REVIEW: Archos 80 Titanium Android tablet

archos-80-titanium-1.JPGreview-line.JPGName: Archos 80 Titanium

Type: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean tablet

Specifications: Click here for full specs

Price as reviewed: £149.99

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Borrowing from the best when it comes to design, the Archos 80 Titanium is a dead-ringer for a shrunken iPad 4. Looking to take on the iPad Mini and next-gen Nexus 7, can this Android slate’s performance match its good looks? Read our full review to find out!

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Design
When it comes to looks, the Android tablet market for the most art just can’t compare to the craftsmanship that goes into each and every iPad tablet Apple puts out. While it would be disingenuous to call the Archos 80 Titanium’s build an inventive design, by ripping off the iPad it’s nonetheless resulted in one of the most attractive Android tablets on the market.
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An 8-inch screen sits in a wide white bezel (just like a full-fat iPad’s), with the device measuring a tidy 200 mm x 154 mm x 9.9 mm and weighing 440g. It’s not the thinnest tablet out there, but it’s not the heaviest either, and it sits quite comfortably in the hand. That little extra bezel width is also an advantage when watching movies, as our fingers never fall into a screen-obscuring position. The premium feel of the tablet is capped off with an aluminium backplate, where the rear 2MP camera can also be found (a low-res video calling webcam sits embedded in the bezel around the front). The only black mark against the aesthetic is two visible screws on the top side where the tablet houses its ports. The speaker grille also sits on the rear, and while not unsightly, its positioning means that audio always feels distant and muted.
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There’s quite an array of ports too, with the 80 Titanium offering up a micro USB port, a microSD card port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a mini HDMI output along the top edge. That’s also where you’ll find a dastardly proprietary charging port, meaning you’ll always need the 80 Titanium’s chunky charger to hand. The top edge also has a small plastic power button on the left side, while the left edge of the tablet has a volume rocker and a rare, small Home return button just above. Though plastic, the buttons feel sturdy, as does the tablet itself: there’s no creak or flex to the build, making for one of the better Archos constructions.

The 8-inch screen, running at 1024 x 768 resolution in 4:3 ratio, may not be the sharpest out there (especially when sat beside the new Nexus 7 2’s full HD display) but it does make use of a premium IPS display rather than a woeful TN panel. As such, viewing angles are consistently good and colours remain accurate. Brightness levels don’t crank up incredibly high but, considering the price, the concessions here are far more easy to stomach than the low-res, high-priced iPad Mini.
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The tablet is powered by a 1.6 GHz dual-core A9 processor, backed by 1GB of RAM and a quad-core GPU Mali 400 MP4. It’s a middling spec by today’s standards, and you get middling performance asa result – though video streaming and even 3D gaming sessions with the likes of Temple Run 2 often ran without a stutter, multitasking could cause the tablet to hang dramatically. With apps downloading, email syncing, and video paused, even simple tasks like re-arranging the home screen caused the tablet to freeze on occasion. Light use shouldn’t cause too many problems, but push the tablet too far and it begins to buckle under the pressure.

Packed with 8GB of storage space, there’s a few standard features missing here. Both GPS and Bluetooth are notable absences, while there’s no option for a 3G connection across the range either (though a 16GB storage variant is available from selected retailers).

It’s worth noting that Wi-Fi performance was at times patchy. While there’d be long stretches without a problem, other times would see the connection drop out entirely, despite being nearby our router and all other Wi-Fi devices having no such similar problem.

Interface, Apps
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In a wise move, Archos have pretty much stuck with the core Android Jelly Bean UI experience. Five homescreens can be customised to your liking, letting you add app shortcuts across the device from the app drawer. There are also a number of resizable Live Widgets pre-loaded onto the 80 Titanium, offering live updating information at a glance. Calendar, web bookmarks and contact details are among the pre-installed widgest, though others such as condensed Twitter or Facebook feeds, email inboxes or weather reports, for example, can be grabbed from the Google Play store.

