Short Version: The Archos 80 G9 tablet isn’t necessarily something I’d recommend for the hardcore tablet enthusiast, but it certainly gets the job done. Powered by pure Android 3.2 Honeycomb, the tab offers everything you’d expect out of Android and a nice variety of ports, albeit with a somewhat rough build-quality.
While it’s not exactly fitting with my tastes, I wouldn’t say the Archos G9 is ugly. The slate deviates from your more minimalist designs like the iPad and the Galaxy Tab, and instead adds a little flare. The G9 sports a dark grey bezel, along with a lighter grey plastic casing that has rounded edges. Along the side you’ll find a microUSB port for charging, HDMI out, and the lock button. There’s also a full-sized USB port that’s meant to hold a 3G dongle, but unfortunately that’ll only work in Europe. To those of us in the States, it’ll merely act as a full-sized USB slot.
The build of the Archos 80 G9 tablet is probably what I have the most beef with. Granted, it comes with a totally sturdy little kickstand, which is a useful addition, but on the whole you can tell that is isn’t a top-quality build. If you press just slightly against the smooth plastic back panel, either on the 3G USB port or the kickstand area, the plastic depresses and makes a bit of a cracking noise. Worse, the plastic depresses enough to affect the display, making it look like you’ve been pressing way too hard on the touchscreen.
In terms of size, the G9 is just right. I’ve played around with plenty of 10- and 7-inch tabs, but the 8-inch segment seems to be somewhat untouched. I found that its a great size for gaming, as you aren’t sacrificing too much screen real estate for a better grip.
The processing power on this little guy had me impressed. Android 3.2 Honeycomb ran like a dream powered by the G9′s dual-core OMAP 4 SoC chip. Even with a little stress test — me zipping my finger across the interface/web pages as fast as possible — the tab had no trouble keeping up. However, once I had a few things going at once (a few apps, a movie, and the browser), the processor certainly lost pace. I started to feel the lag when I tried to add a few more tasks to the list and the next app I launched abruptly crashed.
Battery life, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise. Archos promises 7 hours of video playback, which the G9 stood up to brilliantly. I spent an entire day conducting work from the G9 last week, and though it wasn’t the most efficiently I’ve ever worked, the G9 stuck with me throughout the day. It’s worth noting, however, that the tablet gets slower and slower as battery life decreases. With a full charge, hitting the lock button wakes the G9 up almost immediately. Once battery life gets low, it takes a few seconds to wake up and perceive gestures.
The 1024×768 LCD display on the G9 was better than expected, showing very minimal differentiation from pixel to pixel. This becomes most clear while watching HD movies, which I did plenty of. Even better, this is the kind of tablet that many people can enjoy viewing content on at once. Even at a 45 degree angle off to the side, the screen still displays great quality and color. Thanks to the kickstand, I guestimate you can have up to five or six people watching a movie at once. However, the screen becomes increasingly difficult to see from lower or higher angles.
Taking it outdoors isn’t necessarily ideal, but with screen brightness turned all the way up I was still able to use it as an e-reader. Viewing video and pictures was more difficult, though.
Audio, on the other hand, may make it difficult for you and your friends to enjoy the movie. Before I turned on my air conditioner, my roommates and I were comfortably watching a few music videos. After the AC went on, we had to turn the volume all the way up to the max just to hear it. In the same vein, audio sounded a bit fuzzy, especially when pushed to the max. As far as tablets go, audio quality was adequate but nothing to get excited about.
Unfortunately, the G9′s front-facing web cam was not all that pleasurable to use. At first, it didn’t work at all until I downloaded a firmware update. Ever since it’s worked, but been super buggy. At times, the viewfinder simply goes black. If you happen to take a picture during the “black periods,” the picture is also a large rectangle of black. When it does work it’s unsurprisingly grainy, but at least gets the job done where it counts: video chat.
At just under $300, the Archos G9 is a fine slate. It comes packed with all the essentials, and has a battery life that should last around as long as you do. But if you’re looking for a high-quality tablet, this probably isn’t it. I’d recommend it as a Christmas gift for a tween, or perhaps a mobile computing device for someone older (who does mostly simple tasks like browsing the web and answering email). Size-wise it’s a great fit for someone who enjoys gaming, and it’s certainly light enough to travel with you.
This is not a tech geek’s tablet, and if high-quality is what you’re expecting out of it, you’ll be sorely disappointed.