With the iPad mini selling for a mighty £269 (US$ 329, AU$ 369) despite its small size, it was never going to be long until those responsible for 2012′s slew of 10-inch iPad beaters turned their attentions to Apple’s newest, smallest pad.
In truth the likes of Archos, Acer and Samsung were almost certainly working on 8-inch tablets well before Apple’s launch of the iPad mini – and so-called ‘phablet’ phone-tablet hybrids aren’t much smaller – but it’s against the market leader that budget efforts such as the Archos 80 Titanium must be judged.
Announced and previewed way back in January at the CES 2013 trade show, this 8-inch tablet from Archos is just one of the brand’s impressively large haul of new 8-to-10-inch tablets, all of which come sporting the Android operating system.
As the name suggests, the Archos 80 Titanium has a metallic back plate that’s highly reminiscent of an iPad, as is its all-white bezel.
In fact, a brief glance at this tablet and you’ll likely mistake it for an iPad 4, partly because it looks nothing like an iPad mini. The main differences are purely physical; the Archos 80 Titanium isn’t as slim, it weighs much more, and the sides of the bezel – when held in portrait stance – are far wider than those on the iPad mini.
It’s also well under half the price of the iPad mini, and we’d do well to remember that, despite the omissions on the Archos 80 Titanium.
That said, we must report that you won’t find Bluetooth connectivity on this Wi-Fi-only model, while GPS is missing, too. Arguably the lack of Bluetooth is more of a worry, since it rules out pairing with a Bluetooth keyboard.
This makes the Archos 80 Titanium less attractive and credible as even an occasional laptop-killer for word processing.
We’ve noticed a trend recently of smaller tablets becoming popular as dashboard GPS systems in cars, which is something that the Archos 80 Titanium will have to excuse itself from, too.
That metallic back isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. It feels very cold in the hand, which is important at this size since the 8-inch size of the tablet is primarily designed to be held in one hand.
It’s not a problem that lasts for too long, though, with the Archos 80 Titanium getting pretty hot after 30 minutes or so of use.
However, we’ve related these niggles just to make you aware of the Archos 80 Titanium’s limitations, and we’re confident that for many users – particularly those who simply want a tablet around the house for browsing the web and perhaps some home networking for photos (it’s particularly good at the latter) – will be delighted with the Archos 80 Titanium. After all, it’s something of a bargain.
Speaking of which, the Archos 80 Titanium comes with either 8GB or 16GB or built-in storage, and is priced at £149.99 (US$ 169) for the smaller capacity model, putting it up against budget tablets such as the Acer Iconia A1 and Disgo 8400G, and considerably undercutting the 8-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0.
Both the 8GB and 16GB versions of the Archos 80 Titanium contain a microSD card slot for either increasing that storage up to as much as 32GB or transferring music, photos and videos from a smartphone or computer.
The Archos 80 Titanium is one of four models in the Titanium family, and is joined by smaller brother the 7-inch Archos 70 Titanium and bigger brothers the 9.7-inch Archos 97 Titanium and 10.1-inch Archos 101 Titanium.
Other tablets in Archos’s new range include the Archos GamePad and Archos ChildPad in the Themed series and the Archos 80 Platinum and brothers in the Elements series, of which the Titanium family are a part.
Measuring 200 x 154 x 9.9mm (7.9 x 6 x 0.38 inches) and weighing 440g (0.97lbs) – compared to the iPad mini‘s 308g (0.68lbs) or the 213g (0.47lbs) of the Kindle Paperwhite – the Archos 80 Titanium is nevertheless well sized for its duties.
It is heavier to hold in one hand that we’d ideally like, but it’s also got that physical presence and top quality, solid build that’s very difficult to find in the budget tablet market. In fact, the Archos 80 Titanium is hugely impressive in this department, and it should last for yonks.
Still, nit-pickers will notice that while the iPad mini’s bezel is but a few millimetres on its sides, it’s 17mm (0.67 inches) on the Archos 80 Titanium. However, elsewhere the Archos 80 Titanium takes a hefty lead over its pricier rival with a plethora of ins and outs that really stretch its capabilities.
