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Archos 101 G9 (10.1-inch) review: Archos 101 G9 (10.1-inch)

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The Good The Archos 101 G9 (8GB) runs 1080p video smoothly and has a good-quality screen, and its kickstand is a useful addition.

The Bad The tablet is too large for what it offers and has awkward button placement. Also, its single camera had poor recording quality.

The Bottom Line The Archos 101 G9 (8GB) delivers a complete Android experience, but its rough design, low-quality camera, and awkward button placement make it feel rushed to market.

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6.3 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

Editor's note: As of April 2012, the Archos 101G is upgradable to Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). For details on the advantages ICS offers over Honeycomb, check the Ice Cream Sandwich section of the Asus Transformer Prime TF201 review.

The tablet business is pretty cutthroat (just ask Hewlett-Packard), and with the release of the Amazon Kindle Fire just weeks away, it's only going to get scarier out there for would-be iPad competitors.

The timing of a tablet release is crucial, but does rushing a tablet to market to beat the wave of upcoming competition do more harm than good?

Design
The Archos 101 G9 has a medium-gray plastic chassis and its 1.44-pound body feels relatively thin, and about as heavy as most 10-inchers. When we held the tablet, a couple of edges on the bottom side got our attention. Also on the bottom are two small handles, ostensibly used to pry the chassis open. Although they don't stick out as much as they did on the Archos 80 G9, not only do they muddy the aesthetic quality of the chassis somewhat, but they can also be distracting when holding the tablet.

On the Archos 101 G9's right side, near the bottom, sits the volume rocker. On the left edge is a Mini-HDMI port, followed by a headphone jack, a Micro-USB port, a microSD card port, and the lock/reset button. When the tablet is held in landscape mode, its button placement is obtrusive, and many, many more times than we'd have liked, we found ourselves accidentally turning the volume down or locking the tablet.

In the middle of the front right side of the bezel is a Webcam (Archos doesn't divulge the megapixel spec) that records 720p video. The back houses a kickstand on the left that comes in handy when watching movies. Toward the middle of the back is a square assortment of pinholes that make up the speaker. Above that is the 3G stick slot, with a dummy stick currently in it. The $50 3G stick provides "anywhere" Internet access on either a per-use or subscription basis.

While we prefer thin tablets, we're willing to deal with a fatter or longer slate when it's warranted. It's not that the 101 G9 feels fat by any means, but it's a little disappointing that it's only somewhat thinner than the 10-inch Toshiba Thrive. The Thrive is thicker, but earns its heft with full ports and a swappable battery. The 101 G9 is also slightly longer than the Thrive.

Overall, the 101 G9's ill-advised button placement makes it a tablet we'd rather set down than hold. For that reason, we do appreciate the inclusion of the kickstand, and the Mini-HDMI port is a useful addition, especially given the 101 G9's 1080p video capability.

Archos 101 G9 Toshiba Thrive Acer Iconia Tab A500 Asus Eee Pad Transformer
Weight in pounds 1.44 1.66 1.38 1.6
Width in inches (landscape) 10.9 10.75 9.6 9.5
Height in inches 6.5 7 5.8 7.4
Depth in inches 0.5 0.62 0.49 0.45
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 1.2 1 0.9 0.85

Hardware features
The Archos 101 G9 includes Honeycomb tablet hardware mainstays like an accelerometer, gyroscope, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, and GPS. Instead of using an Nvidia Tegra 2 processor as previous Honeycomb tablets did, the 101 G9 and its sibling 80 G9 are the first Honeycomb tablets to use the 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4 dual-core processor.

The speaker delivers fairly high volume, albeit with tinny sound that lacks bass. Also, because of its placement on the back of the tablet, its sound gets muffled when the tablet is laid down flat.

Software features
The Archos 101 G9 ships with Android 3.2.46, the highest-numbered version of the OS we've seen so far.

Under settings is a Repair and Formatting section where you can calibrate the touch screen and accelerometer. There are also options that allow you to erase the multimedia databases and relaunch the media scanner, delete your tablet's settings and applications, or erase all music, video, and photos. Of course, you can format and return to factory settings as well.

Also, Archos has finally included the full Android Market and not the limited AppsLib app on older Archos tablets.

For Android phone users, Archos Remote Control is available from the Android Market and enables you to control the 101 G9 from your phone. And you can use the tablet as a media player, attached to your TV.

Performance
Navigation and app-opening performance was about usually as fast as on any previous Honeycomb tablet; however, we did experience a few instances where the operating system would hang for a second or two after we tapped on an app to open it. This wasn't that frequent, but it happened enough times for us to notice. Also, the 101 G9 takes 2 to 3 seconds to wake from lock mode, whereas other Honeycomb tablets top out at 1 second.

The Archos 101 G9 uses a 1,280x800-pixel-resolution capacitive touch screen with an MVA panel. Most of the best tablet screens, like those on the iPad 2 and the Asus Eee Pad Slider, use IPS panels, which typically have wide viewing angles and are generally brighter.

While the MVA screen on the 80 G9 we previously reviewed produced a narrow viewing angle from the bottom and right sides, the 101 G9 sported a wide viewing angle from every direction. From a luminance standpoint, the 101 G9's screen is one of the dimmest we've seen and is about 90 cd/m2 dimmer than the Toshiba Thrive's screen.

Archos claims the G9 series is the first tablet to have 1080p playback capability. To test this claim, we downloaded a few 1080p QuickTime video trailers and watched them run smoothly on the 80 G9 with no hiccups. These same files wouldn't run on any of the other Honeycomb (3.1 or 3.2) tablets we tried them on.

The USB cable fits easily into the 101 G9, but doesn't lock into position. At the opposite end, where the USB cable plugs into the separate power adapter, the cable sits in the power adapter loosely. The cable can easily be accidentally kicked out of the power adapter; this isn't really a fear with other tablets.

The 101 G9 includes only one, front-facing camera, for which Archos hasn't released the megapixel spec. The camera's 720p video playback--though running at a higher resolution than video recorded on the Toshiba Thrive's front-facing camera--looks blurrier, with lots of obvious visual noise, which we didn't see on the Thrive.

Tested spec Archos 101 G9 Toshiba Thrive Apple iPad 2 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Maximum brightness 247 cd/m2 337 cd/m2 432 cd/m2 336 cd/m2
Default brightness 111 cd/m2 131 cd/m2 176 cd/m2 336 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.5 cd/m2 0.24 cd/m2 0.46 cd/m2 0.3 cd/m2
Default black level 0.23 cd/m2 0.1 cd/m2 0.19 cd/m2 0.3 cd/m2
Default contrast ratio 494:1 1,310:1 926:1 1,120:1
Contrast ratio (max brightness) 482:1 1,403:1 939:1 1,120:1

Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours)
Archos 101 G9 5.5

Conclusion
At $370 the Archos 101 G9 delivers a full Honeycomb (now upgradable to Ice Cream Sandwich) tablet experience, with a useful kickstand and the ability to play 1080p video.

However, bad button placement, unrefined build quality and design, and disappointing video quality make the 101 G9 a tablet that, at around the same price as the 8GB Toshiba Thrive, doesn't make a very compelling case for itself.

The Toshiba Thrive (8GB) is better made, has more options, and is a better deal than the Archos 101 G9, which honestly feels rushed to market.

Update, October 24: This review was updated to add CNET Labs' battery life test results.

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