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Review: Archos Titanium 80 – a super cheap iPad Mini killer

Allan Swann
March 27, 2013

Archos Titanium 80

archos.com
£130 (8GB), £150 (16GB)

Look familiar? But this is more than an iPad Mini knock-off…

Only in the last year have Apple’s competitors managed to put together a series of tablets that can compete with the iPad juggernaut. Even so, victory is far from assured.

Google’s Nexus 7 defined the 7-inch tablet market last year (only for Apple to swiftly steal it back with the iPad Mini), and Archos’ latest attempt is a direct challenge to the iPad Mini ‘ only at half the price.

Yes, the Archos Titanium 80 isn’t going to win any design awards, or outspec its Apple, Windows or Android rivals, but considering the price involved ‘ the Titanium 80 is a very decent bit of kit.

A (good) iPad-Mini clone
Archos took a look at the plastic builds of their Android contemporaries and decided to go down the Apple route ‘ metal. It works well. À¦rchos borrows Apple’s has a nice white rectangle front with curved corners, and moving the camera to the top left. The back is a nice brushed aluminium, which gives it a similar metallic feel as an iPad Mini. It has a nice bit of heft and solidity to it ‘ no warping, twisting or wobbling like its budget contemporaries. It also doesn’t get too hot, which is a good sign. But It should be said the Archos’ buttons are a flimsy plastic, and wobble a little.

It also weighs a wee bit more than the iPad Mini (308g), at 430g ‘ again, not bad for a budget device.

One annoyance with the body is the number of plugs and connectors ‘ and they’re all placed at the top of the device (in portrait). Alongside the headphone jack, you have a micro-USB, a Micro-SD, a mini-HDMI and a power plug. Most annoyingly, the tablet won’t charge from USB ‘ you will need to lug around two sets of plugs.

The SD card slot will take MicroSD cards up to 64GB (on top of the 8GB internal storage in the unit we tested).

The Titanium also shares the same screen size (8-inches) and resolution, 1024×768, as the iPad Mini. This, of course, gives it the same problems as the iPad Mini ‘ namely, the screen resolution is way too low, with a pixel per inch density of just 163PPI. This is very poor in the modern world which is now seeing 468PPI smartphones, and 268PPI on the larger iPad 4.

How does this translate into real world usage? Websites and text are pixellated and tough on the eyes. Photos aren’t as clear and watching any movies above 720P HD is pointless. Games (especially in 3D) are quite jagged, as are 2D apps and icons. Basically, everything looks as bad as an iPad Mini.

But while that is a massive failing on the supposedly premium iPad Mini, it is much more forgiveable on a budget device such as the Archos Titanium 80 ‘ which I repeat, costs half what an iPad Mini does.

The screen is also a bit dark. Even cranking the screen brightness up to full only made the Archos look about as bright as an iPad on medium. Any lower than high and you will be annoyed by constant reflections blocking your view ‘ especially outdoors during the day.

However, unlike other budget tablets the Titanium 80 uses a IPS screen ‘ which means nice wide viewing angles. It is quite responsive to touches, swipes and pinches (with the odd shuddering when holding your finger on the screen), but there are still mis-presses (such as opening an app when you wanted to swipe). But all up it feels like a reasonable quality bit of kit.

CAN THE CAMERA
Cameras aren’t of terribly much interest on tablets, and personally I think the use case even on ‘mini’ tablets has yet to be proven ‘ they are hardly the cameras you reach for when your baby takes its first steps, or sitting in the stands at the Champions League Final. As such, the Titanium only has a 2MB camera on the back and a 0.3MP camera on the front. There is no flash or image stabilisation.

As you’d expect, the pictures are mostly rubbish ‘ useful for video chat and little else. The images have poor definition, muddy colours, blurriness and plenty of noise ‘ especially shooting in low light. Even worse, the noise correction in the software produces a surreal muddy blur to all images. It is quite simply not worth it.

Video is about the same. Just don’t bother.

UNDERDOG PROCESSOR PERFORMS
What does surprise is the punch of the Archos’ processor. It has a dual core 1.6GHz Cortex A9 processor (with 1GB of RAM), and a quad core Mali 400 quad core GPU. Running Antutu’s 3D benchmark, it produced a 3D score of 3513 ‘ not too far removed from the iPad 3’s 4243. What does that mean to the regular user?

Put simply, navigating through the Titanium’s menus and app screens is a smooth experience, comparable to many much higher spec devices. It runs the full Android Jellybean experience too ‘ so everything in the OS is up to spec. Games, apps and widgets all load quickly, there is no shuddering during transitions and video 720P HD video doesn’t cause any problems.

For a casual, non-high end user, the Archos is an impressive piece of kit for the price. You’ll have no problems running BBC iPlayer, Google Drive or Facebook. They all function as well as any other tablet, high spec or not.

