Back in September 2010, TabletConnect reported that Archos will be introducing five Android tablets in the fall. Of course like almost every other vendor, there were delays and the tablets did not start selling until December. These five tablets ranged from 2.8” (not a tablet) to 10.1 inches. Archos is a consumer electronics company based in France. They have been in the portable media player market since 2000 and have been selling Internet Media Tablets since 2008. Unfortunately, the quality of these IMTs have been very poor. Its 5, 7 & 8 series were not user friendly and there were complaints about the quality. We were hoping that its new series would not follow the same fate. Fortunately, they do not.
The new series were shipped with Android 2.1 although 2.2 is now available. Some of the units are being shipped with 2.2 but the unit we received was 2.1. (On a side note, we buy all the tablets that we test. None are demos or product loans. Due to the high cost of purchasing these tablets, we cannot review as many as we wish we can.) With a price of $275 for an 8GB tablet, this is one of the best tablets on the market for an excellent price.
We wanted to test the 101 but unfortunately had trouble finding one in stock so we opted instead for the 70. Falling into the 7” category, the 70 is similar in size to the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The Archos 70's dimensions are 7.9” (l) x 4.5” (w) x .4” (h) compared to the Samsung Galaxy Tab which has dimensions of 7.5” x 4.7” x .5”. The Cruz Tablet's dimensions are 7.5” (l) x 5.6” (w) x .7” (h). The 70 feels and is light weighing in .68 lbs while the Galaxy Tab weighs .838 lbs and the Cruz Tablet weighs a hefty 1.15 lbs.
The 70 has a nice feel but one can tell it has a plastic body (but better than the cheap Chinese tablets out there). This is a contrast to the Cruz Tablet which felt sturdy due to its metal body and strong. The back of the tablet has a kick-stand to support the tablet in a landscape position. It also has rubber feet to protect the back from scratches. The screen appears to be made of hard plastic. The 70 has a micro B/A USB port (adapter is included), headphone jack, micro-SD slot, mini-HDMI port and DC In port. The external speakers are very good although the volume calibration seemed off with videos/movies (used 4 different videos including the two that were included to test this). Once we got below half the volume mark, the sound was very low. Once you get to about a quarter of way, the sound is barely noticeable even with headphones. However, it seemed fine with music. Nonetheless, we played music and watched videos on a very high volume with minimal distortion. Overall, the exterior quality is good but definitely no where near the quality of Velocity Micro's Cruz Tablet.
The Archos 70 does include a front facing camera but no rear facing which was disappointing. The camera takes poor pictures but should be fine for video conferencing.
There are three touch sensitive buttons on the side of the screen: Home; Menu; and Back. Unfortunately, they are not back-lit unless you press them which makes them difficult to find in dim light. There is a power button on the right side with a Volume Up & Down button next to it. The UI has 4 touch buttons (search, home, menu & back).
Included accessories are micro B/A USB cable adapter, DC power adapter/charger, headphones, user guide and three international power adapters. Micro HDMI cable is sold separately although you can get one for cheap.
Under the hood, the 70 has a ARM-based Cortex A8 processor running at 1GHz which is the same processor as the Galaxy Tab. Our recommendation is one should choose a tablet with at least a Cortex A8 processor or higher especially if you are looking for Adobe Flash 10 support. The 70 has 256MB of RAM which is lower that what we recommend for a tablet (should have at least 512MB). The Samsung Galaxy Tab and Cruz Tablet both have 512MB of RAM. The 70 does have a built-in accelerometer (auto-rotates 360 degrees) which works well. It does work well with games that require the accelerometer. There is a power management setting where Android 2.2 defaults to Optimal where the processor speed tends to cap at 800MHz. Changing the setting to Overdrive will utilize the 1.0Ghz although the software will still throttle the speed of the processor as needed.
We have mentioned this many times but the screen is the second, if not, the most important hardware of a tablet. The 70's screen is 7” with a resolution of 800x480. The screen is capacitive and is responsive. In addition, it is multi-touch so you can pinch zoom assuming the app supports it (Skyfire browser & picture viewer does – see video). When typing on the standard keyboard, it responds well. The screen is also difficult to see in bright daylight due to the very glossy screen. However, this is very common with most tablets. Fingerprints also continues to be a common problem among all screens. In addition, we have no issues with the viewing angles. A big deal is made on the viewing angles. Most people will not have several people looking at the screen. The viewing angles are sufficient for two or three to watch a movie or pic with you. Not a big deal. Overall, the screen works as intended.
