“Tonight, Matthew, I’m the iPad mini.” It’s not hard to see where Archos has found inspiration for the 80 Titanium, but if this is the Stars In Their Eyes version of Apple’s shrunk-down iPad, at least it gets many of the basics right, and comes in at a suitably aggressive £109 price point. It doesn’t take a lot of time to work out where Archos has made compromises to hit that level, but this isn’t anywhere near as cheap and nasty an iPad clone as you might expect.
Design and build quality
With its all-glass front and one-piece aluminium back, the 80 Titanium takes more than a little of its design from Apple’s all-conquering tablet line, though the shaping and the thickness of the frame at the sides is actually more reminiscent of the first and second-generation iPads than recent models. With its 4:3 aspect ratio the 8in screen is much closer to the iPad mini than, say, the Google Nexus 7, and the 1,024 x 768 resolution is the same as well.
Still, if this is a clone then it’s a fairly well constructed one. The aluminium rear feels solid, and there’s only a little creaking between the glass front and the casing when you squeeze them together. With a weight of just 440g, the 80 Titanium is also very comfortable to hold, even one-handed, so it’s a good bet for reading eBooks or watching video on the move.
Physical controls are fairly minimal, with a power switch at the top, a volume rocker on the left and a physical home button just above it. The buttons feel a little tight and clunky, but it’s not as if you’ll use them too much in any case.
The top of the tablet houses all the slots and sockets, with a headphones, mini-USB, mini HDMI, power and microSD card slots all formed up very neatly in a row. That’s an impressive range of connections for a small form-factor tablet, and the microSD slot takes cards of up to 64GB in size, dramatically expanding the rather paltry 8GB of onboard storage. The one thing I would moan about is the use of an old-school wall-wart power supply instead of micro-USB for charging; it doesn’t appear to charge when connected to a micro-USB supply.
Screen and sound
Now, you might have expected the screen to be a poor imitation of the iPad mini's, but the surprise is that it’s actually very good. It’s an IPS display with bright colours, reasonable definition and nice wide viewing angles. It’s fine for watching video, viewing photos or playing games, and the worst thing I can say about it is that the oleophobic coating is either non-existent or just useless – the Archos picks up fingerprints and smears like you wouldn’t believe.
Sadly, I haven’t got anything much nice to say about the mono speaker. The sound produced is weak, tinny and difficult to listen to. Through a decent pair of headphones, luckily, it’s a different story. Play high-quality music files or watch a blockbuster movie, and you get good, clean, powerful sound.
The 80 Titanium comes packing Android 4.1 Jelly Bean rather than the latest Android 4.2, but this isn’t a disaster and such a vanilla installation is always a welcome sight. Archos’ main additions are to bundle OfficeSuite and install its own Archos Video and Archos Music apps, which will happily play music and video files in a range of exotic formats – including OGG VORBIS, FLAC, MKV and FLV out of the box – and stream them from a UPnP media streamer. FLAC and H.264 MKV files I tried played perfectly well and while the interface isn’t the most intuitive or novice-friendly, it’s not hard to navigate through files and folders.
Beyond this you get full access to the Google Play store and the full range of Android games and apps, so if you want to install Kindle and Kobo eBook readers, Netflix, iPlayer and anything else, you’re perfectly free to do so.
Specifications and performance
This is where those compromises I mentioned start creeping in. The 80 Titanium uses the same Rockchip RK3066 as the Archos GamePad we reviewed in January, combining a dual-core ARM A9 CPU with a quad-core ARM Mali 400 GPU. With 1GB of RAM, general performance in Jelly Bean is actually pretty reasonable. Screens full of icons sweep smoothly out of the way, apps don’t take long to load and web browsing speeds are perfectly acceptable. The SunSpider score of 1,213 is a good sign of adequate CPU performance, and HD video playback is nice and smooth.
Throw more demanding apps at the 80 Titanium, however, and it starts to struggle. I tried playing Dungeon Hunters 4, but the action kept stuttering at key points, which soon proved annoying. The Archos managed just 13fps off-screen and 15fps onscreen in the GFXBench (previously GLBench) Egypt HD benchmark, and the scores in the new T-Rex HD benchmarks were painful, at 4fps off-screen and 5.5fps onscreen. To be fair, most Tegra 3 devices won’t perform any better on the latter case, but this really isn’t one for the gamers.
Finally, the 80 Titanium has a fairly awful pair of 2-megapixel front and rear cameras. Colours are dull, highlights are bleached out and detail levels are poor. To my mind this isn’t a killer issue for a tablet, though anyone on the end of a video chat won’t exactly see you at your best.
As a budget rival to the iPad mini the 80 Titanium actually has a lot going for it. The screen is surprisingly decent, build quality is reasonable and day-to-day performance is perfectly adequate. What’s more, the 80 Titanium actually does better on connectivity and out-of-the-box media support. However, it falls behind other tablets on 3D performance and battery life. Luckily, at a price of £109 for the 8GB model it’s very good value, with some clear water between it and superior devices like the Google Nexus 7. Provided you can live with the tablet's compromises it’s a bit of a bargain.
Manufacturer and model
Archos 80 Titanium
1.6GHz Rockchip RK3066
8in, 1,024 x 768 IPS
micro-USB, micro HDMI, headphone
Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Size and weight
200 x 154 x 9.9mm, 440g