ďWith the Archos 101 you get a powerful and great value Android package ... but it seems the bells and whistles left no room for finishing touchesĒ
"One of the best Android tablets I've used"
While the likes of Apple and Samsung compete as the world's biggest tablet brands, the engineers at Archos are quietly working on mobile technology to rival the efforts of household names. And with the Archos 101 G9 Turbo, they might just have cracked it.
It's a mighty 10.1in device with the latest Ice Cream Sandwich version of Google's Android operating system. Combined with a beefy dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor and a cutting-edge graphics card from PowerVR, there are few affordable tablets on the market to match its impressive spec.
The Archos 101 is available in three different sizes Ė the standard 8GB or 16GB models or for bigger budgets a 250GB HDD version Ė but the technical elements of each are identical. Whichever you choose, it's a powerful and great value Android package.
But the amount of high-spec equipment onboard has apparently caused some design challenges. It seems the bells and whistles left no room for finishing touches, so the resulting product feels a little rough around the edges at times, though it
scarcely detracts from enjoyment.
Anyone who's a fan of the Android platform in general will surely love what version 4.0 has to offer. You'll feel instantly at home with the familiar looking interface, but the tweaks to its design give it a whole fresh take while making sure it's both a breeze and a pleasure to use.
Some of the main software improvements evident on the Archos 101 G9 Turbo include home screen folders and a favourites tray - to help keep those hundreds of downloaded apps in order - as well as resizable widgets allowing greater customisation than ever.
Another nice touch is the voice recognition engine, which allows you to search by voice, or dictate entire documents to get them written up in a flash. Results aren't always perfect - you'll definitely want to proofread - but the technology's good and gives Apple's Siri a decent run for its money.
"Really intuitive interface and very easy to navigate"
With a massive 1.5GHz at its core, the Archos 101 G9 Turbo is a mean machine that's built to cope with everything you throw at it. There's never much waiting for anything to load, even the swish new YouTube app with its rich "wall of videos" fires up in the blink of an eye.
However, some of the downloaded apps we tested on the device were less well handled by the Archos. The popular Draw Something game seemed had a tendency to crash where it doesn't on other devices, while Google Maps performance was for some reason also quite sluggish.
But on the whole it's reliable and super efficient, and makes similarly impressive use of its ample surface area. For example, instead of issuing a 3G version, Archos include a designated USB port, concealed beneath a flap on the rear. You can then buy a dongle for around £35 to upgrade to 3G.
Another cute feature is the built-in stand - ideal for watching TV or movies - but it's pretty much useless without a sturdy flat surface, and it only works with the screen in landscape position.
Its huge screen makes the Archos 101 a great entertainment centre. Resolution of 1,280 x 800 is more than capable of delivering HD movies with painstaking detail, but it won't quite match the super-high standard set by Apple's new iPad, with its 1,536 x 2,048 pixels on a 9.7in display.
However, the criss-cross grid pattern of the touchscreen's capacitive layer is strikingly visible when viewing the screen from certain angles. This can be slightly annoying, but the visual experience is overall very good and the vivid display lends itself to web browsing, video and games alike.
It's worth pointing out the lack of a rear-facing camera on the Archos 101 G9 Turbo, although there's an adequate 1.3 megapixel webcam on the front. This is fine for video chat but not really suitable for taking regular photos, but then most of us will usually have a mobile handy for that.
Where the Archos 101 does outshine some of the competition, however, is when playing music. The top notes manage to avoid sounding tinny while bass is rather nicely punched out, adding depth to lower frequencies, from the rich baritone of Tom Jones to rumbling engines in Reckless Racing.
"Doesn't have the 'wow' factor"
If there's one thing that really lets it down, the Archos 101 G9 Turbo's appearance leaves a fair amount to be desired. It's almost 13mm thick and weighs nearly 650g, but to keep the weight down Archos have coated the chassis in plastic.
Combined with a speckled metallic finish, it gives the product a distinctly "cheap" appearance which doesn't sit comfortably with the price, only marginally lower than the slick design of an iPad. Having said that, it's a sturdy machine and seems quite resilient to knocks and scrapes.
It's just unlikely to have people hold it so proudly when playing Angry Birds on the train commute home. At least not in the same way as, say, the owner of a new iPad might wave theirs around.
Battery life on the Archos 101 G9 Turbo is not bad at all. In tests it managed roughly six hours of constant video streaming, which should be enough for most tablet users between charges. It's rare we encounter a high-spec device with a decent power pack to boot. Hats off to Archos.
While there are no real problems with battery power, the sheer amount of "oomph" Archos have crammed into the 101 G9 Turbo has meant compromising in other areas. The cheap looking exterior and lack of a point-and-shoot lens will be enough to put some people off.
However, there are three key selling points that make the Archos 101 G9 Turbo worthy of consideration. Firstly, it runs on Ice Cream Sandwich - for an enhanced Android tablet experience. Secondly, itís chock-a-block with top-notch hardware.
The Archos 101's third major selling point is the price. At less than £300, you're getting a great value Android package with an immense amount of power behind it. It's a reasonable alternative to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but sadly no match for the new iPad.
|No deals for selection|