However, if you plan to do a lot of high end gaming, you will run into some grief. While Angry Birds Star Wars may run as smoothly as any other platform, more 3D intensive games, such as Modern Combat do cause some slow down. As mentioned earlier, the low res screen doesn’t exactly make these games look attractive either.

There were a few anomalies, such as apps freezing (including the Google Play Store) but these were rare, and often absolved by simply exiting the app and relaunching it.

BATTERY WOES

That heading is a little unfair, but this is one spot where the Archos does fall down a bit compared to its more expensive Nexus and Apple compadres. While the Apple iPad 3 generally gets around 8-10 hours of video, the Archos, playing a 720P version of Up burned through 24% of battery in an hour ‘ which equates to just over four hours of video battery life. To be fair, in general operation the tablet lasts a full day.

ARCHOS ANDROID SKIN

Archos haven’t skinned Android Jellybean, which is a safe bet. You get a no-frills experience throughout the backend that is comparable to Google’s Nexus 10 and Nexus 7 tablets ‘ never a bad thing. As mentioned earlier, the Jellybean experience functions as it should, with smooth transitions, limited loading times that belie the tablet’s otherwise budget status. Onscreen keyboard and system apps all function as they should.

Archos has added some of its own apps ‘ Archos Music and Archos Video. While you expect the kind of filler nonsense apps that most other companies provide, I actually found these two to be quite useful. You can flick through songs and movies via rolling thumbnails, and even connect directly to shared folders or media servers off-tablet. This also means if you have a smart TV with these capabilities, you can stream your movies from the tablet to the TV.

BUDGET MEANS CUTBACKS
Unsurprisingly, there are also cutbacks on such a budget tablet ‘ most of which won’t be noticed by most users. There is no 3G option, for those so inclined ‘ its Wi-Fi only. This also means it doesn’t have GPS (but will triangulate your position based on your IP), nor NFC (which currently has a limited use case anyhow). More disappointing is the exclusion of Bluetooth ‘ so you can’t use Bluetooth headphones, or, more importantly, a Bluetooth keyboard. Given the near ubiquity of Bluetooth equipment in the modern smartphone/tablet world (and the cheapness of the radios) this is an odd omission. Surely adding a few pounds to the price would’ve have hurt?

The onboard storage is also a key weakness ‘ 8GB internal is just not enough for apps, photos and videos ‘ 16GB has rapidly become the bare minimum (and I would argue it should be 32GB). Fortunately the Titanium 80 takes Micro-SD to 64GB. The problem is, this is just a whole at the top of the device and the card juts out a little bit ‘ perfect to get snagged on a loose piece of clothing and damaged. I suspect it will be taken in and out constantly (which also invites losing the memory card) when travelling. But a minor niggle.

The two key differences between the Titanium 80 and its big brother, the Titanium 97, is the processors and the screen. The 80 gets a dual core 1.6GHz, the 97 has a quad core. The 97 also has an 2048×1536 resolution screen (the same as the Apple iPad 4’s Retina Display), whereas the Titanium 80 has a rather poor 768×1024 screen (the same as the iPad Mini). Given the limited differences between the basic iPad Mini and the Archos 80 ‘ Apple’s price gouging is brought into pretty sharp relief.

One other area that has been given the chop is battery life, while the Archos tends to last all day doing conventional tasks, more intensive tasks top it out around 4 hours (video) and less for games.

CONCLUSION

Those wanting to use the Archos Titanium for work or high end media consumption and game playing will look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a nice cheap tablet (perhaps for the kids to play with), there are few better in this price range. It is perfect for a quick email, Facebook or Twitter session ‘ even BBC iPlayer works fine.
However, like the iPad Mini, the screen is a low res mess which will give eye strain to anyone reading websites, magazines or books for extended periods of time.

 

Pros & Cons
+ Super cheap
+ Solid build
+ Very decent processor performance
– Like the iPad Mini, has a rubbish screen
– No Bluetooth
– Only average battery life

Performance

4star 100px

Features
3star 100px

Usability
4star 100px

Design
4star 100px

OVERALL
4star 100px

VERDICT

The Archos Titanium does everything more high spec Android tablets do, and it comes in a relatively attractive package that invites comparisons with the iPad Mini.  Its hard to argue with a tablet that’s priced less than half of an iPad Mini yet performs just as well. It has a nice metallic body, if a little more rustic. The screen has a poor resolution, but that is par for the course here.  

TECH SPEC
Dimensions ‘ 200 x 154 x 10.2mm, 430g
OS Android 4.1 Jellybean
Screen TFT IPS touchscreen, 768×1024, 8.0 inches (163 PPI)
Processor ‘ ARM Cortex-A9 dual core 1.6GHz
RAM – 1GB
Storage – 8GB internal, expandable to 64GB via MicroSD
Cameras ‘ 2MP rear, 0.3MP front.
Wireless ‘ Wi-Fi.
Ports ‘ Micro USB, MicroSD, Micro-HDMI, Power, 3.5mm audio jack.

 

 

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