top that with a bunch of nice games. How much space would I have left for photos and HiDef video clips that I have shot from time to time? And don't say "cloud", that is so over the hill by now and relying on some questionable mobile data connection just doesn't cut it!
    Reply
  • TimeHunter - Monday, June 04, 2012 - link

    I had the previous version tablet (until a theft), the 7.0 Internet, with the 250GB HDD in it. I used it primarily for travelling and it lasted quite well, even on longer plane flights. It wouldn't make a transoceanic flight without a booster, but it handled all the transcontinental flights just fine for battery life. Archos did pretty well for patching the version of the OS it released on, but there was no apparent interest, and no communication, on getting it past Gingerbread.

    But, sometimes the latest OS isn't what is needed (gasp!). It actually ran quite well, and was a pleasure in the media department as I could carry my entire large music collection and a good handful of my movie files. The codec support was the best of any device out there, even to date.

    The HDD did make for some lag in the OS and app experience, but that was not unexpected, so it was not disappointing. Once they added support for the EXT3 storage format to support files larger than 4GB, it was really quite awesome.
    Reply

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