Probably the most significant is its microSDHC card slot, which is capable of taking a maximum 32GB card. Now that’s a huge amount of extra storage, and it will only cost you an extra £15 ($ 20) or so.
There’s one reason, right there, why some people are wanting to avoid Apple and its uber expensive pricing with lack of expansion, but there are other reasons, too.
Granted, the iPad mini can theoretically be attached to an HD TV, but it’s a messy and expensive process compared to on the Archos 80 Titanium, which includes a standard mini HDMI output for such duties.
Both of those key connections are on the top of the Archos 80 Titanium when you hold it in portrait orientation, and they’re accompanied by a headphones slot, a reset button, a micro USB slot (there’s a cable in the box) and a DC input.
The latter means using the proprietary wall charger supplied in the box, which is a huge shame for travellers who have to stow yet another charger in their ever-increasing day sack. Still, that’s also the case with the iPad mini, so we shouldn’t be too harsh.
One thing we ought to mention is that despite the Archos 80 Titanium’s sleek appearance, the machining of these ins and outs isn’t the best; there are tiny gaps around housings and no attempt at covers or recessed designs.
On the left-hand side of the Archos 80 Titanium, still in portrait position, is a volume rocker and something we’ve not seen on an Android tablet before – a hard-button Home control.
Both are in hard, white plastic, and though the Home button did prove useful at times during our test, it’s actually in completely the wrong position for right-handed users, who have to reach over to the other side of the tablet to engage it.
Worse, when the Archos 80 Titanium is in landscape orientation, it’s on the bottom.
Where the Archos 80 Titanium compares well to the iPad mini and every other 8-inch tablet we’ve seen is on screen resolution. While the world waits for an iPad mini Retina or similar, that gadget’s 1024 x 768 pixel resolution is standard on its rivals, too, but it’s worth briefly considering the maths.
While many smartphones now boast 16:9 screens, even the iPhone 5, the Archos 80 Titanium and all of its rivals have remained with a 4:3 aspect ratio screen.
A capacitive multi-touch LED-backlit LCD screen type, its 4:3 shape isn’t perhaps ideal for watching widescreen video, but it is hugely preferable for reading and web browsing, since neither medium has gone widescreen just yet.
The Archos 80 Titanium takes more points from the iPad mini with its processing power. Inside is an ARM Cortex A9 dual-core 1.6GHz processor and 1GB of RAM, which is significantly more powerful than Apple’s effort. However, Acer’s 8-inch, quad-core Iconia A1 tablet might put the Archos 80 Titanium in its place.
Interface and performance
The Archos 80 Titanium’s touchscreen features a slight lag. By that we mean there’s a drag of about half a centimetre before the screen catches up, though it doesn’t make much difference to usability.
In fact, during our test we were able to launch several apps, have them running simultaneously, and still operate the browser and other functions.
Occasionally we had a freeze-up or an overly long delay, but these were few. As a simple web browsing device, the Archos 80 Titanium has just about enough processing power.
A standard Android 4.1 Jelly Bean experience rules on the Archos 80 Titanium, and though it may not be the very, very latest 4.2 specification, there’s little difference in practice.
Here, Google Now is fully integrated – complete with microphone icon in the top-left of the screen – and other Google-made apps such as Gmail, YouTube and Maps are all part of the jigsaw.
Although it doesn’t negatively affect usability at this small size, it could be argued that the low resolution of the screen is an issue.
Photos, videos, web pages and books look absolutely fine, though it is possible to see the grid-like pixel structure – and you don’t have to look all that closely.
Like some Archos tablets before it, there are restrictions on how long the Archos 80 Titanium can stay awake. As a default it sleeps after barely a minute of inactivity, automatically pausing all downloads and other processes.
It’s possible – even recommended – to alter this to 30 minutes, the maximum Archos permits, though it does all point towards the Archos 80 Titanium being built with one serious problem: poor battery longevity.