As our video demonstrates, the 70 works well with all multimedia (pictures, music & videos) types. We tested these 3 types using the included apps. As noted before, there are other better apps to use but our focus is only on the apps included. For the pictures, the quality of the images was good. The colors were not as bright or lively as the original file. For videos, we tested using MP4 format with 1250 & 1500 bit videos plus two 720p HD test files (in MOV & MP4 format). Both non-HD files played very well with no stuttering. The Archos 70 had no trouble processing the 1500 bit video. We used an animated movie to show the “fullness” of the video (colors, brightness, contrast, etc.). We also tested using a live action film as shown in our video. For the HD videos, the tablet had no trouble processing our two test videos (MOV & MP4 format). The tablet had no problems rendering YouTube videos. The multimedia experience was overall excellent.
The 70 does not include any Google apps (Android Market, Gmail, Maps, Navigation, etc.) nor YouTube or a FaceBook app. Of course, you can add these (including the Market with a hack) on your own. Archos did include certain apps: Deezer (Music Streaming); Aldiko; AppsLip (app store); Fring (communication app – video calls); HUBkap Mobile (time management app); Quickpedia; Raging Thunder Lite (racing game); Touiteur (Twitter app); CineShowTime (search movie showings); World Newspapers; Sound Recorder; eBuddy Mobile Messenger plus Contacts, Calculator, etc. We did test reading a PDF file using Repligo (our preferred PDF reader). Using a complex PDF file (37 pages with multiple pictures, images and fonts), it took approximately 5 secs (virtually the same under Android 2.1 and 2.2) to fully load the first page of the document. This is about half the time it took the Cruz Tablet (10 seconds) and the ZenPad/ePad (9 seconds).
We also tested the 70 with 3D games (Light Racer 3D Basic & Raging Thunder) and they were rendered without any issues thanks to the processor and graphics accelerator (3D OpenGL 2.0). However when we tried Droidkoban, the graphics did not render correctly.
Because our unit had Android 2.1 pre-installed with 2.2 available, we decided to run benchmarks with both versions. In addition we compared the 70 benchmarking results to the ZenPad/Zenithink ZT-180 plus our three baseline Android smartphones (HTC Evo; Droid Incredible; and Droid X). Note that the Droid X is the only phone tested with Android 2.2. The highlighted figures are the best score among the devices. Because there are two versions of Android that was compared, you will notice that the best scores are highlighted for each version. . Below are the benchmarking scores of the Archos 70 versus the Android phones, and ePad:
When the 70 was upgraded to Android 2.2, you will notice the significant decrease in the benchmarking scores of the NeoCore and Softweg Benchmark GPU benchmarks. We are surprised by the significant decrease and have asked Archos to look into this. However when we tested with 3D games, there are no noticeable performance degradation.
As for the CPU, there is significant improvement in the Linpack and Softweg CPU benchmarking scores. This is no surprise as Android 2.2 has a Just In Time compiler (JIT) that improves the performance of the processor.
(Different benchmarking apps may test different aspects of the CPU and GPU which would account for variance. One cannot look simply at one set of benchmark scores. One should view all in an aggregate.)
Our standardize testing consist of two battery tests: 1) played a movie that repeated until the unit shut off (with Wi-Fi turned on); and 2) played a movie that repeated until the unit shut off (with Wi-Fi turned off). Both tests had the brightness at 50%. The battery averaged 6:30 hours with WiFi off and 6:10 with WiFi on. We are aware that most individuals will not have the Wi-Fi turned on while watching a movie. However, this testing method is designed to see how long the battery life is under the most intensive processes. You can rest assure that using the Internet will last significantly longer than the results posted here. The battery life is above average but not as good as the Cruz Tablet which approached over 9 hours.
Overall, the Archos 70 performed very well and is a very good tablet. With a price of $275 for the 8GB version, this is the best tablet currently on the market. The update to 2.2 does produce a performance hit on the graphic benchmarking scores (both 2D & 3D OpenGL). However, no noticeable degradation was noticed when playing 3D games. While reliability is unknown at this time, it appears that Archos has significantly improved their products. The capacitive screen along with the processor are excellent and we are happy that Archos did not cut corners using cheaper screens or processors (unlike Velocity Micro) although the body materials could be better. The screen is responsive and the pictures quality are very good. Of course, the screen cannot compare to the Samsung Galaxy Tab but then again, the Galaxy Tab is more than double the price of the 70.
The Archos 70 is what, at the minimum, every tablet manufacturer should be producing in terms of performance and price. Because of this, TabletConnect will be using the Archos 70 as the baseline comparison for all future tablets (until we feel that we need to pick a more powerful and advance tablet). Out of 5 stars, we are giving the Archos 70 a respectable 3.69 stars.