Archos 101 G9 Turbo ICS tablet review

The Archos 101 G9 gets a speed bump and a helping of Ice Cream Sandwich.
Photo of Archos 101 G9 Turbo ICS tablet review
£279.98

Archos has had its 101 G9 tablet on sale for a while now, running Android 3.2 “Honeycomb” and it proved a capable, if not exceptional, device. With the launch of Android 4.0, a.k.a. “Ice Cream Sandwich,” Archos has taken the opportunity to upgrade its 10.1in tablet with not only the much improved version of Google’s mobile operating system, but also some more powerful internals.

Build and features

As a result of its plastic construction, the Archos 101 G9 Turbo ICS doesn’t feel fantastically solidly built, but for the money it isn’t terrible either. The placement of four small rubber pads at the rear is a nice touch, which will prevent the back getting scuffed up when placed on a table or desk. As found on the other models in the G9 tablet range, the 101 G9 Turbo ICS features a kickstand when in landscape orientation. This is a fairly flimsy piece of plastic, liable to break off if abused, but nevertheless its presence is welcome, especially when watching videos with a hard surface handy to sit the tablet on; such as on a plane or train.

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Also noteworthy is a panel at the back that slides off to reveal a crevice the exact size of Archos’ USB 3G dongle, available as a £49.99 extra. Although it would be preferable for this connectivity to be provided out-of-the-box, Archos has at least provided the option, and because the dongle is recessed into the rear casing when installed, it operates as if it were integrated. Plus, because it is removable, it’s possible to use the dongle on a second machine, too, enabling one mobile data plan to serve multiple devices.

The decision to place the device’s camera of the left edge of the screen is a little odd. The aspect radio means that holding the device in landscape feels far more natural, but doing so means that all too often the camera will be covered by one or more digits. Also disappointing is the volume rocker on the right edge, which gives poor feedback when pressed, and feels a little flimsy.

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Given that the display is the most important single component of any tablet, it’s good to see that the one built into the Archos 101 G9 Turbo ICS meets a good example. The 1,280 x 800px resolution means it can display 720p high definition video at its native resolution, without scaling, and the actual image produced is as clear, vivid and as bright as can be expected from a sub-£300 tablet. Given the different target audiences for the latest iPad and this Archos tablet, it is something of a moot point that the display of the former is far and away superior to that of the latter, but that fact is inescapable – Apple has left every other manufacture sitting high and dry when it comes to screen resolution and quality.

Ice Cream Sandwich

Web browsing on Ice Cream Sandwich has taken a huge step toward competing with the iPad experience, thanks to the introduction of Chrome for Android. Although technically in beta, being a Google product, that’s a label that doesn’t necessarily carry the same promise of buggy performance and random crashes that it might from other vendors. And indeed, the speed and responsiveness of Chrome on the Archos 101 G9 Turbo is commendable. Pages render quickly, scrolling is smooth, and of course the syncing of bookmarks, history, passwords and even open tabs between desktop and mobile Chrome installs can be fantastically useful – especially with the ever-growing popularity of Chrome on the desktop.

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The on-screen keyboard is also much improved in the latest Android version, as are many of the built in apps, such as the default email client, which makes the Archos 101 G9 Turbo ICS a much more attractive system to have sitting around the house as an alternative to pulling out a laptop for tasks such as sending the occasional email and casual web browsing – exactly the usage model that tablets are intended to cater for.

Performance

Inside the Archos 101 G9 Turbo ICS is a 1.5GHz OMAP 4 processor (built upon a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 base), coupled to half a gigabyte of RAM (of which 433MB is available to the OS) and 16GB of internal storage. A MicroSD card slot sits just under the tablet’s micro-USB port, on the left edge, providing a way to augment internal storage.

Subjectively the G9 Turbo certainly feels as if it justifies its name. Apps load fairly quickly, multitasking doesn’t grind things to a halt, and the system delivers good frame-rates in games. Video playback was smooth with all the files tested, from DivX AVIs to 1080p MP4s. Although the display can’t show a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel image itself, the presence of a mini-HDMI port means the Arcos 101 G9 Turbo ICS can be connected to a television, so the ability to play Full HD films smoothly is useful.

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Running Passmark on the 101 G9 Turbo ICS delivered a Passmark score of 2,152, which is about 800 points less than the latest iPad, and close to the 2,249 of the Asus Transformer Prime – currently the highest scoring Android tablet recorded by Passmark.  Although these numbers are fairly arbitrary, they do give a reasonable idea of the relative capabilities of the devices. What this means in the real world is that the Archos 101 G9 Turbo ICS is definitely powerful enough for everyday use.

One of the useful tools built into Ice Cream Sandwich is a fairly comprehensive battery monitor. It should come as no surprise that the display is far and away the most power-hungry component of the Archos 101 G9 Turbo ICS, consuming close to 85 per cent of its battery life, with the OS itself sitting somewhere closer to a mere three per cent, after over a day of casual use. The in-built GPS is also a fairly high-drain feature, so frequent use of the Maps applications probably isn’t advisable without a charging point nearby. Video payback is particularly draining too, with a looped 720p clip draining the battery in around five hours.

Company: Archos

Website: http://www.archos.com/store/psearch.html?country=gb&lang=en&prod_id=archos101g9ics

Positives
  • Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" is a great improvement over previous versions.
Negative
  • Plastic construction doesn't impart a quality feel.

Verdict
Archos certainly owes Google a few words of thanks for the work it put into Ice Cream Sandwich, and improving the Android tablet experience. Although the 101 G9 Turbo ICS tablet does offer a minor speed bump over its predecessor, the biggest improvements come as a result of the upgraded operating system. It's not perfect, but the Archos 101 G9 Turbo ICS is one of the better Android tablets available.