Battery life and benchmarks
In fact, if there is major worry about this otherwise good value tablet, it’s battery life – or its lack of. By running the Nyan cat video from YouTube at full-screen, full brightness for one hour, we took the Archos 80 Titanium from a fully charged battery down to 64%.
We managed to use it on-and-off for almost a complete day on a single charge, though don’t count on watching more than a few hours of video in one go.
The Archos 80 Titanium earned an average of 11,505 on AnTuTu, which is slightly less than the 12-13,000 that most mid- sized tablets achieve.
When looking to play on the internet, the choice between the vanilla web browser and Chrome – which is already present on the Archos 80 Titanium as a default – must be made, which is a bit of a drag.
Surely they’re from the same design house at Google? It’s time the native Android web browser was put to bed, since its presence is unnecessary and potentially fragments and complicates matters.
Web browsing in our tests with both browsers was fast enough, with up to about six tabs dealt with speedily before things started to slow down.
The 4:3 aspect ratio works well for browsing and, in fact, so does the wider-than-the iPad mini bezel. Having something on each side of the Archos 80 Titanium to hold onto without disturbing the touchscreen is, we think, the way to go. Apple might have over-done the slim thing.
Media and apps
Media is where the Archos 80 Titanium behaves less like ‘any Android gadget’ and begins to deliver an Archos-centric experience.
Part of the Archos Media Center software suite, the Archos 80 Titanium includes both Archos Movies and Archos Music.
As a platform to play videos, Archos Movies is far superior to the vanilla Android experience, though still not the polished experience it could be.
File format support wasn’t as wide as we had expected, with no support for MKV HD files, though tests with AVI, MP4, MOV, WMV and WMV HD files were all successful. The audio within sample AVC HD files we used wasn’t supported, though.
There are three ways to watch natively 21:9 video in Archos Video – either as it comes, zoomed in slightly (both of these options put black bars top and bottom) or zoomed in full-screen, which cuts off the edges.
We also noticed that by touching the screen during video playback, only controls associated with the app itself were reachable, with the core Android controls in the bottom left-hand corner appearing only fleetingly, and unpredictably. That hard Home button therefore did prove very useful after all.
The quality of video playback, however, is mostly excellent. Contrast is good, colours are well saturated and HD detail is high, though we did notice a slight emptiness to black areas of the image, along with some blur during fast-moving sequences. The viewing angle was wider than we’d expected during our generally very enjoyable video test.
The Archos Music app is also far better than the vanilla Android experience, although once again the file format support is only mildly impressive.
Lossless FLAC music files are supported, as are MP3 and M4A files, but little else. The presentation of cover art in a carousel, file lists and sorting by album, artist and many other divisions is dynamic and thoroughly impressive.
In both the Archos Music and Archos Video services we managed to stream from an iMac sporting UPnP software.
So it’s a shame that both music and movies are hampered somewhat by poor sound. The Archos 80 Titanium’s mono speaker, which is housed on the back panel near the bottom – beside a huge Archos logo, the model name, and an HDMI logo – is pretty ropey.
That problem remains with headphones attached, sadly, with thin, weedy and bass-less sound that lacks in the mid-range, too. Sadly, there’s no way to change the parameters of audio.
There is no native support on Android tablets for ebooks of any format, though there are myriad app choices on the Google Play Store, such as Ebook Reader or the dedicated Kindle or Kobo apps if you have an account or similarly-branded device.
However, even after we downloaded one of these, we tried emailing a DRM-free ePub file to a Gmail account, but couldn’t get the Archos 80 Titanium to open it as an attachment – despite it now having the correct software/apps installed.
It wasn’t quite the joined-up experience we’d hoped for, then, though it’s likely a problem with Android, rather than Archos.
Apps and games
The Archos 80 Titanium offers full, unrestricted to Google Play, and it’s also possible to load up apps from other sources. However, there are a few bonuses and pre-installed apps that Archos has curated.
As well as the likes of Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Google+, Streetview, Google Play Books / Magazines / Music / Movies and Google Calendar, Archos has also proved Archos Music, Archos Video, Archos File manager and Archos System Monitor.