In terms of pre-installed apps, Archos kit the 80 Titanium out with the full suite of Google apps (Gmail, Google+, YouTube, Maps, etc etc), as well as a few additions of their own. Angry Birds comes pre-installed, as does the OfficeSuite app for document editing. A demo of World of Goo is also present, as is the Zinio digital magazines app and the News Republic news aggregator. Archos-built media players are also onboard.
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And there’s of course access to many more apps through the Google Play store. Over 1 million apps are up for sale through the store, and unlike Apple, Google are open to more forms of app submissions, for both better and worse. Though it has a bit more of a Wild West vibe and sometimes attracts hackers, there are also loads of really impressive apps available that can really add to your enjoyment of the Android experience. The catalogue improves all the time; whether you’re a gamer, a reader, someone hunting news stories or recipes, a photographer or a blogger, there’s something for everyone. Many are free too, and few cost more than £3 or so. When it comes to mapping, the Android version of Google’s Maps app is far and away the best navigation solution available, particularly in comparison to the woeful Apple Maps. Likewise, the stock Android web browser is among the best on mobile devices, only bested by Google’s own Chrome, itself a free download from the Google Play store.

Media Playback and Gaming
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Archos have a long history in the PMP space, and the 80 Titanium’s wide file format support sees them continuing in this fine tradition.

Archos’s own Archos Video app is included and is a very nice video player app, pulling in video information from sources including IMDB and themoviedb.org (and playing back AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, MPG, PS, TS, MKV, FLV files with H.264 HD and MPEG-42 HD codecs). The Archos Music app is a similarly capable library tool for managing your music collection on the tablet, supporting MP3, WAV, AAC3, AAC+ 5.13, OGG Vorbis and FLAC files. Both apps are attractive and easy to navigate, and arguably better than the stock Android alternatives.

For the most part, video playback is solid, with only a rare stutter in some of the high-resolution files we tested on the tablet. It’s a nicely sized screen, and streaming a couple of Breaking Bad episodes to the device while tucked up in bed was a pleasant viewing experience.
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What was less pleasant was the sound – the rear facing speaker is tinny, and, being directed away from the listener, feels distant and disconnected from the action on screen. Invest in a pair of headphones and you’ll be fine, but don’t expect to have your friends gathered around the screen with much joy.

MicroSD card support gives you the option of adding a further 64GB of storage space to the device, so as a portable player it’s fairly well equipped.

Gaming on the tablet is again generally enjoyable. It’ll have no problem playing a round of Angry Birds and other casual titles, and even more demanding games like endless runner Temple Run 2. However, major 3D titles like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City can at times prove too much for the tablet, booting us on occasion back to the homescreen. Expect the tablet to get quite hot while attempting such gaming sessions too, but never so much as to make it dangerous nor uncomfortable to use.

Camera performance
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You’d have to be bonkers to use a tablet as your primary photography device given their size, and even if you insisted, absolutely crazy to chose the Archos 80 Titanium for this purpose. It’s rear 2MP camera’s shooting abilities are woeful. Washed out and low-resolution, there’s no detail in any of the snaps we shot on the device, leading every potential Ansel Adams moments to instead be a watery, blurred mess.

Video suffers equally, with low-resolution 640×480 clips captured at a stuttering 9 frames per second. You can get feature phones that are capable of better than that, and the audio captured is equally poor. Don’t even think about shooting stills or videos at night either – terrible low light performance makes a nightmare out of both, and the lack of a flash doesn’t help in this respect either.

Battery life

A constant stream of HD video to the Archos tablet over Wi-Fi squeezed four hours and ten minutes worth of battery life out of the device, with the screen set to maximum brightness. Dialling the brightness down to half way and playing back a locally-stored HD video with Wi-Fi switched off pushed that up to just shy of 6 hours. That’s not a bad stretch for a battery in a 7-inch tablet, though not quite a match for the 10 hours you can squeeze out of a Nexus 7.

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Verdict:

Relatively inexpensive, and with a very attractive design, the Archos 80 Titanium isn’t half bad. It has its flaws, including its struggles with multitasking, a poor speaker and so-bad-it-wasn’t-worth-including camera, but it is able to counteract these problems with a very watchable screen, a pure Android experience with strong multimedia support and reasonable performance capabilities for basic singular tasks. It’s not quite a top flight contender yet, but it shows that Archos have finally begun to understand what it takes to make a worthy Android tablet.review-line.JPG

3.5/5

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About the Author

Gerald Lynch

Gerald LynchREVIEW: Archos 80 Titanium Android tablet