However, the classiest extra is Mobile Systems’ OfficeSuite 6, which is a collection of word processing and spreadsheet viewing applications.
Upon first launch, we were taken to a website, then linked to Google Play, where the latest version 7 downloaded for free.
It’s nothing special – just a document reader and sharer – but it does come with Brief Me (a free social media dashboard), free news app News Republic and the World of Goo game, worth 65p ($ 0.99).
Either way, you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version for £9.65 (around $ 14.50) if you want to partake in some serious word processing and spreadsheet creation and editing.
For test purposes we downloaded Angry Birds and the massive CSR Racing. We found that gameplay was smooth, with no jitters, delays or freeze-ups.
One thing we did notice, though, was that when the Archos 80 Titanium was busy updating apps – something we set it to do without seeking permission first – the stability of the entire operating system was seriously threatened, with frequent app crashes and an inability to get online in Gmail and YouTube. It all returns to normal afterwards, but perhaps it’s best not to permit auto-updates.
Camera and video
The camera is where the Archos 80 Titanium really lets itself down, although for a tablet clearly aimed at being used around the house, perhaps it’s an area that Archos decided to cut out to achieve a truly rock- bottom price.
Still, it’s about as basic as it gets. There’s a front- facing camera, which is situated on the top-left when held in portrait orientation, is simple VGA quality and good enough for only the most basic of Skype calls. No problems there, but things aren’t much better on the back.
Situated almost directly behind on the rear, the camera here is a mere 2MP quality, and produces pictures imbued with blockiness, softness and dull colours.
It’s even worse for video; recording in the MP4 format, the Archos 80 Titanium manages just VGA quality – 640 x 320 pixels – at an astonishingly low nine frames per second, which means wobbly moving pictures.
There’s also no flash onboard, which makes taking photographs indoors pointless for more reasons than low resolution. It’s the final nail, though it’s only likely to be annoying to younger users. After all, what grown man or woman takes pictures with a tablet?
Finally on photography, we do have to report that the Gallery function isn’t too smart; despite uploading photos to a Google photo album and attempting to sync with the Archos 80 Titanium, it only downloaded the thumbnails, not the full photos.
Hands on gallery
That’s some tough technical competition and if you look at the Titanium’s price bracket it’s got an equalling tricky challenge with the likes of the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 for company.
The hard button Home control on the Archos 80 Titanium’s side is novel, the overall styling is quite some achievement, and its bountiful connectivity is excellent. It performs all of the core tasks of a tablet efficiently and the build quality is as good as anything on the market.
The mini HDMI-out connection is nice, as is the microSD card expansion slot, while the bundling of the OfficeSuite package and the custom-made Archos Music and Archos Video apps adds to the already scintillating value.
And the price? Well, £150 (US$ 170) is so low that we’re not convinced the Archos 80 Titanium shouldn’t be bought in multiples. It certainly earns an extra point on our overall score for its low price alone, especially considering its excellent build quality.
Some will detest the 2MP camera and the lack of HD video recording on the tablet, while others will rue the lack of Bluetooth and GPS.
The white-only design won’t appeal to all – in fact, it could even restrict the Archos 80 Titanium’s mainstream chances and make it a child-centric tablet – and it’s much heavier than an iPad mini.
A poor battery and even worse camera will hamper its attractiveness to anyone wanting a tablet on the move, as will the use of a proprietary power cable.
The use of the already past-it Android 4.1 spec might concern some, too, while the occasional freeze-ups and a lack of multitasking during downloads might also annoy.
There are problems, issues, and ‘missing’ features when you compare the Archos 80 Titanium to an iPad mini, but that costs twice as much.
Besides, despite its lack of GPS, Bluetooth and poor cameras, it does add flexible options like mini HDMI and micro USB connections.
And in many areas the Archos 80 Titanium out-performs its heftily- priced rival to the extent that anyone thinking of purchasing a small tablet should seriously consider whether spending more than this is really necessary.
And that is quite some achievement; bravo to Archos and its great-looking, awesome value 8-inch Titanium tablet.